Lift Weights and Do Moderate-Intensity Aerobics
Moderate-intensity or short-term high-intensity aerobic exercise increases circulating testosterone levels. Intense weight training increases the number of active androgen receptors, which are important if the hormone is to exert its effects. Exercise also helps maintain muscle mass, especially as you age. Higher muscle mass increases the number and activity of testosterone receptors in the body, which is essential to optimal testosterone metabolism.
Eat Enough Calories
Don’t overeat, but eat enough calories to balance the increased caloric expenditure from exercise. Exercise enough so that you don’t get fat. Moderate-intensity exercise and low body fat increase testosterone levels.
Low-calorie diets depress testosterone levels and promote muscle loss. Some of this may be due to reductions in blood androgens (sex hormones) and increases in catabolic hormones. People with low testosterone levels might benefit from consuming at least 1,500-2,000 calories per day (average, depending on body size and activity level). For most people, this will create a small caloric deficit that will promote weight loss without depressing testosterone.
Eat Enough Protein and Fat
High-fiber and low-protein diets contribute to low testosterone levels. Vegetarian diets also depress testosterone. Eat 0.8-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight (depending on activity level). Couch potatoes need less protein, while athletes need more. Specific amino acids, such as arginine, might also increase testosterone.
For many years, nutritionists have recommended that people eat fewer fatty foods and less red meat. Avoiding red meat and fats completely decreases testosterone and could slow down progress in your training program. A compromise is necessary— don’t give up meat, but try to eat leaner cuts. In general, tasty cuts, such as filet mignon and New York Cut steaks, have more fat and shouldn’t be mainstays of your diet. Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, are linked to increased testosterone, and they appear to promote cardiovascular health.
Eat Your Vitamins
Vitamins E and C influence testosterone levels. They prevent lipid peroxidation (fat breakdown) by highly-reactive free radicals produced naturally during metabolism. Vitamin A and D deficiencies are also associated with depressed testosterone. However, low levels of these vitamins are rare in well-nourished, active men. The evidence for a vitamin-boosting effect on testosterone is far from conclusive.
Lose Fat If You Are Overweight
Increased body fat, particularly if carried in the abdomen, is linked to lower testosterone. Decreasing fat through a sensible program of exercise and diet reduces abdominal fat and beefs of testosterone levels. In turn, higher testosterone levels help you manage body fat. Testosterone increases nervous receptors and enzymes (such as hormone-sensitive lipase) that speed fat breakdown. It’s much like the old adage that the ‘rich get richer’— cutting fat increases testosterone, which makes it easier to cut fat more.
High-volume distance running depresses testosterone. Several studies have shown that distance running decreases the ability of weightlifters to improve strength. One reason may be depressed testosterone associated with distance running. However, the answer may be as simple as overtraining.
Overtraining, regardless of sport or type of exercise, depresses total and free testosterone levels and stimulates the production of catabolic hormones, such as cortisol that can slow progress in your exercise program. Maximizing testosterone-receptor sites in muscles through an intelligent diet and exercise program stimulates testosterone receptors that cross-bind with cortisol and block muscle breakdown. Active people can avoid depressing testosterone by properly managing their training programs, cycling the volume and intensity of exercise, and avoiding overtraining.
Get Enough Sleep and Minimize Harmful Stress
Emotional stress and inadequate sleep lowers testosterone and increases cortisol levels. Don’t avoid stress altogether. Stress stimulates improvement and adaptation. “You must burn to grow,” as governor Arnold said in the film “Stay Hungry.” Stress improves fitness. However, avoid needless stress that triggers excessive anxiety and frustration. That type of stress will make you sick and rob you of precious testosterone. Learn to distinguish good stress from bad. Good stress makes you grow and perform at top levels. Bad stress makes you sick and wimpy. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Think Like A Winner
Mental state has a profound effect on testosterone levels. Testosterone levels go up after winning an athletic contest but go down after a loss. Psychological studies found that assertive behavior followed by a rise in status leads to an increase in testosterone levels. Likewise, depression lowers testosterone. Symptoms of depression include low self-esteem, reduced mood, fatigue, low sex drive, insomnia, guilt feelings, poor exercise and sports performance, and absence of pleasure.
If you are depressed, see your physician. Nowadays, there are many very effective treatments for this disorder. If you occasionally have down days (an who doesn’t?), develop a winning mental attitude. Set yourself up for positive, winning experiences. A good strategy used by successful football coaches is to schedule some games you know you’re going to win. You can use this same technique in your daily life. Set achievable, short-term goals and knock them off one-by-one. Even the pros don’t play in the Super Bowl every week. Give yourself a break and conquer the ladder of success slowly but surely. You will be rewarded with a full tank of testosterone and a positive, winning attitude. So, get psyched!
Stay Sexually Active
Sexual activity and arousal stimulate testosterone production. Traditionally, sexual activity has been discouraged in active males participating in athletic programs. In light of the evidence, these practices should be reviewed and probably reversed. Who knows, having sex and getting turned on may be important training aids.
Maintain Muscle Mass
During the past 10 years, scientists have begun to understand the great importance of muscles for metabolic health. Fit, well-nourished muscles have more androgen receptor sites, which helps maintain overall testosterone metabolism. Maintaining metabolically-fit muscles also benefits the way your body handles insulin and fuels at rest and during exercise.
If All Else Fails
Lifestyle changes might not be enough for men with abnormally-low levels of testosterone. Some men need testosterone supplements. A book by Harvard University urologist Abraham Morgentaler, Testosterone for Life, hopes to change public perception about the dangers of low testosterone and the beneficial effects of testosterone therapy for aging men. Dr. Morgentaler used his 30 years of research and clinical experience to present a convincing argument for actively treating men with low testosterone levels. He commented on his clinical experience in an interview with FitnessRx for Men: “I continue to be amazed at the ways in which testosterone therapy can absolutely change a man’s life. Most men I see come in for a specific issue, such as problems with erections or reduced sex drive. While testosterone therapy can be extremely helpful for these symptoms, its most important benefit is the feeling of being ‘recharged’ again— feeling more focused, more vigorous, more masculine, more alive.”
While improved lifestyle cannot compensate for extremely low levels of testosterone, it will help you get the most from what you have and make your body’s metabolism work better. Dr. Morgentaler commented, “While exercise and diet can influence testosterone levels, it is doubtful that lifestyle changes alone will compensate for extremely low levels. I urge my patients to exercise and eat healthy diets because it makes them feel better and enhances overall health.”
Healthy Lifestyle Maximizes Testosterone and Metabolic Health
Physical inactivity and poor diet promote obesity and create poor metabolic health that disrupt sensitive hormone systems that process carbohydrates, fats, and protein; and regulate signaling chemicals that build bone and muscle mass. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, weight training, weight management, and stress reduction contribute to healthy anabolic hormone regulation (i.e., testosterone, growth hormone, IGF-1) that give you energy, help make you a lion in the bedroom, and contribute to a general jois de vivre.