Things can go downhill in a hurry when you leave school and go to work. Your busy schedule leaves you less time for exercise and eating healthy meals. Month by month the six-pack abs you had in high school or college morph into the one-pack of your late 20s and 30s. Before you know it, your pants size multiplies and you can pinch a lot more than an inch around the middle.
Abdominal fat – particularly the fat around your organs – not only looks bad, it’s bad for you. Midsection spare tires increase blood fats, drive up blood pressure, increase the risk of diabetes and cause blood-clotting problems. People with fat guts have a much higher risk of heart disease, some cancers, gallbladder disease and prostate problems.
What you might not know is that a fat gut hurts something a lot closer to your heart – your sex life. Gut fat reduces blood testosterone levels, which decreases sex drive, the capacity for erections, energy level, aggressiveness and self-confidence. Too much fat and low testosterone destroys your game and sexual performance.
Abdominal Fat, Testosterone and Sex
Men store fat differently than women. While women pack it on in the legs and butt, men accumulate fat around the middle. That roly-poly midriff can be the kiss of death for many aging men. Before age 60, men have more heart disease than women. Many scientists reasoned that since men have much higher levels of testosterone than women, the hormone must be linked to heart attacks. Well, think again. New research shows just the opposite. Low levels of testosterone increase the risk of heart disease.
Scientists from Norway and the University of California, San Diego, led by Dr. Johan Svartberg, found that men with a higher waist size had lower levels of testosterone. Men with waist circumferences greater than 40 inches had 30 percent lower testosterone levels than men with waists less than 37 inches. Large waist size depressed testosterone most in men aged 25 to 50, the time when they are most sexually active.
Scientists are not sure if high body fat decreases testosterone or if low testosterone increases fat. In a 7.5-year study of body fat and sugar metabolism in 110 middle-aged Japanese-American men, Dr. E.C. Tsai and co-workers from the University of Washington School of Medicine found that those with the lowest testosterone levels gained the most abdominal fat. Low testosterone impairs metabolic health, promotes obesity and decreases sexual performance.
Testosterone is a fat-reducing hormone that interferes with an enzyme called lipoprotein-lipase that helps store fat. It also stimulates fat breakdown by turning on cell structures called beta-adrenergic receptors that help move fat from fat cells into the blood, where it can be used as fuel. Testosterone also prevents your body from making new fat cells. Testosterone targets abdominal fat – particularly deadly internal organ fat – more than any other kind.
Testosterone has important effects on sex drive and sexual performance. The hormone contributes to sperm cell production and semen volume, sex drive and the capacity for erections. Overweight men often have decreased sex drives and difficulty getting, or maintaining, erections. These sexual problems can begin as early as the mid-20s.
Testosterone levels decrease in men after about age 35. Age-related decrease in testosterone is called andropause (“male menopause”), which is linked to muscle atrophy, psychological depression, declining sexual performance and reduced interest in sex. High testosterone levels boost sexual prowess, muscle mass and self-image.
In adolescents, small changes in testosterone result in obvious changes in physical performance and sex drive. Middle-aged men often experience a 50 percent decline in the biologically active free testosterone between ages of 30 and 60. They can expect declines in sexual and physical capacities, even though total testosterone remains within normal limits. Adequate is not the same as optimal. Active people want to perform at high levels in the bedroom or in the gym and feel great right up to the end!
10 Ways to Boost Testosterone
High testosterone levels promote sexual health and physical performance. Physicians may prescribe testosterone supplements for declining libido, but you can increase testosterone naturally. Exercise and dietary habits can contribute to testosterone secretion. Avoiding overtraining and getting enough sleep can help maintain testosterone. The following strategies will help salvage your testosterone levels:
Lose Weight. Increased body fat, particularly if carried in the abdomen, decreases testosterone levels. Burning more calories than you consume through a sensible program of exercise and diet reduces abdominal fat and beefs up testosterone. 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” in that cutting fat increases testosterone, which makes it easier to cut fat some more.
Eat Enough Calories. Don’t overeat, but take in enough calories so you can exercise regularly. Moderate exercise and low body fat boosts testosterone. Low-calorie diets depress testosterone levels. People who go on low-calorie diets to lose weight usually lose muscle mass. Some of this may be due to reductions in blood testosterone and increases in catabolic hormones (cause tissue breakdown). People with low testosterone levels may combat the problem by taking in 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 to aid weight loss without depressing testosterone.
Take in Enough Protein. Eat 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (depending on activity level) to maximize testosterone. Couch potatoes need less protein, while athletes need more. Specific amino acids, such as arginine, also increase testosterone.
Diet can also depress testosterone levels. Vegetarian diets decrease testosterone, as does eating too much fiber in the diet and not taking in enough protein. Many nutritionists recommend that people eat less fatty foods and red meat. Staying away from red meat completely will decrease your blood testosterone and could affect your sexual performance and physical capacity. A compromise is necessary: Don’t give up meat, but try to eat leaner cuts. Tasty cuts, such as filet mignon and New York cut steaks, have more fat, so eat them sparingly.
Eat Your Vitamins. Vitamins E and C may help maintain testosterone levels by preventing free radical damage to the hormone. Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals produced normally during metabolism that promote aging and depress the immune system. Vitamin A and D deficiencies also depress testosterone, but low levels of these vitamins are rare in well-nourished, active men.
Get Enough Exercise. Short-term high-intensity 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 maximal effect. Exercise also helps maintain muscle mass, especially as you age. Greater muscle mass increases the number and activity of testosterone receptors in the body, which is essential to optimal testosterone metabolism.
Don’t Overtrain. High-volume distance running depresses testosterone. 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 and stimulates the production of catabolic hormones. Catabolic hormones, such as cortisol, can stop progress in your exercise program. Maximizing the number and activity of testosterone receptor sites in muscles through an intelligent diet and exercise program stimulates testosterone receptors that cross-bind with cortisol and block breakdown in muscle. Active people can avoid depressing testosterone by properly managing their training program – cycling the volume and intensity of exercise and not overtraining.
Get Enough Sleep and Minimize Stress. People who overstress and don’t get enough sleep often have lower testosterone and higher cortisol levels. Avoid needless stress that worries and frustrates you. That type of stress is going to make you sick and rob you of precious testosterone. Learn to distinguish good from bad stress. 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. 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, impotence, insomnia, feelings of guilt, poor exercise and sports performance and absence of pleasure.
What can you do? If you are depressed, see your physician. Nowadays, there are many very effective treatments for this disorder. If you occasionally have down days (and 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. Employ this method in your everyday 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 are strong stimulators of 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. Good sex increases testosterone, which leads to more sex.
Maintain Your Muscle Mass. Muscles promote metabolic health. Fit, well-nourished muscles have more androgen receptor sites, which help boost overall testosterone metabolism. Maintaining metabolically fit muscles also benefits the way the body handles fuels at rest and during exercise.
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