Recent estimates suggest that approximately 13 million men in the United States experience testosterone deficiency, yet less than 10% receive treatment for the condition. Fortunately, there are many ways to correct this deficiency, including lifestyle changes and various forms of testosterone replacement.
Testosterone, a hormone produced primarily by the testicles, is often associated with one’s “manhood,” even though women have testosterone. Testosterone does play a large role in male sexuality and reproduction, affecting such factors as sexual and reproductive function, muscle mass and hair growth. It also has other important roles, such as maintaining bone density, levels of red blood cells and a sense of well-being.
Studies have shown that men who are overweight or have diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure) have a higher risk for low testosterone levels.
Beginning around age 30, a man’s testosterone level begins to decline and continues to do so as he ages. This decline is often minimal and clinically insignificant. However, the decrease can be significant and cause many symptoms, such as decreased libido, depressed moods and erectile dysfunction. Other, more subtle symptoms and signs of low testosterone include deteriorations in work performance, diminished strength and endurance, falling asleep after dinner and grumpiness.
The diagnosis of low testosterone is straightforward, requiring early morning, fasting blood tests to check for serum testosterone levels. Additional blood testing and occasional imaging studies may be required to confirm the underlying cause of a man’s low testosterone level.
There are a variety of different ways to replenish decreased testosterone:
There are also numerous strategies you can use to boost your testosterone levels naturally. The 8 interventions below are appropriate for everyone, as they carry only beneficial side effects.
If you are overweight or obese, the first (and perhaps the most natural way to boost testosterone levels) is to lose weight. According to many published studies, shedding excess pounds may increase your testosterone levels.
If you are serious about losing weight, limit the amount of processed sugar in your diet. Evidence is mounting that excess sugar, and fructose in particular is the primary factor in the obesity epidemic. Cutting soda from your diet is essential, as is limiting fructose found in processed foods, fruit juice, excessive fruit and so-called “healthy” sweeteners like agave.
You should also consider eliminating the sugar lactose found in milk, as well as refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels and other processed foods from your diet. For more information on optimizing your diet to lose weight, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.
Both intermittent fasting and short intense exercise have been shown to boost one’s testosterone level and prevent its decline. A typical high-intensity exercise routine might look like this:
As you can see, the entire workout is only 20 minutes. During that time, 75% of the time is warming up, recovering or cooling down. You only work out intensely for 4 minutes. Start with 2-3 repetitions and work your way up.
Strength training is also known to boost testosterone levels, provided you are doing so intensely enough. If boosting your testosterone level is your goal, then increase the weight and lower your number of reps. You should also focus on exercises that work many muscles, such as deadlifts or squats. You can turbo-charge your weight training by going slower. By slowing down your movement, you are actually turning it into a high-intensity exercise.
The mineral zinc is important for testosterone production, so supplementing your diet with zinc for 6 weeks can increase your testosterone levels. It is estimated that up to 45% of adults over age 60 do not consume enough zinc. Your best source of dietary zinc is in protein-rich foods like meats and fish. Other good dietary sources of zinc include raw milk, raw cheese, beans and yogurt. If you decide to use a zinc supplement, stick to a dosage of fewer than 40 mg a day – the recommended adult upper limit. Consuming too much zinc can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb other minerals, especially copper, and may cause nausea as a side effect.
Vitamin D, a steroid hormone, is essential for the healthy development of sperm cells and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone, which may boost libido. In one study, overweight men who were given vitamin D supplements had a significant increase in testosterone levels after 1 year.
Vitamin D deficiency is currently at epidemic proportions in the United States and many other regions around the world, largely because people do not spend enough time in the sun to stimulate vitamin D production. Therefore, the first step to ensuring you are receiving all the benefits of vitamin D is to find out what your levels are using a 25(OH) D test, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
When you are under a lot of stress, your body releases high levels of the hormone cortisol, which blocks the effects of testosterone. So before stress causes too much cortisol to be released, practice stress reduction tools like meditation, prayer, yoga or relaxation skills like deep breathing and positive visualization.
Testosterone levels decrease after you eat sugar, likely because the sugar increases your insulin level, another factor that leads to low testosterone. Based on USDA estimates, the average American consumes 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which equates to consuming 4,000 pounds during a lifetime.
Why we eat a lot of sugar is not difficult to understand – it tastes good and causes our brain to release dopamine, which causes pleasure. Still, most people reap major improvements in their health by cutting back on or eliminating sugar from their diets. Remember foods that contain added sugar and fructose, as well as grains like bread and pasta, should be decreased.
By healthy, this means not only mono- and polyunsaturated fats, like those found in avocados and nuts, but also saturated fats, as these are essential for building testosterone. Research shows that a diet with less than 40 percent of energy as fat (mainly saturated fats from animals) leads to a decrease in testosterone levels. Boost your testosterone levels by eating more of these healthy fats: olives and olive oil; coconuts and coconut oil; butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk; raw nuts, such as almonds or pecans; organic pastured egg yolks; avocados; grass-fed meats; palm oil; and unheated organic nut oils.
Research suggests that consuming Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) results in higher testosterone levels, particularly when taken along with resistance training. While BCAAs are available in supplement form, you will find the highest concentrations of BCAAs like leucine in dairy products – especially quality cheeses and whey protein.
One of the easiest ways to know if you or your loved one is suffering from low testosterone is to take the following Androgen Deficiency in Aging Males (ADAM) questionnaire:
|1.||Do you have a decrease in libido (sex drive)?||Yes||No|
|2.||Do you have a lack of energy?||Yes||No|
|3.||Do you have a decrease in strength and/or endurance?||Yes||No|
|4.||Have you lost height?||Yes||No|
|5.||Have you noticed a decreased "enjoyment of life"||Yes||No|
|6.||Are you sad and/or grumpy?||Yes||No|
|7.||Are your erections less strong?||Yes||No|
|8.||Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?||Yes||No|
|9.||Are you falling asleep after dinner?||Yes||No|
|10.||Has there been a recent deterioration in your work performance?||Yes||No|
If you answered “Yes” to number 1 or 7, or if you answered “Yes” to 4 or more questions, you may have low testosterone. Contact your physician to check your levels and take the necessary steps to feel and perform at your best.
Konstantin Walmsley, M.D., is a urologist at Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center and is board certified by the American Board of Urology.
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