The power of testosteroneis almost mythical, and no wonder; it can boost muscle, burn body fat, and support your mood, sleep, libido, energy, overall health, and quality of life.
Unfortunately, most men experience a slow decline in testosterone after they hit the age of about 30, putting them at greater risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, low mineral density, impaired sexual function, reduced muscle mass, and diminished physical performance.
Don't think women aren't affected by reduced levels of this anabolic hormone as well. Similar to men, levels of testosterone in women—albeit only one-tenth that of their male counterparts—peak in their 20s and decline thereafter.
This drop in testosterone can negatively alter the balance between testosterone and estrogen, resulting in an increase in body fat, slowed metabolism, reduced strength and bone mineral density, and difficulty putting on muscle.
Thankfully, there are many ways you can naturally increase your testosterone levels, with the most dramatic changes occurring though resistance training, nutrition, rest, and supplementation—some of which you might already be doing.
1. Eat Fat, Boost Testosterone
Often thought as a "physique destroyer," dietary fat is actually one of the most critical players when it comes to optimizing natural testosterone production. It's now recognized as a sure way to increase testosterone levels.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that diets with higher amounts of monounsaturated and saturated fats have been shown to increase testosterone levels.1
In another study, men who switched from a high-fat diet (13 percent saturated fat) to a low-fat diet (5 percent saturated fat) experienced significantly lower testosterone production rates and lower circulating androgen levels.2
"Keep in mind that when it comes to dietary fat, it's not just the amount of fat you eat, but also the type of fat," says Don Gauvreau, MSc, co-founder of PharmaFreak.
Examples of quality monounsaturated fats:
Olive oil, almonds, avocados, peanut butter
Examples of quality saturated fats:
Red meat, coconut oil, egg yolks, dark chocolate, cheese
2. Don't Avoid Cholesterol
Testosterone is derived from cholesterol, so it should come as no surprise that if your diet is lacking in cholesterol, you're also more than likely shortchanging yourself when it comes to the muscle-building hormone. Previous research has demonstrated a strong relationship between HDL cholesterol levels and free testosterone levels.3
Keep in mind that the majority of testosterone in your body is bound to proteins, but only the unattached, or free, testosterone is considered bioavailable and readily available for tissue uptake.
Furthermore, incorporating whole eggs into a moderately carbohydrate-restricted diet was shown to improve the lipoprotein profile (increased HDL cholesterol).4
Top cholesterol-containing foods are typically the ones that are high in saturated fats. Some of your best choices are red meat, egg yolks, and seafood such as shrimp, squid, and lobster. Whole eggs are a staple in my diet—I eat three every morning!
3. Consume Test-Boosting Ingredients
Testofen (Fenugreek Extract)
Testofen, a standardized extract of fenugreek, is thought to support free testosterone levels, muscle mass, and sexual drive in men.
While the research is still somewhat new in this area, a study out of Australia found that six weeks of supplementing with a formula containing Testofen as a major ingredient showed statistically significant increases in performance, sexual health, and satisfaction in healthy adult males.5
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in testosterone production. Mild zinc deficiency, commonplace among both men and women in the United States, has been associated with suppressed testosterone concentrations.
A notable study out of Wayne State University in Indiana found that older men who had a mild zinc deficiency significantly increased their testosterone from 8.3 to 16.0 nmol/L—a 93 percent increase—following six months of zinc supplementation. Researchers of the study concluded that zinc may play an important role in modulating serum testosterone levels in normal healthy men.6
D-Aspartic Acid (DAA)
D-aspartic acid (DAA) is an amino acid present in neuroendocrine tissues and is believed to impact hormone levels by increasing the activity of testosterone production.
In one human study, 23 men were given a daily dose of 3,120 mg of DAA for 12 days, whereas another group was given a placebo. After just 12 days, the subjects supplementing with DAA experienced an increase in testosterone by an average of 42 percent and luteinizing hormone (LH) by an average of 33 percent.
The results of this study show that DAA may help support the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans.7 More recent studies have showed contradicting results for D-Aspartic Acid, however. Try it out for yourself and gauge if this ingredient is right for you.
Vitamin D is arguably the most important vitamin when it comes to testosterone. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology examined the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and testosterone levels in men. The authors found that participants with higher levels of vitamin D had significantly higher levels of free testosterone compared to those with insufficient levels of vitamin D.8 Based on these study results, it appears vitamin D has a strong relationship with testosterone levels.
Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a component of indole-3-carbinol and formed during the digestion of vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
Research suggests that DIM can help support a healthy balance of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone in the body. It does this by converting potent forms of estrogen into less potent forms, reducing the overall effects of estrogen in the body.9The end result is a more balanced hormonal environment for healthy testosterone production!
This ingredient has been shown to be most effective when paired with other testosterone boosters with little data to support it being taken alone. Try searching for test-boosting products that include DIM among other ingredients.
4. Favor Multijoint Free-Weight Movements
Just as your diet has a major influence on testosterone levels, so does how you train. Research has proven time and time again that high-intensity weight training (choosing weights so that you reach muscle failure by 10 reps) can stimulate increases in testosterone secretion.
However, you must also choose the right exercises and the right tools of the trade if you want to take full advantage of this natural T boost. Essentially, the more muscle mass you stimulate, the more testosterone you'll secrete.
A recent study conducted on trained subjects showed that squats stimulated a greater testosterone response than leg presses.10 Stick with multijoint exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts—the kinds of compound lifts that'll help jack up your testosterone levels. Since machines isolate a muscle you're working (less stabilizer activity), they're not as good a choice compared to free weights.
5. Longer Workouts Are Not Better
Another aspect of your training that can influence your testosterone levels is the duration of your workouts. If you're regularly engaging in lengthy, drawn-out workouts with long rest periods or excessive endurance exercise, then your testosterone levels may take a hit.
Workouts lasting longer than about an hour may begin to spike cortisol levels and subsequently decrease testosterone. Additionally, research has demonstrated that a shorter rest period between sets (1 minute versus 3 minutes) elicited higher acute hormonal responses following a bout of resistance training.11 To maximize your testosterone response, keep your rest periods short and total workout time to 60 minutes or fewer.
6. Get Your Zzzs
A lack of quality sleep can dramatically diminish the amount of testosterone your body produces, thereby reducing muscle growth and fat loss. Research has demonstrated that the amount of sleep you get is associated with morning testosterone levels.
Researchers at the University of Chicago recorded the sleeping patterns of healthy men and found that participants' testosterone levels increased the longer they slept.12 I recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night to optimize the testosterone response.
7. Use Training Variables Associated With Greater T
When it comes to resistance training, both short-term and long-term research has shown that higher-volume training programs (think multiple sets at a moderate to high loads—70 to 85 percent of your one-rep max) tend to elicit the greatest hormonal response.1,13
Stick to protocols that stress large degrees of muscle mass and are moderate- to high-intensity. Additionally, more seasoned gym-goers may want to incorporate forced repetitions periodically into their programs, as testosterone increases have been observed with this type of training.14 Incorporating other post-failure training techniques such as dropsets or partials may similarly be associated with higher T production.