Testosterone: You Need It
Testosterone is the most important male sex hormone. It is natural for testosterone levels to decline as a person ages, but there are steps that they can take to slow and reverse Low-T with natural, testosterone-boosting supplements and lifestyle changes.
The power of testosterone is almost mythical, and no wonder:
Testosterone 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.
And don’t think women aren’t affected by reduced levels of this anabolic hormone as well.
Similarly 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 for women 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.
Normal Testosterone Levels
After you undergo the simple blood test that measures your testosterone levels, your doctor will give you the results represented by three different numbers:
- Total Testosterone – this represents the total amount of testosterone that is circulating throughout your body, so it includes both types of bonded T plus free T
- Bioavailable T – consists of testosterone attached to albumin plus free T
- Free T
Now comes the complicated part. The definition of “normal” testosterone varies, depending on the expert and the testing lab used.
The good news is that there are general guidelines for “normal” testosterone.
Here are the generally accepted normal ranges of total, free, and bioavailable T, given in nanograms of testosterone per deciliter (ng/dL) for different age groups:
< or =19 years: not established
20-29 years: 83-257 ng/dL
30-39 years: 72-235 ng/dL
40-49 years: 61-213 ng/dL
50-59 years: 50-190 ng/dL
60-69 years: 40-168 ng/dL
> or =70 years: not established
(Source: May0 Clinic Test Catalog)
Here’s the bottom line when it comes to answering the question of what are normal testosterone levels in men:
- The range of “normal” is wide, which accommodates the fact that every man’s needs are different.
- While men’s total testosterone level can be within the normal range, their free T levels can be low, which can result in symptoms of low T.
- The testosterone level men should be most interested is in the bioavailable number. If men can boost their bioavailable testosterone level, they should expect an increase in energy, sex drive, and muscle strength as well as better mood and well-being.
Why Look For Natural Treatment?
Drug companies promote products that are supposed to replace testosterone, and while these might help some people, these replacement therapies may also slow down the body’s ability to naturally produce testosterone.
Also, these medications are not without risks.
A 2016 study noted that the benefits and safety of long-term use of testosterone replacement products are not known.
The best way to improve testosterone levels is by adopting some lifestyle habits that can improve overall health and well-being.
Testosterone-Boosting Lifestyle Habits
Get Your Shut-Eye
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.
One study from the University of Chicago found that testosterone levels can drop in men who do not get enough sleep.
Ten healthy men aged around 24 years old spent 1 week sleeping for 8 hours per night at home, they then spent the next 11 nights in a lab.
They slept for 10 hours per night for 3 nights, followed by 8 nights of restricted sleep, when they slept for only 5 hours.
Doctors checked their blood every 15 to 30 minutes during the last night that they slept 10 hours, as well as on the sleep-restricted session.
The researchers found that after only 1 week of restricted sleep, daytime testosterone levels dropped by up to 15 percent.
By contrast, normal aging sees testosterone decreases of just 1 to 2 percent per year.
Making sleep a priority may help maintain testosterone levels. People should aim to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours each night. Anyone having problems getting good quality sleep on a regular basis should talk to their doctor.
Get Control of Your Diet
Research has long shown that eating well is essential to maintaining testosterone levels and overall health.
According to one report in the Journal of Neuroinflammation, low testosterone levels and being overweight may contribute to a variety of inflammatory conditions and impaired neurological function.
Additional research showed overeating and yo-yo dieting disrupted hormone levels. This effect is most evident in athletes and people who are very active.
The best diets are ones that include mostly whole foods and offer a healthful balance of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Eating a healthful and nutritious diet can keep all hormones levels in the body balanced and promote optimal long-term health.
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.
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.
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
Eat Fat (Part 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.
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.
Also, incorporating whole eggs into a moderately carbohydrate-restricted diet was shown to improve the lipoprotein profile (increased HDL cholesterol).
Top cholesterol-containing foods are typically the ones that are high in saturated fats.
Some of your best choices are:
- red meat
- seafood such as shrimp, squid, and lobster
- egg yolks
Lose Weight (If You’re Carrying Extra)
Research has shown that men who carry more weight have lower levels of testosterone.
One study in the journal Clinical Endocrinology reported that some obese males between the ages of 14 and 20 have up to 50 percent less testosterone than those who are not overweight.
(or get active, if you’re not!)
A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that the more active an individual is, the more testosterone they will have.
Another study suggested that increasing physical activity was more beneficial than weight loss for improving testosterone levels.
However, it is a good idea not to overdo it, as higher levels of exercise may cause low testosterone.
In fact, the same study found that long-distance runners may experience low testosterone levels. The researchers speculated that this might be due to inadequate energy and improper nutrition.
Long-term and chronic stress is dangerous and can lead to many issues in the body.
Stress elevates the hormone cortisol, which is responsible for managing a variety of processes, including immune response and metabolism.
Elevated cortisol negatively impacts testosterone.
One 2016 study found that stressful events contributed to erratic changes to testosterone levels in males.
In the 2 months before their final exams, 58 male and female medical students filled in questionnaires and gave saliva samples while under exam stress.
The men in the study showed significant increases in salivary testosterone under exam stress, while the women had substantially decreased testosterone levels.
The researchers suggest the stress response in the male study participants resulted in aggression, emotional inhibition, and rumination, and this could explain the differences in the sexes.
Natural Testosterone Boosters
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 (a formula with fenugreek as the main ingredient) showed statistically significant increases in performance, sexual health, and satisfaction in healthy adult males.
For the study, 60 healthy men (ages 25 to 52) took either a placebo or a supplement containing fenugreek and a mineral formulation every day for six weeks. By the end of the study, participants given the combination of fenugreek and minerals had experienced an improvement in several aspects of libido (such as sexual arousal and orgasm).
There was no significant influence on testosterone levels, though. Concluding that the combination of fenugreek and minerals “may assist to maintain normal healthy testosterone levels,” the study’s authors also note that the supplement failed to have an effect on factors like mood and sleep.
Additionally, a small study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2010 found that treatment with fenugreek helped increase testosterone levels in a group of adult males. The study included 49 men assigned to a resistance-training program, each of whom was given either a placebo or a supplement containing fenugreek every day for eight weeks.
In addition to experiencing an increase in testosterone levels, those given fenugreek also showed a greater decrease in body fat and a greater improvement in performance on certain resistance-training exercises (including leg presses and bench presses) than those assigned to the placebo.
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.
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.
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.
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. The 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.
Look for test-boosting products that include DIM among other ingredients.
Review Your Meds
While prescription medications can help manage a variety of health conditions, they are one of the most common reasons for low testosterone.
According to one report in BMC Medicine, statins, which are medications that lower cholesterol, may partially operate by reducing testosterone.
Anyone who suspects low testosterone is due to prescribed medications should bring these concerns to their doctor’s attention.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
Abuse of drugs and alcohol has been linked to lower testosterone.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol use affects the glands and hormones involved in male reproductive health.
Further, alcohol can cause low testosterone levels due to the effects it has on the body, including causing hormonal reactions and cell damage.
Low-T Warning Signs
Guys like to make jokes about testosterone, but testosterone deficiency is no laughing matter.
The latest research suggests that guys without enough of the hormone face a higher risk of several serious illnesses, including diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
A simple blood test can reveal whether a guy has low “T,” but there are plenty of other clues that a problem exists.
Low Sex Drive
Testosterone is what fuels a man’s sex drive. If he’s low on “T,” he’s likely to become less interested in having sex.
“Testosterone is what’s responsible for ‘the grrr factor,” says Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, associate clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the author of “Testosterone for Life.” He says men differ in how frequently they like to have sex, but for men with low testosterone, he says, “It’s completely absent.”
Erections are triggered by the body’s release of a tiny molecule called nitric oxide. Testosterone is needed to trigger this release, and if there’s not enough of it, well, nothing much happens down below. Either erections are impossible, or they’re not firm enough for intercourse.
A testosterone deficiency can cause serious medical problems, including diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease.
Low Fluid Level
Three parts of a man’s body work together to produce the sperm-containing fluid that’s released when he ejaculates: the prostate, the seminal vesicles and the testicles. Each of these parts needs a good supply of testosterone to produce a normal ejaculatory volume of 1.5 to 5 cubic centimeters. A man with waning testosterone may notice a sharp decline in his “volume.”
Guys with low testosterone often complain of feeling numb down below. They may not be completely numb, but a touch of the penis or scrotom fails to elicit that feeling of “electricity” needed to spark sexual encounters – and make sex so pleasurable. Says Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, “touching the area “just feels wrong to them.”
It’s perfectly normal for a guy to feel tired at the end of a busy day, but guys with low “T” feel completely depleted. These guys complain of being more tired than they think they ought to be. “My tank is empty,” is how some guys put it.
In addition to feeling severe fatigue, guys with low testosterone often lose their drive and initiative. Guys who used to be up and at ’em all day long are sidelined on the sofa.
Even if they’re not experiencing clinical depression, men with low testosterone often feel down or blue. They feel less optimistic than they used to feel.
Low testosterone can cause guys to be grouchy and irritable. Sometimes the problem is more apparent to friends, family members and colleagues – than to the men themselves. “A guy might say he’s fine,” says Dr. Morgentaler.
Reduced Muscle Mass
It’s not like they become weaklings, but guys with low testosterone often feel that they’re not as strong as they once were.
Some men actually notice shrinkage in their arm and leg muscles, and in their chest. And if they try to build muscles with weight-lifting, they often find it frustratingly difficult to build muscle mass.
More Body Fat
Low testosterone often results not only in reduced muscle mass, but also in increased body fat. Some guys add weight around the middle. Others develop gynecomastic, a.k.a “man boobs.”
Checked your testicles lately? Low testosterone can cause them to shrink a bit and feel softer than normal.
The Life Plan – How Any Man Can Achieve Lasting Health, great Sex, and a Stronger, Leaner Body by Jeffry S. Life, M.D., Ph.D.
Having normal testosterone levels is crucial for physical and mental well-being. If you suspect you might be low in testosterone, see your doctor to have it tested.
Keep in mind that there are many things you can do to help boost your bioavailable testosterone, and improve the way you look and feel.
Of course, you should always follow your doctor’s advice.
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