How to Naturally Increase Testosterone
Testosterone is the main male hormone that naturally leads to hormone imbalance symptoms when deficient. As such, many people that have these symptoms want to know how to naturally increase testosterone.
In adults testosterone is has two main functions that can be categorized as anabolic and androgenic. The anabolic effects of the hormone are important in protein synthesis, bone, and muscle growth. The androgenic effects are more related to hair growth, energy and drive, libido and blood flow. Hence, deficiency of testosterone in men may result in a decline in any of these above functions. This results in male hormone imbalance symptoms such as reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, decreased muscle mass, depressed mood, and poor quality of sleep (to name a few of the common symptoms).
So if you hare having symptoms of hormone imbalance read below for how to naturally increase testosterone.
Natural Testosterone Synthesis in the Body
Testosterone is synthesized in the body using mainly cholesterol as a starting point. A specific enzyme cleaves the cholesterol molecule to form pregnanalone. Pregnanalone is also known as the master hormone because it can have multiple fates. For instance, pregnanalone can, through several steps, turn into DHEA. An enzyme called 3-Beta HSD can then convert DHEA to testosterone. This all takes place in specific cells (leydig cells) in the testes, with the adrenal glands also producing small amounts. As you aging, your level of testosterone production in the leydig cells starts to decline. Knowing exactly why these cells are no longer producing testosterone in significant quantities is key. Knowing this will help you know how (if possible) to naturally increase testosterone. Some of these include changes to exercise, diet, sleep and dietary supplement. We will discuss these below.
Naturally Increase Testosterone with Diet
There are a few dietary considerations to naturally increase testosterone levels. For instance, increased dietary fat intake in favor of saturated fatty acids has been associated with increase in endogenous testosterone synthesis. Hämäläinen et al. observed a reduction in serum testosterone in males after a reduction total fat intake by about 15%. They also shifted the fat calories towards unsaturated fatty acids. In this group they observed a small but significant reduction in testosterone levels.
In a review study, researchers looked at many observational and epidemiological studies and found that macronutrient (fat, dietary fiber, etc) content had very short term effect on serum testosterone levels in males. These researchers did suggest that vegan diets also had a small but significant affect on sex hormone binding globulin. These diets seemed to increase sex hormone binding globulin. Sex hormone binding globulin binds up testosterone causing it to be less bio-available to your body. This effectively lowers your free testosterone and as a result you have an overall lower testosterone effect. 4
Affect of Other Hormones on Natural Testosterone Production
For males the production of testosterone occurs after a stimulus from the brain using a hormone known as luteinizing hormone. For some the amount of luteinizing hormone can be blunted from higher stress hormones, specifically high cortisol. When cortisol is high and it dampens the stimulus, luteinizing hormone production, from the brain to the testes. Therefore high cortisol/high stress can impact natural testosterone production. These things can be measured via blood samples.
Another hormone that has a negative impact on natural testosterone production is insulin. Those with higher insulin, like type II diabetes naturally have lower testosterone production. It is well documented that testosterone and blood sugar have an inverse relationship. In other words, the higher the blood sugar the lower the testosterone. The body's response to high blood sugar is to increase insulin. It is not clear if insulin itself has a negative effect on testosterone production or if the blood sugar itself is lowering testosterone levels. However I have personally seen that lowering blood sugar and insulin have a positive affect on natural testosterone production. For more on this topic see
Links between Diabetes and Testosterone
Naturally Increase Testosterone with Exercise
Aerobic exercise has always been associated with improved health due to its positive affect on the cardiovascular system. In a study analyzing the impact of exercise on sex steroid hormone in men, Hawkins et al. discovered that moderate-intensity aerobic exercise increased dihydrotestosterone (an active form of testosterone).
Anaerobic exercise is typically associated with a strong stimulus to increase testosterone levels. However, some research suggests that this affect may only be temporary or blunted by the subsequent increase in cortisol. This may be the case with aerobic and anaerobic exercise. For anaerobic exercise, there is a clear increase in testosterone receptor activity and therefore more testosterone activity.
Grossmann et al. have shown that obesity and testosterone level have a bidirectional relationship (similar to the relationship of blood sugar and testosterone) . While low levels of testosterone may lead to weight gain, studies have shown that losing weight in obese individuals leads to significant increase in serum level of testosterone.
The bottom line with exercise to naturally increase testosterone is:
- Be consistent, exercise every other day to every 2 days otherwise the effect will be short term.
- Don't stress the body too much and make sure you have a recovery period.
- Have a goal to reduce your fat mass and increase muscle mass as a whole.
There are many other claims of naturally increasing endogenous testosterone. These include increase vitamin D intake, reducing stress, take zinc, magnesium, and ensuring adequate sleep. Many of these are either obvious or short sided. You do need adequate intake of all vitamins needed to make testosterone. That means making sure your vitamin levels are adequate / optimal. It does not mean that supplementing with really high doses will magically increase your testosterone levels. If you are low in zinc and you supplement with zinc, it will increase your testosterone. Just as going from 5 hrs of sleep to 7 hours of sleep would help.
Many (I don't claim to have looked at them all) testosterone boosting supplements do not work because they do not look at the individual issues that may be causing your testosterone to be low. In other cases, these supplements simply won't have a significant effect on your testosterone levels to really matter. For instance, an increase in free testosterone from 75 pg/ml to 90pg/ml is 20% increase, but most people this would not resolve their low testosterone symptoms.
I would be curious to here your experience with trying to naturally increase your testosterone. You can leave your comments below. If you have questions about how to naturally increase your testosterone, come in for a visit and we will create a customized plan to optimize your hormone levels and health in general.
1. Grossmann, M., Tang Fui, M., & Dupuis, P. (2014). Lowered testosterone in male obesity: Mechanisms, morbidity and management. Asian Journal of Andrology, 16(2), 223. doi:10.4103/1008-682x.122365
2. HAWKINS, V. N., FOSTER-SCHUBERT, K., CHUBAK, J., SORENSEN, B., ULRICH, C. M., STANCYZK, F. Z., … MCTIERNAN, A. (2008). Effect of Exercise on Serum Sex Hormones in Men. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40(2), 223-233. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31815bbba9
3. Hämäläinen, E., Adlercreutz, H., Puska, P., & Pietinen, P. (1984). Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 20(1), 459-464. doi:10.1016/0022-4731(84)90254-1
4. Allen NE, Key TJ. (2000), The effects of diet on circulating sex hormone levels in men. Nutr Res Rev. 2000 Dec;13(2):159-84.