Testosterone is far more than just a sex hormone. In fact, low testosterone levels can lead to wide-ranging symptoms such as low libido, difficulty maintaining an erection, hair loss, reduced muscle mass, decreased bone density, fatigue and mood changes. Rather than signing up for expensive hormone therapy that can come with serious side effects, it's safer to first try these eight natural science-backed ways to boost testosterone.
Finding Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone is Important
Low testosterone or "low T" is a problem that many men write off as part of normal aging, but the truth is low T is a serious medical concern that can be addressed through healthier lifestyle habits. Testosterone is far more than a sex hormone. In addition to improving libido, arousal, sexual desire, and sexual performance, testosterone is also necessary for maintaining a healthy red blood cell count, muscle mass, bone density, energy and more.
Testosterone levels naturally decline with age, but problems like low vitamin D levels, chronic stress, prescription medication, a lack of exercise and weight gain can accelerate this decline. Men with low testosterone can suffer from many health consequences, including reduced metabolism, a higher risk of obesity and diabetes and a reduced immune response.
While testosterone replacement therapy is one solution to boosting testosterone levels, hormone therapy comes with many side effects and risks, including an increased risk of stroke and lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels. The following eight natural ways to boost testosterone offer a far safer approach to improving your health.
#1. Weight Training
Weight training is essential to maintaining healthy testosterone levels, but it works best when combined with high intensity interval training (HIIT). For maximum benefit, men should aim for a heavy weight training workout three times a week. Heavy lifting for 30-60 minutes is especially beneficial.
Numerous studies have documented the benefit of weight training for testosterone levels. One study from the University of Nebraska found that even light to moderate weight training increased testosterone levels in study participants while a Ball State University study found that strength training in men prompts the release of testosterone and growth hormone.
While weight training boosts testosterone, HIIT workouts or interval training have been found to help keep testosterone levels elevated and reduce hormone decline. This type of workout involves exercising at 100 percent of your maximum effort for a short period of time to burn stored sugar.
#2. Eating Enough Healthy Fats
An unhealthy diet can contribute to low testosterone levels, especially a diet high in carbohydrates. According to numerous studies, a diet rich in healthy fats can make a noticeable difference in testosterone levels. One important study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry found that as men decreased healthy fat intake, their testosterone, androstenedione and free testosterone levels also declined.
There are three types of healthy fat: saturated fat found in foods like fermented dairy products and coconut milk; omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed, walnuts, salmon and fish oil supplements and monounsaturated fats found in almonds, olive oil and avocado.
#3. Stress Reduction
Chronic stress can reduce your quality of life and increase the risk of many health problems, including coronary artery disease, peptic ulcer disease, diabetes and obesity. Men with chronic stress are also at risk of developing low testosterone. According to a study published in Hormones and Behavior, rising cortisol (or stress hormone) levels lead to rising testosterone levels, but testosterone responding to cortisol bottoms out at a lower level than normal. Reducing stress can be key to healthy hormone production.
#4. Liver Detox
Inadequate liver function can be detrimental to testosterone levels because an enzyme in the liver is responsible for conjugating the 17 beta-hydroxyl group of testosterone. According to a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, men with cirrhosis have testosterone levels reduced by up to 90 percent and hormone levels decline as liver disease advances.
A liver detox can help remove toxins from the liver. Antioxidant vitamins like beta-cerotene, E and C as well as minerals like selenium and zinc can help cleanse the liver naturally.
#5. Getting Enough Sleep
Studies show that a lack of quality sleep affects us in many ways. Aside from daytime grogginess, failing to get enough sleep can also impact your body's ability to produce testosterone. This is because the body's circadian rhythm resets every night and releases chemicals that contribute to proper hormone production. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who have poor sleep can develop much lower testosterone levels within just seven days. Testosterone levels drop by a whopping 10-15 percent when sleep is deprived and the greatest decline in testosterone levels occurs between 2 pm and 10 pm.
#6. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is considered one of the most effective ways to boost testosterone with proven benefits. According to one study, intermittent fasting can improve testosterone levels by 200-400 percent in obese men. A University of Virginia Medical School study also found that men who consumed no calories for 24 hours had growth hormone levels that increased an average of 2,000 percent. Growth hormone levels are strongly associated with testosterone levels in men.
Intermittent fasting is easier than many think. This technique involves skipping breakfast and eating meals closer together. With intermittent fasting, you typically eat a meal at noon, 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
#7. Avoiding Sugar
A diet high in sugar doesn't just lead to cavities, obesity and diabetes; it can also deplete testosterone levels. People with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have low testosterone because a diet high in sugar causes blood glucose levels to remain elevated. To keep blood sugar levels under control, the pancreas works harder to produce insulin, which transports sugar from the blood into the cells. When cells are exposed to insulin for a long period of time, the body can develop insulin resistance that leads to type 2 diabetes.
Once diabetes has developed, the body is unable to produce correct testosterone levels.
#8. Taking Herbs
Certain herbs can help boost testosterone production naturally. One of the most important is royal jelly, which isn't actually an herb but a jelly produced by worker bees and fed to bee larvae. One Japanese study found that royal jelly can be used as a health supplement to bolster testosterone levels and possibly improve libido.