by John Baker
Testosterone is touted as one of the most influential hormones on body composition and athletic performance. Some people spend thousands of dollars a year on synthetic testosterone products. If this isn’t something you’re interested in doing, I have good news. There are some things you can do, today, for free, that can significantly boost your testosterone.
- Reduction of Alcohol:
Alcohol may be one of the biggest testosterone influencers out there. In general, alcohol boosts the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. This is really a double-edged sword, because not only does it directly lower testosterone, but also magnifies the gap between your estrogen levels and testosterone at the same time. Additionally, some alcoholic beverages may be worse than others. Hops in beers contain powerful phytoestrogens that boost estrogen levels. This doesn’t directly impact testosterone levels, but by increasing estrogen it negatively affects the testosterone to estrogen ratio, providing effects similar to decreased testosterone. So, you may want to think twice about that IPA you’ve come to love.
- Weight Training:
Weight training can significantly increase testosterone levels quickly. However, this must be intense and purposeful training. Training large muscle groups with heavy weights at low reps has been shown to increase testosterone the most. This means that heavy squats and deadlifts are going to provide the best bang for your buck when trying to elicit a desirable hormonal outcome. Additionally, increased testosterone will increase lean muscle mass, which will help boost testosterone even more. Interestingly, it has been shown that men receive significantly more testosterone boosting effects from weight training than women do. So ladies, don’t stop squatting because you think it’s going to give you as much testosterone as a man.
- HIIT and Sprints:
Like high intensity weight training, high intensity cardiovascular workouts like HIIT and Sprints also increase testosterone. The effects can be directly related to the effort level put into each bout of work. To get the largest benefits, it is imperative to push yourself to your limits and allow yourself enough time between each bout to recover enough so that you can maintain performance and reach the necessary threshold for testosterone production. Also, long duration (specifically over one hour) of endurance exercise, such as running or biking, has been shown to decrease testosterone production.
Sleep is one of the most anabolic tools that we have. Additionally, it has a whole host of other benefits as well. A difference of an hour can make a drastic difference in testosterone levels, and just small increases in sleep quality can also have profound impacts on testosterone. Some things that can help assure better sleep include sleeping in a cool room, blocking out any light source in the bedroom, avoiding blue light for an hour or more before bed, avoiding alcohol, and creating a pre-sleep ritual to help your body wind down effectively.
- Stress Management:
Stress is the antithesis to healthy testosterone function. In fact, it can quite literally rob your endocrine system’s ability to produce testosterone at all. Cortisol, the hormone that your body produces to cope and mitigate the effects of stress in the body, and testosterone share a common precursor, pregnenolone. When you are stressed your body will convert pregnenolone to cortisol at a higher rate than normal (a rate that is proportional to the amount of stress that you are under), stealing the capacity to make testosterone at adequate levels, or virtually at all. Some stress is unavoidable, unless you decide to become a hermit, but there are some things you can do right now to help. For example, meditation, breath work, listening to calming music, being outside, working out, and spending time with a loved one have been shown to significantly decrease the stress response very quickly.
- Selection of Self-Care Products:
Some everyday products can have pretty nasty, and unintentional effects on your hormonal health. A common word used to describe the compound responsible for these effects are xenoestrogens. These chemical compounds bind to estrogen receptors, increasing estrogen levels in the body, and lowering the ratio of testosterone and cortisol. Commonly seen xenoestrogens include phthalates, BPA and PCBs. Unfortunately, buying expensive self-care products does not mean that they are going to be better for you, and some expensive products are actually some of the worst for you. A good reference to check the quality of your products, and find better options, is to use EWG Skin Deep’s database, which can be found online.
- Food Choices:
Food choices are a common topic when discussing hormonal health. You’ve probably heard that soy can lower testosterone, while food like beef, oysters and eggs can raise testosterone. Well, the stories are true, but it also goes deeper than that. The quality of said foods also plays a big factor. Due to modern food production practices not all products are created equal. For example, cheap eggs are quite different from organic pasture raised eggs. This is from both a direct nutritional value standpoint, but also from an industrial byproduct standpoint. This is referring back to what was discussed in point 6. Lots of lower quality foods are contaminated by foreign compounds that act as xenoestrogens in the body and can wreck havoc on your hormonal health. This is why it is important to spend a little extra money on the high quality foods, in addition to buying healthy food options.
You don’t need to buy any product that claims to boost your testosterone. In fact, you will probably get a much better effect with less side effects from simply maximizing your body’s natural ability to produce testosterone given the tips listed above. Implement all seven, or simply just a few, you will see and feel a difference in just a short amount of time.