Testosterone is the primary male hormone but females have trace amounts of it too. It is a hormone produced in the testicles or, in smaller amounts, in the ovaries. Your body’s adrenal glands also work to produce small amounts of this hormone.
For adults, maintaining correct levels of this hormone is important for general health – particularly body composition, sexual function among other things.
Data has shown that low testosterone is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and atherosclerosis (1). This study (2) explores the link between cardiovascular issues and low testosterone in older men.
What Would Cause Testosterone Levels To Be Low?
In the past two decades a study has shown that average testosterone levels have been declining gradually over the last two decades, one factordriving down testosterone levels is due to our modern lifestyle filled with endocrine disruptors.
A few of the more common endocrine disruptors are BPA – found in the lining of canned foods and plastic etc. Sodium lauryl sulfate, found mostly in cosmetic products, in fact there are thousands of studies linking sodium lauryl sulfate to various health complications!
There are many other factors that are causing testosterone to drop, the most effective thing you do is to avoid things that lower testosterone as opposed to attempting to take some sort of supplement to increase it.
9 Scientifically Backed Methods For Increasing Testosterone Levels Naturally
- Make sure you get restful sleep
Sleep is just as important to your health as exercise and diet, I am sure you don’t need a study to confirm this. Lack of sleep also has major impacts on hormone production – like testosterone.
While the ideal sleep time varies between individuals the normal recommendation is between 7-9 hours. One study concluded that after one week of restricting sleep to 5 hours in men saw a 15% reduction in testosterone (7).
A longer term study observed that healthy older men who only slept for four hours each night saw deficient levels of testosterone (8).
So while you might feel fine on less sleep, research backs up the 7-9 hours of sleep per night as the recommended length of time for long term health and your testosterone productions.
Take away message – a quality sleep routine of at least 7 hours will support your health and help keep your testosterone levels at a optimal level.
- Lift Weights
Great news, if you are already trying to build muscle by lifting weights, you are also naturally boosting your testosterone levels. In fact all forms of exercise have been proven to prevent many lifestyle-related diseases like obesity, cardiovascular diseases and many more diseases.
This study (9) compared active and sedentary men and tested their testosterone levels and found that the physically active men had a better anabolic hormonal environment as well as healthier semen production.
Another study focused on elderly men and found that long term sustained exercise regimes resulted in elevated testosterone levels (10).
Research into obese men found that increasing their physical activity was far more beneficial than a weight loss diet on its own for raising testosterone levels (11). Why do I mention this? If you are carrying too much excess fat your testosterone levels will be lower.
HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training has also been studied and proven to be effective at raising levels post exercise, however all forms of sustained exercise will have a positive impact.
This study in particular focused on 12 men doing a set routine, created to conform to the HIIT structure and concluded, “That these types of high-intensity resistance specific exercise meant there was elevated testosterone concentrations after exercise” (14)
Take away message – all types of exercise support increased production of testosterone levels in the body but weight lifting and high intensity interval styles of training have been shown to be the most effective.
- Eat a Balance of Protein, Fat and Carbs
Your diet has a large impact on the production of all hormones in your body and testosterone is no different. It’s important that you take care to have a long term healthy calorie intake and diet strategy.
Not eating enough or over-eating in the long term can disrupt your testosterone levels. This study (16)concluded that obese teenage boys have up to 50% less testosterone than those boys with normal BMI’s.
Diets which focus on optimizing hormone levels and general long term health is one with a focus on whole foods and a balance of fat, protein and carbohydrates.
Protein aids in weight loss(17) as well as promoting the formation of muscles, thus supporting testosterone production in the body. Protein is an essential part of life and helps build tissues in the body. It is recommended to have about a 30% of your daily calories from protein.
Carbohydrates are the energy for your muscles and research shows that carbs can aid in producing optimal testosterone levels when combined with resistance training (18)
Research supports that healthy fats are also necessary for testosterone production as well as your overall health (19).
Take away message – Make sure you are eating the right amount of calories for your body and try to eat a balanced, whole food diet include the right balance proteins, fats and carbs. This is different for everyone, so consult a specialist if you are unsure.
- Make sure you reach your vitamin D intake.
Vitamin D is the one absorbed through the skin from the sun, to be more precise there is a chemical reaction that takes place when your skin is exposed to UV light causing creation of vitamin D.
Its quickly becoming a popular vitamin because research has uncovered many health benefits including a way to naturally boost your testosterone.
Unfortunately, as few foods contain vitamin D and people are spending more time inside, nearly half of the people in the US (and most western countries) are deficient in vitamin D, and an even more people are suffering from less than optimal levels (20, 21). As so many people are not getting the recommended intake, it is considered to be at pandemic proportions.
This study spanned 12-months and found that a 3000 IU supplement of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by up to 25% (22).
Other studies have seen improvements in the testosterone levels in the elderly after taking vitamin D supplements. They saw increases in their muscle mass and strength which resulted in a reduced risk of falling (23).
In order to get the benefits of boosting testosterone as well as all the other benefits of vitamin D, you will need regular exposure to sunlight – about 15 minutes per day or you can take a supplement of 3,000 IU of a vitamin D daily.
Take away message – Vitamin D is often neglected in our health. Take a supplement to help keep your levels at an optimal level and see the benefit of increased testosterone.
- Minimize Cortisol Levels
The long term danger of stress is a hot topic. Stress releases a hormone called cortisol and high, sustained levels of this hormone will actually lower testosterone (source). They work in opposition to one another. When cortisol is high, you lose testosterone however increasing your testosterone can reduce cortisol (24, 25).
High levels of cortisol have been linked to increases in food intake and weight gain as well as increased storage fats around your organs. Not only is this bad news for your health but these changes have shown to have negative impacts on your testosterone levels (26).
You should make lifestyle changes to reduce the stress you are experiencing – not just for testosterone production but for your overall health and wellbeing. Stress literally accelerates the aging process.
Regular exercise, a clean whole foods diet, a regular sleeping pattern and time to spend with friends and family are all good strategies for enjoying life and reducing stress. The upside is that you will see a boost in testosterone which improves your health further.
Remember that your health is your wealth, if your job is causing too much stress consider changing it, even if that means a lower salary.
Take away message – Stress has negative impacts on your health and one of those is a reduction in testosterone levels.
- Take Extra Vitamin and Minerals as Supplements
The benefit of taking a multivitamin is a hotly debated topic but if you are not getting a balanced diet, it is one way to make sure you are getting those essentially compounds. Specific vitamins and mineral supplements can be very beneficial (27). Most fruits and vegetables are not as nutrient dense as they once were.
Studies have concluded that both zinc and vitamin B supplements increased sperm quality by up to 74%. Zinc also worked to boost testosterone levels in both athletes and individuals with a significant zinc deficiency (28, 29, 30).
While other studies saw links between vitamins A, C and testosterone levels, although more research in this area is required (31).
Take away message – Supplements are a way to achieve your micronutrient needs if your diet isn’t able to do that. Vitamin D and Zinc should be your focus for testosterone boosting effects.
7.Supplement with Natural Testosterone Boosters
There are some natural plants and herbs that increase testosterone production in humans. One such herb supported by scientific study is called ashwagandha.
It has been used as a natural fertility treatment for centuries. One study found links where supplementing the individuals diet with this herb increased testosterone by 17% in infertile men as well as a 167% increase in their sperm count (35) while in healthy, fertile men, ashwagandha increased their testosterone levels by 15%.
Another study concluded that it lowered the stress hormone cortisol by up to 25%. Cortisol inhibits testosterone so lowering cortisol supports healthy testosterone levels (36).
Unfortunately the majority of research on ginger has been conducted on animals and so more work is needed for human benefits.
However there was one study using infertile men that found ginger could increase testosterone by up to 17% as well as supporting the production of other key sex hormones and seminal fluid ( source).
Other popular herbs that have been supported by animal and human studies include horny goat weed, mucuna pruriens, tongkat ali and shilajit.
Note that all these studies are either in mice so the benefits for humans are unclear. A lot of the studies focus on infertile men so once again, the effect on healthy individuals is somewhat unclear.
Having said that, the above mentioned herbs have other positive effects and little to no side effects.
Take away message – several herbal supplements show promise to naturally increase your testosterone but more research into healthy humans is required.
8.Have Sex Regularly
Like everything related to health, several factors come together to play a role in your hormone levels. Regular sex can have an important role in stabilising and regulating your testosterone levels (39, 40).
There are also many other health benefits associated with having regular sex.
9.Avoid Oestrogen-like Compounds
Exposure to oestrogen-like chemicals can also have negative effects on your testosterone levels. The best way to avoid this is to minimize daily exposure to harmful chmicals such as BPA, (41, 42) parabens and other such chemicals found in certain types of plastics and cosmetic products (43). Go for organic based, perfumes, soaps packaging etc.
Some meats, especially chicken that have been treated heavily with antibiotics and hormone treatments can expose your body to higher levels of oestrogen like compounds and should be avoided. Organic, non treated meats are a safer option.
Excessive alcohol and drug use is linked to reduction in testosterone levels. This study (44) explores the link between alcohol intoxication and depressed testosterone. This similar study (45) shows an increase in cortisol and a decrease in testosterone.
Take away message – removing oestrogen like chemicals, alcohol and drugs will see a positive increase in testosterone levels in your body.
Why Are Testosterone Levels So Important?
Around age 25, testosterone begins to decline and while this is a natural process it is an issue because research has shown strong links between low testosterone and obesity, increase disease risks as well as premature death.
Healthy testosterone levels are important for both sexes. For women testosterone needs to be in balance with other key hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone.
For these reasons it is important that everyone take the appropriate steps in their lifestyles to optimize their hormonal levels, testosterone in particular.
This will improve your health, body composition, fertility, and energy all at the same time. Also following the above mentioned methods are important for general health and well being.