Gentlemen, are you experiencing lackluster libido? Feeling fatigued or irritable? Having a problem seeing over your belt buckle? Losing muscle mass and your hair? These are all signs and symptoms of low testosterone (low T), a phrase often touted on TV, the internet, and other media outlets by companies trying to sell their testosterone boosting products. Sometimes advertisers refer to these changes as male menopause (aka, andropause).
Whether it’s testosterone replacement therapy or one of scores of testosterone raising supplements, men need to be aware that these “solutions” to symptoms of low testosterone can come with significant adverse effects (e.g., higher risk of stroke or heart attack, mood swings, breast enlargement) or no results at all.
In addition, you should know that testosterone replacement therapy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for specific medical conditions only. Here’s what the FDA has to say about the use and overuse of TRT:
Testosterone is FDA-approved as replacement therapy only for men who have low testosterone levels due to disorders of the testicles, pituitary gland, or brain that cause a condition called hypogonadism. Examples of these disorders include failure of the testicles to produce testosterone because of genetic problems, or damage from chemotherapy or infection. However, FDA has become aware that testosterone is being used extensively in attempts to relieve symptoms in men who have low testosterone for no apparent reason other than aging. The benefits and safety of this use have not been established. (Bold mine)
Let’s focus on the main reason many men see their T levels dropping: aging.
Testosterone: Going down?
Beginning around age 30, men’s testosterone levels begin to decline at a rate of approximately 1 percent per year. Experts are fuzzy about what constitutes a “normal” testosterone level. Generally, testosterone levels in men range from about 270 to 1,070 ng/dL, with an average of 679 ng/dL. Some researchers say that levels between 400 and 600 ng/dL are optimal. However, what is optimal for one man may not be true for another who is the same age. T levels are highly individualized.
It also should be noted that some men who have so-called low testosterone levels don’t experience symptoms associated with low T, while men who have higher hormone levels can have symptoms.
Raising testosterone levels naturally
An effective as well as safe way to boost testosterone levels is to make lifestyle modifications that will not only help raise T levels but also support and promote overall health, plus eliminate worries about side effects and the high cost of TRT. What a win-win-win situation!
Are you ready to change your life and your T levels without the use of medication and unknown consequences?
1. Hit it with HIIT. Fast, brief cardiovascular workouts, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), have been shown to elevate testosterone levels. On the flip side, long, slow cardio exercise such as long-distance running or biking can bring those levels down.
An HIIT workout takes only about 20 minutes: (1) stretch for about 2 minutes; (2) choose an aerobic exercise and work out for 30 seconds at near maximum capacity; (3) exercise for 90 seconds at a moderate pace; (4) repeat #2 and #3 seven more times; (5) stretch for 2 minutes; (6) go on with your day!
2. Lose belly fat. Any extra fat carried in the abdominal are is a haven for the transformation of testosterone and androstenedione into estradiol, which means a loss of T. If you can lose the belly fat, you could enjoy a rise in testosterone levels. In a review of 24 studies that evaluated the impact of low-calorie dieting and bariatric surgery, for example, the authors found that weight loss is associated with an increase in testosterone levels. HIIT can be a big hit for losing belly fat!
3. Zero in on zinc. As many as 45 percent of adults older than 60 may be consuming an insufficient amount of zinc, a mineral that is necessary for testosterone production. A recent study showed a positive correlation between zinc levels and free testosterone (the active form of T). For men who don’t get enough zinc, supplementing for as little as six weeks could significantly improve testosterone levels. The daily recommended amount of zinc intake is 30 mg. Foods rich in zinc include oysters, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, and mushrooms.
4. Manage stress. The hormone cortisol tends to spike and stay elevated in the presence of chronic, unmanaged stress. This cortisol in turn depletes levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), another hormone that is necessary for making testosterone. High-pressure jobs, relationship challenges, financial worries, and other stressful situations can get the better of your T levels unless you learn how to manage the stressors in your life.
Adopt natural stress-reducing activities and behaviors to fit into your daily schedule, such as meditation, progressive relaxation, exercise, journaling, or laughter therapy. Check in on yourself several times day: what’s my stress level? How am I coping with it?
5. Get enough Zzzzzzzs. Your body needs sleep in order to produce testosterone. Young men who slept only five hours per night experienced a 10 to 15 percent drop in their testosterone levels, according to a University of Chicago study. Be sure you get a solid seven to eight hours of sleep every night if you want to support your T levels.
6. Skip the sugary foods. One not-so-sweet consequence of eating sugar and sugary foods is that they reduce testosterone levels. A Massachusetts General Hospital study noted that ingesting sugar (glucose) resulted in a 25 percent decline in testosterone levels. Mark Hyman, MD, notes that “in men, insulin resistance brought on by excessive amounts of sugar drives down testosterone.” Focus on foods that are naturally sweet, such as fresh fruit and small amounts of honey and black strap molasses.
7. Choose cruciferous veggies. It turns out there is an association between broccoli (and other cruciferous veggies) and testosterone. These vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which is a precursor to DIM (diindolylmethane). Both I3C and DIM help regulate levels of estradiol, a hormone that can cause testosterone levels to drop. Therefore, eating lots of cruciferous vegetables can help boost your testosterone.
8. Knock out xenoestrogens. Common environmental contaminants such as phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA), both of which are found in plastics and many common products (including personal health items), are known as hormone disruptors. That means exposure to these toxins can impact your T levels. In a 2016 report, researchers noted that “phthalates are…linked with reduced levels of serum testosterone.” A subsequent study reported that exposure to BPA and benzophenone-3 (another xenoestrogen) can significantly reduce levels of total testosterone in young males.
The most significant sources of BPA are plastic containers for beverages (use stainless steel or glass instead) and canned foods (BPA can leach into food from the can lining) as well as cash register receipts. Phthalates are commonly found in personal care products (especially those with fragrances) such as shampoo, body lotions, after shave, deodorants, and colognes. Other items include air fresheners, laundry detergents, and insect repellent as well as plastics such as shower curtains, plastic toys (including sex toys), and carpeting.
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