The Role and Benefits of Testosterone
Testosterone is a crucial hormone. Although both males and females produce it, adult males have 7-8 times more of this hormone than adult females. In both sexes, testosterone plays a crucial role in preventing osteoporosis - a condition that makes bone tissues more fragile and susceptible to fractures. It also plays an important role in energy levels, physical strength, body fat accumulation, sex drive, energy, and physical strength.
Testosterone is even more essential for males, as it triggers puberty and is necessary for both sexual and physical health and the production of red blood cells throughout their lives. Testosterone levels peak at puberty and gradually decrease with age, with around half of men over the age of 80 experiencing low testosterone.
Certain health conditions, medications, excessive alcohol, and drug use can also be responsible for a sudden drop in testosterone levels. People who have low testosterone may suffer from loss of muscle mass and weight gain, hair loss, erectile dysfunction (ED) and fertility issues, osteoporosis, and anemia. The condition also affects the brain and one’s mental health, making patients feel tired, depressed, irritable, or cause problems with concentration and memory.
Even though severe testosterone deficiencies require professional medical treatment, you can decrease your risk of developing low testosterone and boost your body’s ability to produce more of the hormone naturally through simple diet changes and other healthy habits. We continue this article by listing 9 such beneficial methods.
1. Eat a protein-rich diet
Both overeating and depriving yourself of nutrients through dieting can reduce your body’s ability to produce testosterone. Even though a well-rounded diet based on whole foods is the goal, one key macronutrient to focus on is definitely protein. A protein-rich diet makes testosterone more available for the body and increases muscle building.
In general, adult males should aim towards getting 5-6 ounces of protein daily. It’s important to get all kinds of protein in your diet - lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. Many of these foods also contain high amounts of L-arginine, an amino acid that helps prevent and help ED by increasing blood flow.
2. Vitamin D
The vitamin cholecalciferol, commonly known as vitamin D, plays a role in testosterone production and male sexual function. People with low levels of vitamin D may experience low testosterone too. Given that vitamin D levels naturally drop with age, it may be beneficial for older adults to take the vitamin as a supplement in order to prevent low testosterone or boost testosterone levels, especially since the vitamin is also crucial for bone and immune health.
According to a 2011 study, men with low testosterone who took 3,332 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily for a year raised their testosterone levels significantly. So spending a bit more time out in the sun or taking a vitamin D supplement could be a helpful testosterone boost.
You can add one more positive health effect to ginger's long list of benefits. It seems that this common root herb is capable of boosting testosterone levels and sexual function. In one study that looked at 75 men suffering from infertility, taking a ginger supplement every day for 3 months increased their testosterone levels by 17%. Although this is the only study of its kind conducted in humans, previous research in rats yielded similar results.
4. Onions and garlic
Foods called alliums - a group that includes onions, chives, and garlic, among others - have been shown to raise the levels of a hormone that makes the human body produce testosterone. Adding these foods into your foods, which is quite easy to do, may actually benefit your testosterone levels too. This conclusion was made after a series of studies in lab animals showing that testosterone levels nearly doubled after a diet full of garlic or garlic supplements.
5. Pine bark extract
It’s not surprising if you’ve never heard of pine bark extract before, it’s mostly known under the name Pycnogenol, and it’s a pretty new supplement ingredient. Researchers believe that it may be beneficial for cardiovascular health, testosterone levels, and ED because it contains compounds called proanthocyanidins.
One study from 2010 showed that men with ED had fewer symptoms and higher testosterone counts after taking pine bark extract and L-arginine aspartate for half a year. A similar but shorter study from 2012 re-confirmed these initial findings, even though they only tested their participants for 2 months.
6. Sleep and stress relief
Few people are actually aware of this, but testosterone levels actually peak during the night when you’re deep asleep. People who simply sleep less than 4 hours one night can have nearly deficient levels of testosterone according to research. Another article calculated that, for every additional hour of sleep, a person’s testosterone levels rise by 15%. So try and aim towards 7+ levels of sleep every night to boost testosterone.
Stress relief and relaxation are also equally important for increasing testosterone because the stress hormone cortisol can actually reduce testosterone levels. This is why stressful situations and periods in life can upset your hormonal balance. When cortisol goes back down and you’re feeling relaxed again, your testosterone levels should get back to normal too.
Low testosterone can be one of the symptoms of zinc deficiency. Since zinc is involved in reproductive health and the production of testosterone, it’s quite important to get enough of this mineral daily. Luckily, there’s plenty of zinc in foods like seafood, meat, dairy, poultry, beans, and nuts - so meeting the recommended 11 mg of zinc daily shouldn’t be an issue.
8. Stop eating from plastic containers
Although it’s most likely safe to store food items in plastic, avoid reheating your leftovers and takeout in plastic containers. Instead, transfer the food on a plate first and then reheat it. This is crucial because heat increases plastic leeching and you may end up consuming tiny plastic particles.
Some of these particles - especially a plastic called BPA common in takeout containers and water bottles - mimic estrogens, which are female hormones. These microplastic particles can mess with your hormones and have been known to cause ED in factory employees who worked with plastics, so make sure to avoid them, especially if you already have low testosterone.
You saw this one coming, didn’t you? It only makes sense that exercise, especially resistance training, can increase testosterone. After all, this hormone is necessary for building up muscle mass, so your body will start producing higher levels of testosterone once you begin exercising more.
Research supports this claim too - one experiment conducted in elderly men showed that exercise increased their testosterone levels, as well as reaction time and fitness. Other studies compared the ability of dieting and physical activity to boost testosterone and established that the latter was more effective.
Lastly, experts point out that exercise and physical activity, in general, increases the effectiveness of other testosterone-boosting methods we mentioned, namely protein foods and vitamin D. So make sure to stay physically active and move as much as you can to combat low testosterone.
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