The magic word in the fitness and bodybuilding industries is testosterone.
It has an almost mythical importance — with much misinformation out there and many people not really knowing what exactly testosterone does (on a scientific level), what factors affect testosterone levels, or how to raise these testosterone levels naturally.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that is naturally-occurring in males (and to a lesser extent females).
It affects many body and mental functions, such as sex drive, bones, and muscles. Low testosterone is associated with low energy levels and depression, weaker bones, fat gain, and decreased libido.
Why “Boosting Testosterone” Is So Popular
Why do so many people think of testosterone as the holy grail?
Easy. Because somebody tells them (or they read somewhere) that the key to huge muscles or fat loss is testosterone. So immediately they search for ways to increase testosterone, and the first options that pop up are often terms like “testosterone replacement therapy” (TRT) and “testosterone boosters” (i.e. testosterone-boosting supplements).
While these things can be effective on some level for certain people, they shouldn’t be the first actions to consider for most, especially when it comes to TRT, which in particular can have permanent effects/damage to your body’s own testosterone-producing centers.
Rather, the first thing to do if you think you’re suffering from low testosterone levels — and you should get this officially checked via blood work — is to try to increase your testosterone levels naturally.
But how can we do this? Thanks to the body’s natural ability to adapt to external influences, we can affect particular bodily functions by doing certain things.
Adaptations in the Body
The human body has an extraordinary ability to adapt to external circumstances. These changes happen over the long-term, of course, through evolution, but they also occur in the short-term, on an individual basis.
Consider, for example, the body’s ability to adapt to extreme temperatures and humidity. Similarly, if you go to a high-altitude location, the body adapts so that cells are still getting enough oxygen. In addition, just think about the immune system and dietary differences (starvation and overconsumption).
In short, the human body is an incredible organism, capable of adapting to a wide-variety of external factors.
Your body’s testosterone levels are no different — it’s likely that your low level of testosterone is due to something you are or are not doing.
So what can we do then? How can we increase testosterone naturally?
Best Ways to Boost Testosterone Naturally
We aren’t just spitting out anecdotes here; the mentioned methods for naturally increasing testosterone are based on scientific evidence and the results of many research studies. Unlike other ways to increase testosterone,
these methods do not have any negative side effects.
1. Improve your Diet
It should not surprise anyone that diet plays a huge role in regulating many bodily processes, hormones included. When analyzing your diet for areas you can improve, consider not only if you’re eating healthy enough foods, but also the quantity of food you’re consuming.
Having a caloric deficit (due to either increased activity or reduced food intake), while absolutely necessary for losing weight over time, can also contribute to low levels of testosterone. If this is the case for you, and you aren’t trying to lose weight, then try increasing your food intake (with healthy choices, of course).
In addition to this, there are certain foods that are known to increase testosterone and also foods known to lower testosterone. For a natural testosterone boost, try upping your consumption of the former while limiting consumption of the latter.
Using the above info as your guide, get your diet in check and you’ll see great benefits overall and quite possibly a natural increase in testosterone as well.
2. Work on Sleep Hygiene
We call it sleep hygiene because there are several ways your sleeping habits could be hurting your health. Here are the most common major problems when it comes to sleep.
- Sleeping too much
- Sleeping too little
- Inconsistent sleep schedule
The first two — too much or too little sleep — are often mentioned but the third is frequently overlooked. The fact is that being on a consistent sleeping schedule is one of the most important steps to take for better sleep.
In general, you should aim for 7 to 8 hours per night and to do so with a consistent schedule — i.e. really try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day.
3. Get your Mind Right
Research has shown that anxiety and stress raises certain hormones like cortisol and decreases those like testosterone. As a result, chronic stress can wreak havoc on your testosterone levels.
Alongside improved quality of life and other great benefits — lowered mortality rates, for starters — lowering your exposure to stress or finding better ways to cope with stress can work wonders on your natural testosterone production.
How can we lower our anxiety and stress levels?
Again, tons of research have show the positive mental benefits of activities such as meditation or yoga.
Big macho men may laugh at the suggestion of something like yoga, but I’d put yoga near the top of the list of activities that can get you ripped. I know I always talk about the awesome power of yoga, but it’s true. Yoga trains your body and mind in all the right ways, and it really works wonders on your overall quality of life. I promise it does.
4. Exercise — and Exercise in the Right Ways
If you currently don’t or rarely exercise, simply starting an exercise regimen will likely raise your testosterone levels.
However, not all exercise is made equal. In fact, there are exercises, if done in particular ways, that can actually reduce your T levels, such as heavy aerobic exercise (think frequent long-distance running).
It’s fairly common knowledge that resistance training can increase muscle mass. It also is associated with increased testosterone levels, with research stating: “Studies show that hormonal spikes are magnified after hypertrophy-type exercise that involves training at moderate intensities with shortened rest intervals as compared with high-intensity strength-oriented training.”
Thus it would seem that the best way to increase testosterone via exercise is to lift moderately-heavy weight with short periods of rest in between. There have been many studies done with similar results.
The Best Workout for Naturally Boosting Testosterone
Our conclusion from this data is that doing weight-lifting circuits using moderate weight will yield the best natural increase in testosterone levels — i.e. lifting 60%-80% of your 1 rep max, for 3-5 sets, taking very brief breaks in between each set.
It’s always important to try the natural route before venturing into the world of supplements, and it’s no different with the big T. Hopefully this article has given you some ideas on how to increase testosterone naturally.
Note: If you try the above strategies and still you are experiencing low testosterone, there may be something else going on. Keep in mind that testosterone gradually declines with age, so if you’re 50+ the low levels may be a natural occurrence. However, if you are younger (less than 35) and you’re finding consistently low levels of testosterone, you may need to consult with your doctor about potential medical causes and treatments.
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