Attaining and then maintaining a great body composition is hard work. There aren’t a lot of shortcuts you can take (though you can always be more efficient), but more often than not, knowing what to do and implementing it is half of the work.
One of the most common sources of contention comes in the form of a specific hormone that could adversely hamper or help us as we strive for a lean, muscular look. That hormone isn’t testosterone, but rather estrogen, typically associated with women, but nevertheless an important part of a man’s health as well.
Estrogen is an essential hormone in both genders, don’t ever underestimate this premise. Given, it is present much more abundantly in women and is responsible for typical female characteristics, but in men most is produced via the process of aromatization, which is the process of testosterone conversion into it via the actions of the aromatase enzyme. In men, it is more about balance- keeping the ratio of testosterone to estrogen where it should be, and not allowing a scenario of estrogen dominance to occur.
The Good And The Bad – Phytoestrogens
Phyto-estrogens could unwittingly be how you are getting the majority of estrogens in your body when you have looked at external influences and can’t discern what the problem is. The good news, however, is not all of them are bad, since some Phyto-estrogens could help further your goals and actually help you maintain your body composition.
In general, you want to avoid these:
- Soy– one of the most popular and potent Phyto-estrogens of all time is none other than the soybean. Made into everything from cooking oil, and found in everything imaginable, this is one hard phytoestrogen to eliminate. Regular soy consumption by men can significantly disrupt androgen levels and even adversely affect sperm count. Do yourself a favor, read labels and stay far away from this one.
- Flaxseed– sure it has some omega-3 fats, but this benefit is offset by its strong endocrine disruption. Some studies have shown its estrogenic potential to be more than soy, with another study even discovering that testosterone suppression of up to 90% had occurred following daily consumption of flaxseed for just 4 months. We wouldn’t be surprised if your levels mimic those of a prepubertal boy after consuming consecutively for a couple of months. Do yourself a favor, and have fish oil instead (it is a more efficient omega-3 source anyway). We’d like to hear below in the comments your experiences with flaxseed’s effect on testosterone.
- Beer– made from hops, another highly estrogenic compound that promotes body fat accumulation, increased testosterone conversion into estrogen and development of man-boobs.
The Good Phytoestrogens
Remember we mentioned that some are good as well? These are the ones you can start using today to improve your body composition, while still possessing the beneficial estrogen effects that we need (such as promoting bone health).
- Pomegranates– daily consumption of pomegranate juice for a period of just 2 weeks actually results in an increase in testosterone levels, up to 24%. It also inhibits the aromatase enzyme which causes testosterone to be converted into estrogen.
- Resveratrol– a compound found in red grapes, some other fruits and the Japanese Knotweed, it is a popular anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory supplement which can also block estrogen and increase testosterone levels.
Adjust Your Macros
What you eat arguably has the most important impact on your overall body composition, as you’ve probably heard dozens of times that you can’t out-train a bad diet. But what exactly should you do to maintain your ideal body composition? A solid macronutrient strategy typically looks like this:
- Protein– this is the common thread in all diet types since without it your muscles will atrophy and you will not look good, regardless of what you do. The best you can hope for is a skinnier version of your current self, which will be flaccid and droopy. Moderate-high protein consumption allows muscle synthesis and rebuilding to process unabated, with the eventual result of increased muscle mass (given that you are training for hypertrophy). Mix it up; choose from grass-fed beef, chicken, and omega-3 rich fish. Fat is not off limits as you will soon see.
- Fats– if you want to stay lean, fats should be the primary macronutrient in your diet, as it is what you will be relying on for energy most of the day. We’re not just talking about any random fat, but instead high-quality anabolic fats, such as saturated animal fats (think of grass-fed butter and cheese) and healthy polyunsaturated ones such as found in avocados. Coconut oil will be a mainstay as well, as it helps place your body into a state of ketosis thanks to its Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) content. MCTs are converted by the liver into ketone bodies, alternative energy sources to carbohydrates and what you will be running on most of the time. Saturated fats are ultimately needed for efficient testosterone synthesis, with multiple studies confirming that low-fat diets are inhibitory to your testosterone levels.
- Carbohydrates– most of the time, when you are struggling to achieve or maintain your ideal body composition while training hard and eating reasonably clean, carbohydrates are the cause. By design, carbohydrates cause insulin to spike when they hit the bloodstream, as it is required for entry into cells where glucose is needed. The mitochondria make use of this glucose to make ATP (our bodies energy currency) but just needs a little bit. The excess is shuttled into fat cells where they are converted and stored as fat. A better approach is to use carbohydrates around your workouts, when you need a high-performance rapid acting energy source, and to help refill depleted glycogen stores after your workout. This approach allows you to take advantage of the high-performance nature of carbohydrates without added propensity for fat storage.
Other Beneficial Supplements
Obtained from the pollen of plants of the species pinus, this is a highly nutritious tonic supplement that is classified as a rare Phyto-androgen. While it contains small amounts of pro-hormones, such as DHEA and androstenedione, they are not of a concentration to elicit anabolic effects. Instead, it is believed to be due to the presence of compounds such as Brassinosteroids and Gibberellins, which share a close structural similarity to the androgens (and hence capable of eliciting such effects) and also promoting removal and elimination of xenoestrogens. Pine pollen is so effective at improving men’s androgenic potency, that a “morning wood” guarantee is virtually assured.
Hailed as the single most effective testosterone boosting herb, it has many other properties that can make it man’s best friend (sorry dogs) when it comes to maintaining body composition. Among its many effects are:
- Increasing Libido– studies conducted on aged animals (past their normal reproductive prime) using Tongkat Ali showed a massive spark in sexual energy following administration of the herb.
- Testosterone Elevation– claimed to be as acute as those obtained from TRT (in some men) but without the possible adverse effects. A study done on hypogonadal men revealed a 90% increase in testosterone levels.
- Improved Fertility– Tongkat Ali supplementation also improved sperm count and quality, which persisted beyond the period of supplementation.
Your Plan Of Action
Sometimes, it is harder to keep than it is to attain, such as in the case of your body composition. You must follow a religious diet protocol, using carbs only when it is truly beneficial to your physique (such as the intra-workout period), and know which estrogens are bad for you, and which you can exploit to your benefit. A smart strategy is to also supplement with a natural estrogen blocker, in case you have significant estrogen dominance.
Finally, top off your strategy with a pine pollen and Tongkat Ali supplement, as keeping your androgen levels high is arguably one of the best things you can do to stay in an anabolic state and offset catabolism. Stay smart, train hard, and your hard work will stay for years to come!
The pros and cons of phytoestrogens (Front Neuroendocrinology.2010) PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/
Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy (American Society for Clinical Nutrition.2004) retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/79/2/318.full
Acute effects of drinking beer or wine on the steroid hormones of healthy men(J Ster. Bio.1988) Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022473188903172
trans-Resveratrol, a natural antioxidant from grapes, increases sperm output in healthy rats. (J Nutr.2005) PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15795430
Pomegranate juice intake enhances salivary testosterone levels and improves mood and well being in healthy men and women. Endocrine Abstracts (2012). Retrieved from http://www.endocrine-abstracts.org/ea/0028/ea0028p313.htm
Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. (J Steroid Biochemistry.1984) PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6538617
Phytoandrogenic properties of Eurycoma longifolia as natural alternative to testosterone replacement therapy.( Phytoandrogenic properties of Eurycoma longifolia as natural alternative to testosterone replacement therapy. (Andrologia.2014) PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24386995
Eurycoma longifolia Jack enhances sexual motivation in middle-aged male mice. (J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2003) PubMed-NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14964739
Eurycoma longifolia Jack in managing idiopathic male infertility. (Asian Journal Of Andrology.2012) PubMed-NCBI, retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20348942
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