Testosterone, “T”, is a male’s best friend.
Responsible for what we consider to be all the “manly” characteristics, testosterone is behind the sexy deep voice, muscular build, and that ever-growing facial hair.
Widely known as the male sex hormone, it is no wonder that testosterone is produced in the testicles and impacts sexual performance, sex drive, and fertility. And no question that it has a significant impact on one’s sex life. Yet, have you ever considered the widespread impact testosterone has on male health and wellbeing?
Why do men need healthy levels of testosterone?
From sexual function to brain function, testosterone is a key hormone to male health. Testosterone regulates bone mass, builds muscle, strength, fat distribution, red blood cell production, sperm production, and plays a role in one’s thinking ability, energy level, healthy sleep patterns, and even a healthy pain response. Healthy T levels are important to a man’s widespread physical, emotional, mental health, and overall well-being.
So, what are healthy T levels?
It is generally believed that testosterone levels peak by early adulthood and decrease about 1% to 2% per year beginning at 40. An exciting research finding by Australian scientists, presented to The Endocrine Society, challenges this notion and suggests that the decline in testosterone levels as men grow older is likely the result (not actually cause) of deteriorating health. The study found that age alone did not affect testosterone levels in healthy older men.
There happens to be some controversy over the accepted level that determines low testosterone—different labs have different ranges. Typically, labs consider anything below 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) low. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism sought to clarify what should be considered normal T levels. Through analyzing the blood samples of over 9,000 men ages 19 to 39, they determined that anything between 264 to 916 ng/dL could be considered normal.
While it is still generally believed that testosterone levels in men naturally decline with age, many younger men are experiencing low testosterone. One doctor considers low testosterone to be a current major health issue of our time. He says, “Low testosterone has become such an issue that up to 40 percent of men over 45 are affected.”
Because the range for healthy T can vary, testing may be a good idea if you are experiencing the symptoms of low T. Testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day and are the highest in the mornings, so this is the best time to have your T levels tested. When it comes to testing, there is some evidence that shows saliva tests are more accurate than blood tests, as the testosterone in saliva is bioavailable while a high percentage of serum (blood) T is not. If you are getting your T levels tested, some sources recommend doing so multiple times to get a clearer picture of where you stand.
Signs Your T Maybe Taking a Hit
Symptoms of low testosterone include:
- Low libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Depleted energy
- Mental lethargy (including memory problems and impaired concentration)
- Loss of muscle fat
- Increased fat retention.
A plethora of causes are known to decrease testosterone, some of which include: chronic stress, microbiome imbalance, weight gain, insufficient exercise, inadequate nutrition, drinking and smoking habits, environmental toxins (including endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are of concern) and prescription drugs (particularly statins). According to one doctor, these factors, which negatively impact testosterone levels, also deplete the body’s normal immune response, leading to obesity and diabetes, stressing the body and decreasing metabolism.
Exercise, Food, and Supplements Every Man Should Know About
Research demonstrates a connection between excess weight and low T. Overweight men tend to have low T and shedding some weigh can help alleviate the problem. Weight management is best achieved through creating healthy lifestyle habits of exercise and nutrition.
Limiting processed sugar and refined carbohydrates is a great place to start. Focus on eating whole foods, getting plenty of vegetables and good fats (coconut, avocado, olive oil, nuts, grass-fed meats, salmon, etc.). Studies show that good fats are important for sex hormone production. Zinc and Vitamin D are both important for testosterone production. The National Health and Nutrition Survey found that almost 50 percent of adults over 60 have low zinc levels. Some good sources of dietary zinc include oysters, pumpkin seeds, meat, fish, beans and fermented foods.
Vitamin D deficiency is also a growing epidemic, particularly for people who live in places with long winters. In male health, vitamin D is necessary for the proper development of the sperm cell nucleus and plays a role in maintaining semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D can also increase testosterone levels and has been shown to help improve libido. Healthy sun exposure is the best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D3 can also be taken as a supplement.
When it comes to exercise, it can be thought of as the natural testosterone booster! And High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been found to be beneficial in increasing T levels. HIIT can boost T levels and prevent decline and involves exercising at short intervals, or “bursts”, in which you give 90 percent effort, followed by low impact recovery. You only need to do 20 to 30 minutes of this type of exercise a day for it to be effective. HIIT is also great for burning fat! Additionally, weight training is great for stoking T, especially using heavier weights with fewer repetitions.
The results of your exercise can be enhanced through practicing intermittent fasting (which also helps boost T.) In fact, it has been shown to increase testosterone by 200 to up to 400 percent! The practice of intermittent fasting allows the body time in which no calories are eaten. This can be done in several ways, one of which involves still eating three meals but eating them closer together. Always listen to your body to determine your own specific needs. In general, it is helpful not to snack between meals. Overall, fasting allows the organs time to reset, which is beneficial for hormonal balance.
At the end of the day, sleep is one of the most important factors for health and well-being. Supporting your circadian rhythms through adequate rest, at the right times, impacts hormonal production. Regarding testosterone, sleep during the hours of 10pm-2am is the most critical. The majority of people need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. One doctor recommends going to bed around 10 pm and rising at 6 am for optimal hormonal balance.
Natural Herbs that Boost Low T
Pine Pollen– may get the rep of being great for men (after all it is the male spore of the pine tree!), but it is an ally to women too! It has been used in China for thousands of years and is considered a beauty tonic for women. Pine Pollen is known for containing phyto-androgens, including testosterone. Experts believe that the structure of these phyto-androgens allows them to work similarly to the body’s own hormones in an adaptogenic way. As a hormone balancer, Pine Pollen can also support liver health and detoxification. It is also high in phytonutrients and antioxidants!
Tongkat Ali is an ancient herb, known for its sexual performance effects. Studies show it increases steroidogenesis, which boosts sex hormones, especially free T. It also stimulates DHEA (a critical hormone that’s necessary for balanced male hormones). Filled with antioxidants, Tongkat Ali fights oxidative stress and free radicals that cause osteoporosis.
Ashwagandha Spagyric- considered an adaptogen, Ashwagandha is a long-time appreciated hormone balancing herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in the body and also increases blood flow to the sexual organs. Taking this herb in a spagyric form also means that there are more minerals than a typical Ashwagandha tincture, due to the enhanced processing technique.
Black Maca Powder– also known as Siberian Ginseng, Maca had long been used as a remedy for sexual dysfunction and infertility. It is not a surprise that it is often used as an aphrodisiac. Maca is a tuber, which is filled with phytonutrients, including zinc and other important micronutrients. It can help build bone density, muscle, and is also touted for increasing energy. The powder is tasty too! It can easily be added to smoothies.
Testosterone’s impact is far and wide. From sexual function to brain function, testosterone is a key hormone to male health and there are many herbs and lifestyle changes you can make to improve your testosterone levels.
Fisch, MD, Harry. The Secrets to Increasing Testosterone in Men. (2015, April 6). Retrieved from http://www.doctoroz.com/article/secrets-increasing-testosterone-men.
Office of Dietary Supplements – Zinc. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://www. ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/.
Older age does not cause testosterone levels to decline in healthy men. (2011, June 7). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110607121129.htm.
Treating low testosterone levels. Retrieved from http:// www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/treating-low-testosterone-levels.
Testosterone Tumbling? (2016, December 1). Retrieved from http:// www.drweil.com/health-wellness/health-centers/men/testosterone-tumbling/.