Hormones: They contribute to your overall health and well-being.
In men, one of the most important hormones is—no surprise—testosterone. Low testosterone levels can cause a whole host of problems, including a loss of muscle mass and bone density, fatigue and low energy levels, a decreased sex drive, and poor concentration and mood issues, such as depression. In the extreme case, a testosterone shortage can even increase your risk of certain cancers and even heart disease.
Testosterone levels are usually at their peak in men during their teens and twenties. After age 30, most men experience a gradual decline—roughly one percent per year after age 30. In some men, testosterone levels decrease too much and too quickly, to the point where they’re not within the normal range for their age. And while this is more likely in older men, it can occur at any age.
The bottom line, whether your testosterone levels are currently in the normal range or not, it’s important you make sure you’re doing whatever you can to increase your T levels to allow you to function at your best—both physically and mentally.
What You can Do to Improve your Testosterone Levels
Consult your doctor!
If you think that your testosterone levels might be low—for instance, if you’re experiencing unexplained tiredness, fatigue, low energy levels or a low sex drive, it’s best to consult a physician, not only to rule out other health issues, but to have your testosterone levels checked. This can be done by a simple blood test, and it will show whether or not your levels are within the healthy normal range for your age. If they’re not, your doctor might want to try testosterone replacement therapy (supplementation of testosterone). Options include a gel, injections, or oral pills. The bottom line is it’s best to consult a doctor first if you suspect you have low testosterone levels. But keep in mind that the range of normal testosterone levels is quite broad, so while you may fall in the normal range, your levels could be on the low end of that range.
Fortunately, there are several natural ways to help increase your levels, too! Here are 5:
- Lose Weight:
Numerous studies have shown that shedding weight—particularly losing belly fat—can help increase testosterone levels. Cutting down on processed foods and refined sugars and carbohydrates is a good start.
- Strength Training:
Strength training has been shown to increase testosterone. High intensity interval training has also been shown to have a significant impact in raising testosterone levels.
Interestingly, hormone levels vary throughout the day (usually highest in the morning and lowest in the afternoon), but research says strength training could have its biggest effect on testosterone when done in the evening.
- Keep Stress in Check:
Important for a number of reasons, reducing your stress levels can also have a positive impact on testosterone. Chronic stress increases cortisol levels—the stress hormone—which in effect can also block testosterone production.
- Supplement through Vitamins:
Vitamin D supplementation has many benefits on one’s health (both physical and mental), and studies have shown that it can increase levels of testosterone. The most natural way to take in Vitamin D is through the sun, but for many of us who live in areas with long winters or where the sun isn’t so abundant, supplementation can be helpful. Taking 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily is a good idea (some studies recommend as much as 8,000 IU daily).
It’s also important to get enough zinc. Individuals with hypogonadism (where the body doesn’t produce enough testosterone) are often deficient in zinc. You can either supplement in pill form, or make sure to eat foods rich in zinc, including red meat, chicken, oysters, whole grains, nuts and beans. Also, try adding some ginger to your diet.
- Eat healthy fats:
Healthy fats (not only mono- and polyunsaturated fats, but also saturated fats) can be heart-healthy and promote increased levels of testosterone. Getting anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories from fats is a good ratio, while making sure that those fats are of the health variety. What healthy fats should you opt for? Some good ones include nuts (like almonds and walnuts), seeds (like chia seeds), fatty fish (like salmon and trout), olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and yogurt.