What are the proven practical ways to increase your testosterone?
We all know that adequate testosterone levels are needed in order to maintain your health, improve your body composition, make and/or keep you strong, and maintain a high level of physical performance – not to mention stave off the effect of father time on your own personal journey through the aging process.
It is so important to us that we, as a population, support a 1.6 BILLION dollar market with over 5 million steady customers. It is a huge market with thousands of different products. This is a prime place for those willing to make a fast buck through slick marketing campaigns and the selling of hopes and dreams. But the bottom line is that most of the “products” are a farce.
In my experience of counseling on health and performance, and from keeping up with the current literature, here are the only methods that actually work.
1. Take testosterone – or other drugs that raise testosterone
This is the easy one and the go-to for many athletes that want the easy way out. This not only includes anabolic steroids (injectable, oral, or topical gel forms) but also hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and Clomid. Before I would ever consider these though one would need to take a hard look at the other areas that contribute to adequate testosterone levels. Are you consuming too much alcohol, is your body fat above where it should be, are you sleeping 8 quality hours per night, is the stress level in your life too hard, are you over-training. The list is quite long. Always remember that any drug that you put in your body comes at a price somewhere. It may be today, it may be 10 years down the road. Testosterone levels above where they should normally be carry health risks and using these drugs without a prescription just happens to be illegal. Look to healthier long-term fixes first.
2. Engage in resistance training.
But not too frequently and not too long (one hour max). Use HIIT (high-intensity interval training) several times per week (15-20 minute dose). I say resistance training rather than lifting weights because the bottom line is that you can create plenty of resistance with just your body weight. Whatever form you choose, just make sure that you are utilizing resistance of some sort that makes it impossible to continue the exercise for longer than 60 seconds (20 to 60 second time under tension is ideal) per set. The right amount of resistance training and HIIT has been shown to increase both growth hormone levels and testosterone levels. Adding a little preworkout caffeine can increase the intensity of these workouts and creatine and beta-alanine can increase the amount work performed giving a small boost to the effect of resistance training as well.
3. Have a balanced diet with adequate protein, quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats. For this, I favor the zone diet with extra fish oil supplementation to keep it simple.
4. Minimize cortisol levels by effectively dealing with stress.
Elevated cortisol does have an effect on decreasing the effectiveness of testosterone in your body and, in extreme cases, suppresses it. Cortisol also makes it more likely that you will become overweight and gain body fat, further exacerbating the problem. How you deal with stress is individualized but if you are a high-stress person, or lead a high-stress life, look for the best ways to deal with it. Use mindfulness, practice yoga, laugh, love, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Whatever it is, this is in your court.
5. Optimize your Vitamin D levels.
Studies show that most people need 30 minutes of sunlight over 30% of their body daily to meet the minimum for Vitamin D production. If you are a night worker (as many of us in the military are), a rotating shift worker, or spend the winters in a cold climate, you’ll probably need to supplement. Even if you are an office worker near windows or get sun during your commute, know that the glass you are getting sun through is not adequate due to certain wavelengths of light being filtered out. Of course, the only precise way to know if you are deficient is to get your Vitamin D levels checked, but if you are in any of these categories consider a little extra Vit D for your body.
6. Take a Multivitamin.
Many vitamins and minerals are necessary to support optimized testosterone levels. Namely Zinc, Vitamins B, D, A, C, and E. It is likely that your western diet is not fully optimized so play it safe and take a single multivitamin daily.
7. Sleep enough in quality and quantity.
Most of us need 8 hours of sleep. That is not debatable. You may think you don’t but odds are you are wrong. The right amount of quality sleep is important for your mood, how you handle stress, how you think and perform physically, and is directly related to testosterone levels. One study estimated that every additional hour up to the 8 hours recommended increased testosterone levels by 15%.
8. Nothing to excess.
This is philosophical – being one of the quotes over the ancient Greek Temple at Delphi. The other one is “know thyself.” Both wise adages for anyone. Enjoy an adult beverage every now and then. I like dark beers, red wine, and single malts. I think it is always wise to choose whey protein over soy, minimize water consumption from plastic bottles, and avoid recreational drugs as well.
9. Make sure your DHEA level is adequate.
I put this one in because of how common low DHEA levels are and how easy it is to fix. It is best to get your levels checked but probably not harmful, and likely prudent, for anyone over the age of 40 to give DHEA a 2-3 month whirl whether you check your levels or not. My recent post on DHEA was well received by the community out there so if you want to know more read: DHEA: Is this the most effective testosterone booster?
To your health,
Lanny Littlejohn, MD