Further reading: Micronutrients and Testosterone
Vitamin A is crucial for our vision, and serious deficiency over long-term will actually lead to blindness. In fact many don’t know that our testes also have vitamin A receptors in them, and that its a crucial micronutrient for healthy testosterone production.
The bottom line is that all of the known micronutrients have a place in the human body and have a process that they are necessary for, this is why you need to have your vitamin and mineral levels topped up, not only for optimal hormonal health, but also for overall health.
One study conducted by The Washington Council of Responsible Nutrition is quite alarming as it says this for American test subjects:
“Large portions of the population had total usual intakes below the estimated average requirement for vitamins A (35%), C (31%), D (74%), and E (67%) as well as calcium (39%) and magnesium (46%). Only 0%, 8%, and 33% of the population had total usual intakes of potassium, choline, and vitamin K…”
In case you don’t want to do that, you can always use your own head to think if you could be getting too little of certain nutrients. Do you eat lots of processed foods instead of nutritious whole foods? Are you a omitting from some food groups or macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats)? Are you consuming multivitamin or specific vitamin or mineral supplements? Obviously these all affect your micronutrient balance.
If you’re an average American consuming the standard Western diet, then at least according to scientific evidence it’s likely that you could be deficient in vitamins D, E, K2, and choline, magnesium, and potassium. But like said, without proper blood or hair analysis, you can’t ever say for sure.
The way we use calories in nutrition is simple: Your body needs a certain amount of calories (energy) to maintain its processes, and in order to get this energy you need to feed your body with food which contains energy (calories), otherwise you die of starvation.
In order to know how many calories your body uses we need to determine two factors; your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and the amount of calories you burn during your daily activities (work, walk, exercise, etc). The first one is simple, since this is your body’s rate of burning calories at bed rest without any activity. The number is different for all of use based on our gender, height, and weight and there are bazillion of different calculators available to find yours out in few seconds. In order to determine the amount of calories burned by your daily activities you can use a wearable fitness tracker/watch or input your daily exercise into an application that calculates it for you such as: MyFitnessPal or FatSecret.
After you’ve identified your energy needs, it’s as simple as eating enough food to consume adequate amount of calories based on your goal. If you need to lose weight, eat a little less than your body needs. If you’re looking to build muscle, lift weights and eat a bit more than your body normally needs. If you would like to maintain your current weight, consume roughly the amount your body burns per day. Simple.
- 1 gram fat = 9Kcal
- 1 gram protein = 4Kcal
- 1 gram carbohydrates = 4Kcal
- Dietary fat
Out of these four, fat, protein, and carbs are essential for life and bodily processes, whereas alcohol is non-essential (although calorically dense, thus a macronutrient).
Let’s take a closer look at the three essential macronutrients and their importance…
Proteins are molecules consisting of one or multiple amino acids, bound together with peptide chains. Amino acids come in three different categories; essential (9), conditionally non-essential (7), and non-essential (4). The term “complete protein” is used when some food has all 20 of them. Animal proteins (meat, milk, cheese, eggs) are all considered complete, whereas many plant-based proteins (legumes, seeds, grains, vegetables) are not (however they can be combined in a same meal to make a complete protein source).
Some basic functions of proteins include;
- maintenance and growth of lean muscle mass, connective tissue, and bones
- acting as neurotransmitters in the brain
- transportation and storage of bodily molecules
- hormone creation (insulin, secretin, etc)
- enzyme synthesis
Dietary fatty-acids or triglycerides (fancier word) are esters of the fatty-acid chains, often separated into the following three types:
- Monounsaturated fatty-acids (MUFAs)
- Polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFAs)
- Saturated fatty-acids (SFAs)
These fats are found in different ratios from our everyday basic foods, most red meats and tropical oils for example are higher in saturated fat and low in PUFAs, whereas seed and vegetable oils tend to be higher in PUFAs with lower amounts of saturated fat. Foods high in MUFAs include olive oil, avocados, argan oil and Macadamia nuts.
These three types of fats also branch down into even more specific types – but most notably – remember that the polyunsaturated fats are identified with omega (ω) numbering, such as;
The benefits of fatty-acids are numerous, for one, fats are the most nutritious (9kcal/gram) macronutrient, which according to some experts allowed the human species to develop bigger brains than other mammals. Aside from just being an energy source, fats serve as signaling molecules between cells and hormones, are necessary for creation of all steroid hormones, protect and “insulate” bodily organs, and are vital components in normal cell functioning. Out of the three macronutrients – completely omitting from dietary fat would yield the biggest health problems, with this view it could be labeled as the most important macronutrient for human survival.
It’s also worth mentioning that some vitamins are fat-soluble (A, D, E, and K2) and thus can only be absorbed by the body with proper intake of dietary fat.
Carbohydrates (CHO) consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They are the most readily-available form of energy for the human body, and are often divided into groups of;
- Sugars (found in table sugar, fruits, and some vegetables)
- Starches (found mostly in grains and root vegetables)
- Fiber (found in many foods but highest in whole grains, nuts, fruits, and legumes)
Carbs are often simplified and separated into two categories; simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The simple type being the kind that is rapidly absorbed to the bloodstream and complex being something that’s released to the bloodstream in a slower manner. The key here is to remember that all carbohydrates (with the exception of insoluble fibers) will be converted to the simplest form of sugar (glucose) before it enters the bloodstream, some just convert faster than others.
Carbohydrates are necessary part of;
- Fueling the metabolic processes of nearly all of the bodily cells
- Storage of energy in muscle tissue and liver (muscle and liver glycocen)
- Providing energy (ATP) for the central nervous system and endocrine system
If you’re looking to maximize muscle growth then maintaining a good amount of protein in the diet is preferable. According to research however, the upper limit of protein necessary for maximal growth of muscle tissue during heavy strength training is 0.8g/lb, after this point its likely that you will not get any extra benefits (you’ll likely just start farting more).
If you’re looking to maximize your hormonal health and especially testosterone production, then according to research the optimal amount of protein to consume would be twice less than that of your daily carbohydrate intake. In other words a protein-to-carb ratio of 1:2. This would mean that if your daily carbohydrate intake would be 300g, your protein intake should fall somewhere close to 150g.
Here at Anabolic Men we have for long recommended a starting point of 20% daily calories from protein (while the remaining 40% and 40% should come from carbs and fat). This is the scientifically sound “sweet spot” for the goal of building muscle AND having high testosterone levels at the same time. It just so also happens to perfectly fall into that 1:2 ratio of protein-to-carbohydrate.
Further reading: Protein Intake and Testosterone Levels.
For someone who exercises a lot, be it gym or some athletics training, carbohydrates are a vital source of energy. If you omit from carbs and exercise a lot, you will quickly run into problems with sluggish thyroid activity, low testosterone levels, and poor sleep. A relatively lean athlete/gym rat should be consuming at least 150g of carbs per day, preferably 250+.
However if you’re holding on to some fat mass (fat percentage 25%+) you should dial your carb intake a bit lower due to the fact that fatter people in general have more problems with insulin sensitivity (which can be aggravated with high carb intake). Higher amount of fat-mass also makes it easier for your body to get energy from your own fat storage. Simply put, fatter guys should have their carb intake between 75-150g being at the lower end for sedentary individuals and higher end for exercising individuals. In this scenario you should also increase your protein intake and should not follow the 1:2 ratio too strictly (just so you don’t end up eating too little protein).
Lastly, if you’re relatively lean (less than 20% bodyfat) and would like to maximize your testosterone production, then your carb intake should fall somewhere between 200-400g/day depending on your exercise habits and caloric intake, also keep in mind that for optimal hormone production one should eat twice as much carbs as they do protein. Remember the golden 1:2 protein-to-carb ratio.
Some examples for optimal T-production would be:
- 300g carbs with 150g protein
- 200g carbs with 100g protein
- 400g carbs with 200g protein
- 350g carbs with 175g protein
Further reading: Carbohydrates and Testosterone.
Further reading: Dietary Fat and Testosterone.
Studies have shown that men who sleep less, have significantly lower testosterone levels when compared to men who sleep more. In fact, simply by sleeping four hours instead of the normal eight, you can expect to halve your serum T-levels.
Simple rule of thumb: Try to sleep for 8-10 hours per night. Follow a natural circadian rhythm (go to bed when the sun goes down, get up when it rises). Have high T. Kick ass.
- Lower intake of alcohol (few glasses of wine/day for example) have been linked to marginal reductions and sometimes even increases in testosterone levels
- Higher intakes of alcohol (alcoholic subjects, binge drinking) have been linked to significantly reduced testosterone levels, higher cortisol, and higher estrogen
Further reading: Alcohol and Testosterone.
Focus on getting to around 8-14% body fat, instead of focusing too much on the numbers of the scale. It’s not the weight, but the fat that causes hormonal problems.
Further reading: How to Lose Weight.
- Opiate-based painkillers
- Some beta-blockers and tranquilizers
- A type-2 diabetes drug called Sylfonylurea
- A blood pressure drug called Spironolactone
- Acid reducers such as; Tagamet, Cidemetidine, etc
- Hair-loss drugs such as Finasteride and Dutasteride
- Statins and other drugs that interfere with cholesterol synthesis
- Some anti-fungal drugs, such as the commonly used ketoconazole
- Many SSRIs (anti-depressants) are notorious for causing low sex-drive and also low-T
So yes, chronic stress likely results in significantly lower testosterone production.
Further reading: How to Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally.
Here’s some common endocrine disruptors;
- Bisphenol A (BPA) which is a monomer used heavily in plastics and epoxy resins. Since BPA has a ‘hardening’ effect on plastics, its used generously in many industries,making BPA one of the most produced chemicals in the world. It also has hormone-like properties in the body and has been linked multiple times to low-testosterone and erectile dysfunction (study, study, study).
- Parabens (methyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, heptyl-, etc) which are preservatives used in nearly all kinds of cosmetics, such as; sun lotions, moisturizers, personal-lubricants, shampoos, shaving gels, toothpaste, and even as food additives. They’re classified as xenoestrogens, and can have a weak affinity to estrogen receptors in the body.
- Phthalates which are commonly used to make plastics more flexible, but they are also used as stabilizers and emulsifying agents in many personal care items. Increased urinary phthlate traces have been strongly correlated with decreased testosterone in men, women, and children.
- Benzophenones (BP-1, BP-2, BP-3…) which are permeability enhancing UV-stabilizers are used in a wide range of personal care items, but most commonly in sunscreens. Concerns have been raised of their effect in reducing the activity of enzymes needed in testosterone production. This has been studied for BP-1, BP-2, and BP-3.
- Triclosan and Triclocarban, both of which are antibacterial agents found in many antibacterial soaps, lotions, hand sanitizers, etc. Not only are they highly ineffective at reducing bacteria, they also have direct mechanism in lowering testicular testosterone production.
Effective ways of avoiding these harmful compounds include: switching to natural personal care items, drinking filtered water, and avoiding heavily-processed foods.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) on the other hand has been linked to very impressive increases in testosterone and DHT levels, largely due to the short-duration and explosive nature of the exercise. (study, study, study)
Regular recreational activity is also a good way to keep testosterone levels in the upper ranges. Walking is a good example of this, as the researchers in this study saw that the amount of daily steps were positively correlated with increased testosterone levels in healthy men.
If you lift heavy enough to force your body into new hormonal adaptations, you can’t train on a daily basis. You simply won’t have the recovery capacity to do that. If you do, you’re likely not working the muscle properly in the first place.
3-5 Lifting sessions per week is plenty enough and allows you to rest too so you can push to higher weights week after week.
When it comes to testosterone, overtraining results in elevated cortisol levels and thus can suppress testosterone secretion.
Further reading: The THOR-Program.
Just remember that there are no magic pills, supplement use should be somewhat “strategic”.
We have gathered a relatively wide selection of brands and supplements that we feel are beneficial and come with enough scientific evidence to support their use, you can find them in the marketplace.
When it comes to supplements manufactured in China, we don’t recommend those either, they tend to be high in heavy-metal traces and can negatively affect your health and testosterone production.
There’s obviously also plenty of supplements that are hyped up, but in reality don’t do much of anything for you. Such as tribulus terrestris, maca, and deer antler velvet.
Some other scientifically proven ones include;
NOTE: We’ll be releasing a scientifically sound multi-ingredient testosterone booster soon on the marketplace so stay tuned for that!