52 Proven Ways to Boost Testosterone Levels Naturally
By Ali Kuoppala | Last reviewed Tue 25 September 2018
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
It was about time I made a comprehensive guide on how to naturally raise the key androgen of the human body; testosterone.
After hundreds of specific posts about what affects your natural testosterone production and hormonal health and how to increase testosterone naturally, I had yet to compile it all into one easily accessible article that covered all the basics.
The goal of this article is to get you closer to knowing most of what you need to know in order to optimize your natural testosterone production. It links out to hundreds of other more specific posts about various topics discussed, while it also references hundreds of different studies.
A big resource sort of.
Your body produces it when the hypothalamus in your brain sends out bursts of something called GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone), which then travels to the other brain gland called pituitary gland, where the GnRH stimulates the release of two hormones called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), these are the gonadotropins.
The gonadotropins (LH and FSH) then make their way down to the testicles via your spine, and once they reach their destination FSH stimulates sperm production, whereas LH stimulates the testicular Leydig cells to produce testosterone from a well-known precursor; cholesterol.
After the testosterone is made and done, it travels around in your bloodstream. Some of it remains bio-available in circulation as free-testosterone, some of it make its way into its target receptors around the body (androgen receptors), while some of it gets bound and rendered partially inactive by two carrier proteins called albumin and SHBG.
Small parts of your available testosterone will also metabolize to estrogen (the principal female hormone) via an enzyme called aromatase and dihydrotestosterone or DHT (more potent male hormone) via an enzyme called 5-a reductase.
All of the moving pieces that affect this synthesis, can be affected naturally by training, nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation.
I’m sure you have seen the endless list of the benefits of optimal testosterone levels, which include (but are not limited to):
- Testosterone helps you grow facial hair.
- increased ability to build lean mass1.
- improved rate of lipolysis, aka. fat loss
- improved mood, confidence, and motivation2.
- better erections, libido, and sexual performance3.
- increased desire for success, dominance, and power.
- stronger bones4, improved cardiovascular health5.
- increased growth of androgenic-hair…
…Since testosterone is literally the hormone that makes man a man, it’s safe to expect increased manly qualities in nearly every area of your life after increased testosterone levels. Not everything is controlled by testosterone obviously, but if you start looking at the studies, it’s pretty clear that from womb to tomb, this one hormone determines A LOT in a guy.
This androgen optimization guide is broken into 4 big sections; lifestyle, nutrition, training, and supplementation.
The four sections hide inside multiple topics from sleep, to macronutrient splits, to testicular health, all the way into neuromuscular training, hypoxia, sleep, walking, etc.
Without further ado, let’s get to the ultimate guide on how to boost testosterone:
1. Sleep Deep and Sleep a Lot
Whether you choose to sleep four hours or eight hours, can mean a difference similar to night and day in your T production.
Partial sleep restriction lasting one-week (5h/night) in a laboratory setting has been shown to decrease overall 24-hour testosterone levels in healthy young men by ~15%6.
On a study by Penev et al. the men who slept for ~4 hours had an average of 200-300 ng/dL testosterone levels in serum, whereas the guys who slept for ~8 hours had levels closer to 500-700 ng/dL7.
A study by Gov et al8. showed similar results. On 531 Chinese men, increased sleep time was highly correlated with higher total and -free testosterone levels. The researchers also calculated that each extra hour of sleep led to about 15% more testosterone.
2. Be Lean and Have Some Muscle Mass
You definitely don’t have to be light to increase your testosterone levels naturally, but you should be LEAN.
More specifically, your body fat percentage should be relatively low (something between 8-14%), if your goal is to get more T oozing through your veins.
Generally speaking – though there are some rare exceptions – the higher the fat percentage, the lower the testosterone9–12. So in retrospect, the leaner you are, the more likely you are to have more testosterone rushing in your bloodstream. An increased amount of muscle mass also positively correlates with serum testosterone levels13, so if you burn the fat and build the muscle, you’ll not only look shredded, but you can improve your hormonal health too.
The THOR Testosterone Training program does an excellent job at this, since it was designed specifically to boost testosterone and optimize hormones through specific training protocols.
Why does being fat often leads to low testosterone levels? The full answer is likely much more complex than this, but what we do know is that increased fat-mass leads to increased aromatase enzyme activity14, which in turn leads to more testosterone being converted to estrogen. Also, increased oxidative stress, metabolic syndrome, and poor insulin-sensitivity are some other major players in obesity-related low-T.
Good news is that you can easily stimulate testoserone production just by losing weight15, in particular losing the fat-mass, not muscle. Though it’s worth mentioning that there is a limit to your leanness where it starts to negatively impact testosterone production; going below ~8% body fat starts to decrease thyroid activity, and because of that you’ll eventually have to start cutting your caloric intake too much, and both of those things will start zapping the life out of your androgens16.
The weight-loss industry is chock-full of some major league deceptive and false info. This guide should help you in getting to know everything there is to know about losing fat in a sane muscle-preserving way.
3. Stress Less
More easily said than done huh? Well, it doesn’t change the fact that stress more or less kills testosterone levels.
This happens because chronic stress results in chronically elevated cortisol levels – and cortisol being the body’s principal stress hormone – is a catabolic hormone17 that among many other things; suppresses testosterone levels18.
…No don’t get me wrong here, we all need some cortisol. It gets us up in the morning and allows us as a species to walk with 2 feet, and without cortisol, any kind of minor trauma would instantly bring you into full shock and kill you…
…However, if you are under physical or physiological stress that constantly “haunts” you, it’s likely that your cortisol levels are constantly high thorough the day.
That’s not good, since cortisol not only breaks down your muscle mass and causes oxidative damage in the body, but it’s also made from the same “raw material” (pregnenolone) as testosterone is19, and high levels of cortisol can literally destroy your free testosterone molecules locally inside testicles and in the bloodstream. I’ve touched this subject before in here and here.
4. Lower your Endocrine Disruptor Exposure
The definition of the endocrine disruptor is as follows; “Synthetic chemicals or natural substances that may alter the endocrine system (consisting of glands, hormones, and cellular receptors that control a body’s internal functions) and may cause developmental or reproductive disorders.”
Compounds that act as endocrine disruptors in the body are used generously in modern personal care items, plastics, preservatives, pesticides, and many many other appliances (even in fast foods apparently).
Out of the millions of chemicals used, most are relatively harmless. However, there are some compounds that have been proven to disrupt hormone production and utilization in the body.
These include (but are not limited to);
- 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 dysfunction20–22.
- 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 body23.
- 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 phthalate traces have been strongly correlated with decreased testosterone in men, women, and children24.
- 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-125, BP-226, and BP-327.
- 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, but they also have a direct mechanism in lowering testicular testosterone production.
5. Spark Up Your Sex Life
Admittedly one of the most satisfying ways on how to ramp up natural testosterone production, is; sexual activity.
It’s not fully understood why this happens, but many studies have theorized that its an interplay with dominance, feeling of power, feeling of success, pheromones, dopamine, and interpersonal touch. For this reason, it’s also likely that sex with an actual human instead of the palm of one’s hand, would be a much better way to boost T.
Is there any research on increased sexual activity and testosterone levels? You bet there is.
A study of 44 men visiting a sex club actually showed that the guys who went there only to watch other people have sex, had an average increase of 11% in their testosterone levels, whereas the guys who went and actually had sex there noted an average increase of 72%28. It’s also seen in couples that on the nights that there is “sexual activity”, testosterone levels are significantly higher than on the nights that they don’t have sex29. One of the many findings in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging was that in men over 60-years of age, those with a higher level of sexual activity had significantly greater serum testosterone levels30.
Much has been theorized about ejaculations and testosterone, and there seems to be this common misbelief that busting a nut would “drain” the body from testosterone (which fortunately isn’t the case). I recently wrote a more detailed article about the subject which can be found here.
6. Know the Side-Effects of Prescription Drugs
Healthcare is a business. A big business.
Chances are that if you visit a doctor – even without any known health issues – you’ll probably end up leaving with a prescription to some medication.
Therefore it’s not a coincidence – nor a surprise – to see that the largest pharmaceutical companies are raking in hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
In many cases, prescription drugs can prove to be vitally important to the patient. However, it’s also worth noting that in order for the pharmaceutical companies to make money – people have to be sick – and for some reason, we are only treating the symptoms with more and more pills instead of actually focusing on the cause of the illness.
Though at the end of the day, your health is your own personal responsibility. Not the doctors. Not the governments. Yours.
With that being said, here are some studies about prescription drugs that have a side-effect of lowering testosterone levels (whatever you might do with this info is your decision);
- Corticosteroids and opiate-based painkillers.
- Some beta-blockers and tranquilizers31.
- A type-2 diabetes drug called Sylfonylurea32.
- A blood pressure drug called Spironolactone33.
- Acid reducers such as; Tagamet, Cidemetidine, etc34.
- Hair-loss drugs such as Finasteride and Dutasteride35.
- Statins and other drugs that interfere with cholesterol synthesis36.
- Some anti-fungal drugs, such as the commonly used ketoconazole37.
- Many SSRIs (anti-depressants) are notorious for causing low sex-drive and also low-T38.
7. TestShock Program
Writing about natural testosterone optimization has been my job now for the past few years. Reading, learning, and researching info on hormones has been something I’ve done forever since I was 15…
…As you can imagine, I have seen, read, bought, or sometimes straight up ignored hundreds of ‘T-boosting’ e-books, physical books, supplements, courses & programs, and even coaching. I get pitched some testosterone related products on a daily basis since this site is currently the most visited ‘natural testosterone resource’, everyone wants their piece of the pie and their product to shine on the sidebar.
The problem is that I don’t want to promote bad products in here, and that is exactly what 95% of the natural testosterone optimization programs and supplements are.
Not TestShock though. The moment I had read the first few pages of the book I knew that this was something different, something that aligns with the actual scientific evidence, and something that might truly be the ‘complete A-Z guide for how to enhance your androgen status naturally’.Now I don’t want to over-hype the program, but if you like to read articles like the one you’re reading now, and you’re interested in natural T-enhancement, then you’re going to love all the 262-pages of Christopher Walker’s TestShock course.
8. Take a Look at Your Posture
According to an interesting study done by Cuddy et al. at Harvard University, your body language, as well as postural changes, can almost immediately impact your stress and steroid hormones.
In their research, the scientists wanted to know what happens to the bodily hormones when the subjects do either a set of ‘high-power poses’ (taking up more space, standing tall, hands on hips, dominant alpha stuff, etc) or ‘low-power poses’ (contractive behavior, closed limbs, taking less space, general insecure positions, etc).
Surprisingly, only in 2-minutes power-posing led to 20% increase in salivary testosterone levels, and -25% decrease in the stress hormone; cortisol. On the contrary, low-power posing led to a drop in T with accompanied rise in cortisol.
Here’s Cuddy herself talking about the topic and the study:
9. Money, Success, and Competition
I’m a big believer in the fact that making lots of honest money equals – at least in some form – happiness.
Not necessarily the fact that you can see the numbers in your bank account, but the fact that money (at least if you make it in your own terms) often equals total freedom.
Money also equals success in many fields, and can be a form of competition, or at least if not competitive, it generates the feeling that you’re “winning in life”.
Simply put, money is testosterone.
This study of young future-traders is a great example. In it, the traders noted higher testosterone levels on the days that they made above average profits. One young gun in the study ended up on a 6-day money streak and had 78% higher T-levels in serum as a result39.
The results were likely caused by the fact that winning and success in almost any form of competition are both heavily correlated with increased testosterone levels40–43, and what does a big payday make you feel like? Winning of course. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money that generates the feeling of success. It can be sports, even watching sports, simply getting a list of tasks done, etc. Whatever makes you get the “genuine” feeling of being the boss and dominating your pursuits.
10. Testicular Health
Roughly 95% of the testosterone in your body is produced inside the Leydig cells of the testicles…
…Because of this, it’s quite obvious that optimal testicular health and circulation would need to be one of the top priorities for all men.
For optimal testicular function, your balls actually need to be a tad bit cooler than the rest of the body, hence why they hang in a pouch outside of it. Because of this, sleeping naked, wearing loose boxers, and taking frequent cold showers can have a positive impact on your testosterone production.
Roughly 15-20% of men also develop a condition called “varicocele“, which is a thrombosis or “blockage” of some of the veins that lead to the gonads. Since varicoceles inhibit the normal blood flow to the Leydig cells, they also inhibit the transportation of LH to its target, which causes your body to produce inadequate amounts of T. This is seen in many studies; men with varicoceles have significantly lower testosterone levels than control subjects44, and when the blockage(s) are surgically removed, testosterone levels tend to increase significantly45.
I guess some sort of testicular massage might also help in T production, though there isn’t (understandably) any research on that.
11. Check What You Smoke
Two of the most common things that people smoke are; tobacco and marijuana.
The question is, how do they affect testosterone levels? Or do they even?
Looking at the scientific evidence behind tobacco and testosterone, it’s actually something that increases natural testosterone and DHT levels46,47.
This effect is likely caused by nicotine, which acts as aromatase enzyme inhibitor48 (turning less testosterone into estrogen) and also blocks the conversion from dihydrotestosterone into a weaker metabolite 3-alpha-diol49.
…Then there’s also the metals and minerals in tobacco which can have androgenic effects, the bottom line being that smokers tend to have bit higher T levels than non-smokers, even though smoking itself is not a too healthy thing to do.
When it comes to cannabis, some studies say that the active ingredient (THC) can inhibit testicular enzymes needed in testosterone production and reduce T-levels, though the effects are reversible and not as significant as some people claim. In fact, there have been few studies where smoking pot has not negatively impacted any hormones50,51.
12. Alcohol in Excess is Not your T-Boosting Pal
Let’s just start off by saying that no, you don’t have to completely cut off the alcohol from your life in order to naturally raise testosterone levels.
Is it beneficial for T? Not in the slightest, in fact, it has multiple mechanisms for lowering androgens, but in all honesty, its effects on T-levels have been wildly exaggerated.
Sure if you’re an alcoholic who slams booze to the point of passing out on nearly all days of the Week, you can be damn sure that it crushes your test production, but few drinks here and there do not have that significant of an effect…
…Though, the mechanisms of action are bit scary;
- The metabolization process of alcohol tends to reduce the amount of coenzyme NAD+, which is an essential part of the electron donor process necessary for steroidogenesis52.
- Alcohol can also increase the release of beta-opioid-endorphins from the brain and stimulate prolactin release53, both of which can negatively affect testosterone production.
- Oxidative damage increases through the body in response to alcohol consumption54, this leading to a localized reduction of testosterone in the gonads and also indirect reduction via increased cortisol levels.
- Chronically high intake of alcohol is notorious for its effects in increasing the aromatase enzyme55, which converts testosterone into estrogen, causing a “feminized” effect in the male body.
How much do you have to drink to actually suppress test levels though?
The most damaging effects come from few rodent studies56–58. One rat study, in particular, showed a staggering 50% reduction in testicular size after they were fed with a diet containing 5% of the calories from alcohol59.
Rodents ain’t the only ones who see suppressed T-levels after alcohol ingestion. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to lowered testosterone levels in humans too60–62. It’s also known that chronic alcoholics tend to have significantly lower levels of testosterone accompanied by significantly higher estrogen levels than their non-alcoholic peers63–65.
…Luckily enough, few studies have shown that low-moderate alcohol consumption isn’t that bad for male hormone production. Here an equivalent of ~2 glasses of red wine was associated with a mere 7% reduction in testosterone66. In another one, 0,5g/kg of alcohol actually slightly increased testosterone levels67.
In the case of alcohol, the dose really does make the poison. Enjoying a few old fashioned’s or beers once in a while isn’t enough to chemically castrate you.
13. Caloric Intake Matters
In order to make your body produce adequate amounts of testosterone, you need to give it enough calories to fuel the processes necessary in hormone production.
If you’re constantly feeding your body with a big calorie deficit, your body actually starts shutting down the reproductive system and conserves energy for more vital processes needed for your survival.
It doesn’t even have to be a massive calorie deficit, a 7-year study compared men who restricted their calories (1350–2415 kcal/day) and ate very “clean” against sedentary subjects who ate a normal Western diet with higher caloric intake (2145-3537 kcal/day). Due to their restrictive caloric intake, the group of men that ate lower amounts of calories had 31% lower testosterone levels, despite the fact that they maintained a “clean diet” and practiced running on a regular basis68.
For optimal T production, consider eating a slight calorie surplus or maintenance calories.
The catch-22 here is that if you’re fat (which lowers testosterone11), you MUST be on a caloric deficit to lose the weight, and the deficit itself can end up reducing your T-levels68. So should you remain fat and make sure that you’re not getting too few calories? Or should you consider losing the weight by eating a calorie deficit and then bumping your calories up to maintenance level after you’re lean?
The answer is the latter option obviously.
When you start eating more after your weight loss success, your hormone production quickly shoots up, and as you lean down, it’s going to jump up to much higher numbers than what it was on a caloric surplus when you were still fat. If you want to lose weight slowly without really hurting your T-levels in the process, consider a really small deficit of only -15%, which has been shown to have no significant negative impact on testosterone production69.
14. Protein is Necessary but not in Huge Quantities
Protein is vitally important for muscle growth as well as testosterone production.
We know that chronic protein malnutrition causes low testosterone levels13, while it’s also scientifically proven that roughly 0.8g/lb of lean mass is somewhat the point of diminishing returns when it comes to the optimal amount of protein for muscle gains.
The problem is that the bodybuilding sites and magazines preach everyone to eat super-high amounts of protein (remember that they also sell you the protein), and protein IN EXCESS is not only useless for your muscle building goals, but it can also significantly reduce testosterone levels.
A study by Anderson et al. shows that when the male subjects undergo 10-days on a high-protein low-carb diet, their free-testosterone levels will be 36% lower than what they would be on a high-carbohydrate low-protein diet. High-protein diets also caused significantly higher cortisol (stress hormone) levels and – as to be expected from lowered bioavailable T – increased SHBG levels. Caloric intake and the amount of dietary fat was kept the same during both diets.
Another study, this time on resistance trained men, showed that dose-dependent reductions in testosterone were caused by increased percentages of energy from protein as well as increased protein to carbohydrate ratio70.
The bottom line is that yes, you do need protein for both testosterone and muscle gains, but no, you don’t need as much as the fitness industry claims. For the optimal amount in terms of T-production, a good starting point would be ~20-25% daily calories from protein. As well as getting the majority from animal sources since plant-based protein is inferior to animal sourced when it comes to big T71.
15. Carbs and then More Carbs
There’s some unfair demonization going on against carbohydrates now. Or actually, it has been going on for quite some time…
…The low-carb people say things like;
“Carbs raise insulin, insulin makes you fat, which is simply why carbs make you fat”, or the classic “Humans don’t need carbohydrates brah”.
The fact of the matter is that it has been scientifically proven that weight-loss has absolutely nothing to do with the number of carbohydrates or other macronutrient trickery. Heck, you can eat the worst sugary snacks for all of your meals and still lose weight as long as you’re in a state of caloric deficit.
Guess why? Because that’s how the human body works.
In the past few years as the “paleo diet” has become a thing, their so-called “experts” have been telling people that since the cavemen didn’t eat a lot of carbs, we shouldn’t either. The thing is that they had absolutely no evidence to back up their claims about paleolithic humans not eating carbs. Recent evidence actually suggests that cavemen ate plenty of them.
The biggest reason why no man should go on a low-carb diet is the fact that they’re notorious for lowering testosterone levels, increasing the stress hormone cortisol, and messing up with your sleep.
As explained in the above subheading, Andersson et al. found out that when caloric intake and fat intake are kept the same, diet high in carbs and low in protein leads to 36% higher free-testosterone level and lower cortisol production when compared to one with high-protein low-carbs72. The study by Volek et al. Found similar results, go low on carbs and testosterone takes a hit70.
When two groups of men undergoing intensive cycling 3x/week eat a diet of either 30% energy from carbs or 60% energy from carbs, the group which eats fewer carbs will have significantly lower free-testosterone levels73. Similar results have been seen in another trial with both men and women as subjects74.
When exercising men who are put on a low-carb diet, they notice significant increases in the stress hormone cortisol75. The pulsation rate of GnRH (a master hormone that starts the testosterone production process) also seems to be heavily dependent on glucose availibity76.
As a general rule of thumb, I’ve always recommended ~40-60% of daily calories from carbohydrates. Mainly from low-fiber low-gluten sources, since gluten may increase prolactin levels77,78 and there’s some – although not very conclusive – evidence against high-fiber diets. To make it simple, eat the bulk of your carbs from potatoes, rice, fruit, and sugar (yes, that “white death”).
16. Dietary Fat Does the Trick
I’d say that fat and carbs are the boss macronutrients for testosterone production.
There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that an increased amount of energy from dietary fat, leads to increased serum testosterone levels70,79–81.
However, the type of fat matters A LOT. Saturated fatty acids (SFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) correlate very positively with testosterone levels, whereas polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and trans-fats effectively suppress androgen production.
A crucial part that is often left out in many articles is the part of different types fats having different effects on your hormones.
Bottom line: Ideally you’d want to keep your dietary fat intake at somewhere close to ~20-35% of daily calories, while most of them coming from SFAs and MUFAs with limited – even completely removed – amounts of PUFAs and trans fats. In case you’re scared about the effects this would have on your cardiovascular system, there’s very little to be afraid of, recent research has shown that the link between saturated fat & dietary cholesterol with heart problems was never really strong82, and the older studies have been debunked multiple times in more recent trials.
17. About that Sugar
Much has been said about simple forms of sugar (table sugar, honey, etc) reducing testosterone levels, and previously I used to believe that consuming sugar would be really bad for testosterone levels…
…now I’m not so sure anymore. Of course yes, there’s the research which shows that right after ingesting sugar, testosterone levels will drop acutely, but it’s crucial to understand that the act of eating pretty much anything is able to lower testosterone levels ACUTELY.
There’s no research that I know of which would of have linked sugar intake to long-term reductions in testosterone. In fact, the studies on carbs being pro-testosterone and GnRH increasing its pulsation rate in high-glucose environments speak towards the fact that sugar, which is basically what all carbohydrates eventually convert into, is not that bad for testosterone levels. It might actually be relatively good to consume some sugar (at least in form of fruit and fruit juice) on a daily basis.
In my opinion, sugar has been unfairly demonized. It doesn’t make you fat as everyone and their dog claims, overeating anything does. Sure it’s not that filling, and it might be more addictive than many other foods, but it’s not some toxic poison that destroys you from the inside out as is often boldly stated in click-bait headlines. Dr. Ray Peat’s info on sugar is something I highly recommend to everyone who still lives in sugar phobia.
18. Plant-Based Diets are Not the Way to Go
Sure, you can learn learn about increasing testosterone levels on vegan/vegetarian diets, and it’s entirely possible if you know what you’re doing, but is it the optimal type of diet for T-production? No.
When you ditch all animal protein and animal fat, you’re in a situation where it’s really hard to get a balanced intake of amino-acids, enough cholesterol, and enough saturated fat to fuel your body’s testosterone producing needs. On plant-based diets, men tend to also eat too much PUFAs in comparison to SFAs and MUFAs, which can further mess up testosterone production…
…Not to mention that it’s increasingly harder to consume your daily caloric needs from plant-based foods alone (not to say that this isn’t possible, it’s just much harder).
Factoring those in, it’s no surprise that many studies have linked plant-based diets to lower testosterone levels. For instance, in this 1989 study changing from a meat-based diet to plant-based one resulted in a 26% reduction in free-testosterone levels79. Another study did the same thing with 30 male subjects and saw a 36% reduction in total testosterone levels on plant-based diet83. Multiple other studies have noted that plant-based diets can lead to higher SHBG levels resulting in lower free-T and thus lower bio-availability of testosterone for the androgen receptors80,84,85.
Though this isn’t always the case, in one study it was noted that after adjusting BMI, vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters don’t really differ much in terms of testosterone levels. In fact, in that singular study, the vegan group had 6% higher total testosterone levels than meat-eaters86.Which brings me to the point. You don’t necessarily have to crush your testosterone levels with vegan/vegetarian diets. If you can get in a good amount of calories, accompanied with some SFAs and MUFAs (coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, Macadamia nuts…), it’s likely that you can maintain high testosterone levels despite not eating any animal products.
19. Organic Produce for More T?
In the case of eating organic foods for better testosterone production, it’s not about what you’re getting from the organically grown produce, but rather what you’re NOT getting from the conventional kind.
Specifically, I’m talking about pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and growth/fat-promoting hormone traces.
Sure, organic foods are more expensive, and surely you don’t HAVE to switch everything organic in order to maintain high-T, and yes not all pesticides are harmful…
…But some can be. One study shows how the researchers screened 37 commonly used pesticides for their hormonal actions in-vitro, as many as 30 of them were antiandrogens87. Another study tested multiple pesticides for their effects on the 5-alpha reductase enzyme and saw that many of them had a mechanism for blocking DHT synthesis88.
In a large-scale American study, it was noted that 91% of the US test subjects had notable amounts of the insecticide; chlorpyrifos in their bodies89. This is alarming, since TCPY (3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol) which is a metabolite of chlorpyrifos, was noted of having a dose-dependent testosterone lowering effect in multiple linear regression models in one paper90. Several animal studies have also shown that chlorpyrifos has a significant testosterone lowering effect91,92.
In isolated testicular Leydig cells, one of the most widely used herbicides in the World; Glyphosate, had a direct testosterone lowering effect at normally occurring environmental dosages93.
Research from Denmark has shown that farmers who spray their crops with conventional pesticides experience lower sperm production and lowered sex hormones when compared to farmers who produce organic foods who have higher sperm quality and higher sex hormone levels94.
Many other pesticides such as organophosphates95, Vinclozolin96, PCBs97, and Atrazine98 have been also linked to suppressed testosterone production.
NOTE: I’m not a fan of fear-mongering (think FoodBabe, Mercola, David Wolfe, NaturalNews), which is why I refrain from making any wacky tin-foil hat accusations about pesticide use. Indeed GMOs have saved thousands of lives in Africa, and in many cases, there’s a legit reason to use crop-sprays, preservatives, and so forth. It’s always your personal decision whether you eat organic or conventional produce, or maybe you mix them up. The most important thing is that you read the evidence about them yourself instead of blindly following one expert with one specific stance because, in this subject, you’ll hear a bunch of opinions from all-camps.
20. The Milk Controversy
In terms of its macronutrient composition (high-quality micellar casein, fats from mainly SFAs and MUFAs, and some carbs) and micronutrient composition (A, B1, B2, B12, D, choline, calcium, magnesium, and potassium) one could easily assume that milk is a pro-testosterone drink.
However, if we look a bit deeper, there’s a problem with milk, especially the full-fat kind.
It’s the number of hormones, in particular, the naturally occurring mammalian estrogens, and especially in countries like the US where the cows are kept pregnant (this increasing estrone content by up to 33-times99) for over 300-days of the year.
As a big fan of milk, I was not happy to find Japanese research where drinking cows milk resulted in increased serum estrogen and progesterone levels, which suppressed GnRH secretion from the brain and thus lowered testosterone secretion in men and prepubertal boys during a 21-day study period100.
Since the conjugated hormones are mostly in the fat portion of the milk, it seems that skimmed and low-fat milk would be a hormonally better option…
…And indeed there are two studies which support this theory;
- When physically active men drank full-fat milk and their overall sperm quality significantly decreased101.
- Consumption of low-fat and skimmed milk reliably increased sperm volume and mobility102.
21. Cholesterol is the Building Block
There seems to be a correlation with the total amount of blood cholesterol and testosterone levels – even though studies have also shown that the intake of cholesterol through nutrition doesn’t really do much to blood cholesterol levels in long-term103.
An average sized male naturally synthesizes about 1-1,5g/day of cholesterol, while his body holds an additional amount of ~35 grams within cell membranes…
…It’s also known that the more cholesterol you consume through your diet, the less of it your body has to synthesize in the liver, intestines, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs104.
Bottom line is that all the steroid hormones are made from cholesterol105, and even though your body naturally synthesis it on a daily basis – and controls the production accordingly to your dietary intake106 – increased dietary intake of cholesterol70, as well as blood levels of HDL cholesterol107, are still positively linked to increased serum testosterone levels. So eat some egg yolks and make sure to keep your blood HDL (the “good” cholesterol) high.
22. Choose Coffee Over Tea
Tea, especially the green kind, has been hailed as the supreme health drink for years…
…And sure enough there’s evidence that regular tea consumption can reduce your risk of certain cancers108, offer slight protection from type-2 diabtes109, and improve cardiovascular health110. Some research even suggests that green tea consumption can aid in weight loss111 (although these effects are marginal at best and the green tea extracts sold as fat-burners are really not as effective as the producers claim).
Looking at tea from the hormonal point of view, it’s not so “supreme” after all;
- Tea is one of the foods with highest known fluoride content112 and fluoride in excess can significantly lower T-levels.
- When isolated Leydig cells are exposed to green tea catechins (EGCG and EC), stimulated testosterone production drops significantly.
- Injecting rodents with green tea antioxidants ended up crushing testosterone levels by a whopping 70%113.
- The catechins and tannins in various teas have a mechanism of blocking DHT synthesis via reducing 5-a enzyme114,115
- Adding increasingly bigger dosages of green tea to male rodents feed (human equivalents of 5 to 20 cups) caused dose-dependent reductions in testosterone between 25-78%116.
I recommend choosing coffee instead, since not only does coffee taste better, it’s also pro-testosterone;
- 4mg/kg of caffeine taken 1-hour prior to exercise can increase T-levels by 12% in elite athletes.
- When infused into a chewing gum 240mg’s of caffeine was able to increase the exercise-induced testosterone boost by 14%117.
- In one study, pre-workout caffeine dosed at 200, 400, 600, and 800mg’s led to dose-dependent increases in testosterone118.
- Caffeine is known to be a non-selective PDE-inhibitor119, reducing the breakdown rate of cAMP (a compound needed in T-synthesis)
23. Intermittent Fasting for Androgen Sensitivity
Did you know that you don’t have to stuff your face with food for every few hours in order to boost T and maintain optimal rates of muscle growth?
Despite the fact that the fitness industry tries to sell you the idea of multiple small meals is “optimal”, science has actually shown that meal frequency does nothing to metabolic rate, eating fewer meals does not burn away your muscle or make it harder to build that, and for a fact, short-term fasting does not lower your testosterone levels.
In fact, there are a few interesting studies which have shown that after a short-term fast, your androgen receptors become more sensitive towards testosterone than what they would be if you’d eat on a constant basis. Even after 10-days of water fasting, re-feeding shoots testosterone levels higher than what the baseline was in the beginning120,121.
Intermittent fasting is a complex topic at first, and many so-called “experts” are often making it even more complex by not fully understanding the research behind its benefits and how you should really fast in order to get the most out of the fasted/fed state “manipulation”. If you’re even slightly interested in IF, I highly recommend reading Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat, which is nothing short of the COMPLETE guide to all things fasting.
I personally don’t recommend long fasts, although they can be useful in dropping weight. Instead I fast intermittently until every evening and eat all my calories post-workout, therefore theoretically taking advantage of that post-fasting anabolism and increased androgen sensitivity right after tearing the muscles in the gym.
24. Eat these T-Boosting Foods
Let’s face it, some foods are just better than others when it comes to boosting testosterone levels.
Much of this comes down to things like; high micronutrient density, high amount of protective antioxidants, high SFA or MUFA with low PUFA/trans-fats, quality animal-based muscle-meat and collagen protein, low-gluten starchy carb sources etc. In fact, I do have an article with 30 testosterone boosting foods over here…
…But in case you’re looking for a condensed version with no additional ramblings, you can see one below:
- extra virgin olive oil
- virgin argan oil
- grass-fed butter
- extra virgin coconut oil
- avocado oil
- epic bars
- beef gelatin
- grass-fed beef jerky
- minced meat
- organic bacon
- macadamia nuts
- brazil nuts
- raw cacao nibs
- dark berries
- real salt
- white button mushrooms
- baking soda
- blue cheese
25. Limit your Intake of These T-lowering Foodstuffs
There are of course also some testosterone lowering foods, and as much as I hate avoiding something or creating diets that are too restrictive, aka. prone to failure, certain foodstuffs in high amounts just don’t fit the manly nutrition plant at all.
There’s definitely more than these, but this list is just for the ones with a good amount of research to prove that. You can find a more detailed article with studies here.
Here’s the list in no particular order;
- Flaxseed products
- High-PUFA Vegetable Oils
- Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint…
- Soy Products
- Green tea
- High-PUFA nuts
26. The Endless Soy Debate
There is a lot of conflicting evidence when it comes to learning how to eliminate low-T. For instance, whether the consumption of soy products lowers testosterone levels or leaves the number of androgens unchanged is a matter of massive debate online.
Soy contains these compounds called isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, and glycitein) which act as phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) in the human body. They’re structurally similar to the principal female hormone, estrogen, and are believed to have similar effects in the body. Since high estrogen level in men is almost always a direct route to lowered testosterone levels, eating soy – which contains estrogenic compounds – is often blamed for lowering testosterone.
Studies on the topic are highly inconclusive though, and while many of them to show that soy lowers testosterone levels others show no apparent change.
I personally do limit my soy consumption, not necessarily because of the research on its effects for testosterone, but because soy is also chock-full of “goitrogens”, which are compounds present in foods, medication, or chemicals, that disrupt the production of thyroid hormones by interfering with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland.
Since thyroid activity is crucial for your energy levels and overall health, I’m not going to stuff my face with soy when I know there’s plenty of research suggesting that it can negatively impact thyroid activity…
…Also, soy tastes awful and I’m not a vegan/vegetarian, so what real reason would there be to even consume it?
27. Hydration is the Key
We all know how important water is for our cognitive function, exercise capacity, and overall bodily functions.
But many still take water as granted, and don’t drink nearly enough to really be in a good state of hydration. Even though it’s stupidly easy to just grab a steel bottle – this is my favorite (affiliate link) – and fill it to the brim with the ever anabolic h2o.
During exercise, the importance of drinking plenty of water is increased, since even mild dehydration will suppress the exercise-induced rise in testosterone and growth hormone, while dehydration also increases cortisol secretion.
It has been shown in studies that even a mild 1-2% dehydration can significantly raise cortisol levels122 and lower growth hormone secretion123. One study by Volek et al. actually tested the effects between hydrated state, dehydration by 2,5%, and dehydration by 5% on their hormonal effects during exercise and saw that the less water the subjects drank, the higher their cortisol and lower their testosterone levels were124.
28. Resistance Training Recommended
To upregulate androgen receptors in muscle tissue while also increasing testosterone levels both acutely and moving the baseline higher and higher can be best done with some form of resistance training.
There’s a mounting pile of evidence to suggest that resistance/strength training (basically lifting medium-heavy weights) can stimulate testosterone production in the short-term125–128…
…But also in the long-term by forcing the body to adapt into a new “normal” where your testosterone production is significantly higher even at rest mainly due to “forced” neuromuscular adaptations.
Resistance training is also generally very healthy, and it’s easily the best way for men to make your body look great, which amps up your confidence and can furthermore boost your T-levels due to those ‘feelings of success’ as explained in the subheading #9 of this article.
The idea is not just to “lift weights” in any manner that you can think of, but instead what you want to do for optimal hormonal response is to;
- lift heavy enough
- be explosive but still, maintain form
- activate large amounts of muscle mass
- stimulate fast-twitch glycolytic muscle fibers
- do all of this in a short period of time
- rest properly.
All of the above pointers will be addressed more in detail in the below subheadings.
As mentioned previously, the THOR Testosterone Training program takes all of these factors into account, as the entire program was designed to increase testosterone and optimize your hormones through optimal training protocols.
29. Do Some High-Intensity Intervals
When it comes to “cardio” high-intensity interval training (HIIT) fits a testosterone boosting routine like a nose to the head.
Consider adding 1-2 quick HIIT-sessions on top of your resistance training routine to maximize exercise-induced hormonal adaptations.
Due to its explosive nature, short-duration, activation of fast-twitch muscle fibers, and increased production of lactic acid – without being “chronic” enough to cause prolonged increases in stress hormones – HIIT, aka. short bouts of intense exercise can cause sharp increases in total testosterone, free testosterone, DHEA, growth hormone, and dihydrotestosterone129–131.
Some examples of this type of training are;
- regular sprinting
- hill & wind sprints
- circuit training
- playing hockey
- HIIT cycling
Here’s a great example of hill sprints that would be pretty great for the hormonal response:
Bottom line: Basically any type of exercise where you can do quick 15-30 second all-out bouts of exercise in 2-8 intervals will work wonders for anabolic hormones and neuroendocrine adaptations. Instead of boring hours of steady-state cardio, consider crushing it with few all-out sprints for maximal hormonal gains.
30. Maintain Regular Physical Activity
Aside from lifting weights and sprinting your ass off, you should maintain some regular physical activity on a daily basis.
This includes things like walking, plowing the snow/mowing the lawn, chopping trees, and other sorts of recreational stuff.
Maybe a low-intensity hockey game with the lads? Some ball-games with the family? Anything that can be considered “active rest”.
There are even studies to show how effective regular physical activity is for T:
…A recent study from the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition observed 41 obese, overweight male subjects who were put on a lifestyle modification program lasting 12-weeks, consisting of varied amounts of physical activity (measured by a pedometer) and reduced caloric intake. The goal of the study was to determine which one had the biggest impact on testosterone levels; increased physical activity or reduced caloric intake and the resultant weight-loss? After the 12-weeks had passed, the researchers found out that it was the high physical activity – not so much the magnitude of the calorie deficit – which was the driving factor in the subjects rising T levels132.
Of course, walking isn’t the only physical activity that boosts T-levels, when sedentary subjects are compared against “active” subjects, the more physically active guys do have higher sperm counts and testosterone levels. Also, its seen in studies that when sedentary men start some sort of physical activity and/or low-pace exercise routine, their T levels tend to go up as well133–135.
Take something as woodcutting as an example, in Tsimane tribesmen, 1-hour of chopping trees led to a 46.8% increase in testosterone136.
31. Cardio Before Weights? Train in AM or PM?
The age-old questions spanning around the fitness industry in relation to hormones and workout timing are;
— Should you train in the morning or evening for better testosterone levels?
— Should you hit the weights before cardio or the other way around?
The cardio question first. Sure, there are many opinions, but the actual evidence is suggesting that yes, cardio before weights is more ‘anabolic’.
In fact, a study by Rosa et al. showed that the guys who hit cardio before weights had 7x higher post-workout testosterone levels than the guys who did cardio after weight training (due to ‘stimulus interference’ the researchers claim).
NOTE: Although the immediate post-exercise hormone alterations are not going to massively impact your physique or resting T-levels, its still good to have that 7x higher testosterone response once in a while huh?
When it comes to morning or evening training, it doesn’t really matter. Even though your T-levels are naturally highest in the morning, over long-term training increases testosterone levels in a similar fashion regardless of the time of the day137,138.
32. Lower the Amount of Endurance Training
I get that for some, dropping endurance training isn’t an option, maybe you compete in running or triathlon for example?
Though that doesn’t change the fact that endurance-type long steady state exercise is very good at lowering testosterone levels and causing chronically elevated cortisol response.
Research has shown that endurance cyclists and runners, but not swimmers, have significantly lower testosterone levels than sedentary controls139. Furthermore, male distance runners are known for having significantly lower than average testosterone levels140,141.
It also goes without saying that your body will look quite weak and frail if you train mainly for endurance.
A much better option for those of us who don’t “need” to train for endurance, would be something like low-pace walking or hiking. Obviously, resistance training and high-intensity intervals are the optimal way to train for T, but if you’re looking for a bit more lighter way to balance hormones, slowly walking with a small incline is actually much more beneficial for T and especially normal cortisol secretion than chronic endurance training.
33. Reverse Pyramid Training
Reverse pyramid training (RPT) is a set/rep pattern used in resistance exercise movements where you (after warming up) hit the heaviest weight on your first set and then reduce some of that weight and add more reps to the 2nd and possibly 3rd set. This pattern is used by such guys as Greg O’Gallagher and Martin Berkhan.
It’s a very demanding type of training, but it allows you to lift heavy loads of weight in a relatively short amount of time and you don’t have to tax your central nervous system with multi-set workouts that eventually just turn into grinding and spinning your wheels. It’s a very good fit for testosterone boosting workouts (which is why it is one of the main themes in the THOR Testosterone Training program).
Basically, reverse pyramid training comes down to first warming up, then hitting your first set with the all-out effort of say for example 5-8 reps, then you rest for roughly 3-5 minutes and reduce the weight by 10% and do the same with 1-2 more reps than in the first set. If you want to do more sets, keep reducing the weight by ~10% and adding 1-2 reps. IMHO 2-3 sets are optimal (more than that is unnecessary strain for the central nervous system).
Here’s an example of an RPT low-volume high-intensity back workout that I do personally;
- 4 reps of deadlifts -> Reduce weight by 10%, rest ~4 minutes and do 5-6 reps of the same movement.
- 5 reps of weighted wide-grip pull-ups -> Reduce the weight by 10%, rest ~4 minutes and do 7 reps of the same movement.
- 8 reps of weighted chin-ups -> Reduce weight by 10%, rest ~4 minutes and continue with 10 reps of the same movement.
- 6 reps of lat pulldowns with narrow handle -> Reduce weight by 10%, rest ~4 minutes and do 8 reps.
Aaand that’s it for the back, a total of 8 sets – which might seem like a ridiculously low amount of work – but when done correctly (1st set is really ALL OUT set) you’re actually going to be pretty done. Go ahead and give it a shot if you don’t believe my word 😉
34. Neuromuscular Movements
In short its a type of weight/bodyweight training that maximizes the stimulus of the nervous system, leading to the maximal stimulus of the neuroendocrine system, leading to increased testosterone production and androgen receptor up-regulation.
The way to do this is by activating large amounts of muscle volume (how much muscle mass you activate), with high intensity (how explosive you are), under a performance threshold (avoiding the negative adaptations that come with increased glucocorticoid receptor up-regulation and chronic cortisol elevations).
Since increased muscle activation is known to increase the testosterone and growth hormone response, you’ll often see people saying that in order to boost testosterone you have to squat, squat, deadlift, squat and then do some deadlifts. And sure enough deadlifts and squats are very good movements for size and increased muscle activation, but they fall short on intensity (explosiveness) not allowing you to maximize the activation of fast glycolytic muscle fibers, and they also bring you more easily to the training threshold.
Some movements which actually can be used for NM training to maximize all the above factors are;
- weighted chin-ups and pull-ups
- weighted dips
- clean & jerk
- box jumps
Honestly, I’m not that good at explaining the principles of NM training, so let’s hear it from the creator himself:
35. Avoid the Pitfalls of Overtraining
It seems to be in fashion now in the fitness circles to claim that overtraining would not exist. Sure, those guys claiming that are usually on steroids or don’t really know how to really work hard enough to really need recovery. Also, their goal is rarely to maximize hormonal output.
If you workout with a reverse pyramid style doing neuromuscular movements and some HIIT cardio once in a while, you really can’t be lifting every day. You can try but eventually, this will lead to sluggish progress and messed up hormonal response, which is exactly what were trying to avoid here.
In short, you want to workout 3-5 times a week with ALL OUT INTENSITY and then REST properly so that your muscles, endocrine system, and CNS are always primed for your next workout which will be slightly more intense/heavier.
Going to the gym with no energy and when you’re still recovering from the previous workouts does very little to your progress and only negatively affects the hormonal response.
Remember, constant progress is the key to gains and hormonal adaptations. In order to push for that increased testosterone response and to move your resting baseline higher and higher (creating the new “normal”) you have to get out of your comfort zone and constantly progress to heavier weights and higher intensities…
…A good example of this is a study where non-athletes experienced significantly higher testosterone levels after an intense lifting workout in comparison to elite athletes142. For the sedentary subjects, this was a huge step out of the comfort zone and forced the body to adapt to new training stimuli, resulting in hormonal adaptations, whereas for the elite athletes this was just “another workout” and the hormonal adaptations weren’t as strong.
Another study saw that after sedentary subjects started a resistance training routine, their baseline testosterone levels shot up by over 40% in just 4-weeks. Why? Likely because they had to get out of the comfort zone and create a “new normal” to which their hormones had to adapt into.
That’s the idea behind constantly pushing yourself and getting to higher weights and better intensities as you get stronger and stronger, you’re slowly pushing the hormonal baseline up by forcing your body into using bigger workloads and heavier weights…
…If you overtrain, your lifts will start degrading and your CNS will be too taxed to actually make that constant progress, and that’s just one of the many reasons to avoid the pitfalls of training too much.
36. The THOR Program
Something that this whole natural testosterone optimization field has really been missing for years now is a specific training program with the goal of building the ultimate “masculine” body, while also focusing on maximizing the testosterone response of training.
The TestShock program has its own training section, which is good and definitely delivers more than great results, but it takes a high-level view of training and often spans a variety of training related questions.
The THOR Testosterone Training program should be a definitive answer to most of them. It’s a complete training focused encyclopedia of how to EXACTLY train in a way that maximizes the amount of exercise-induced long-term testosterone adaptations.
I’ve had a minor involvement in few of the topics of the book, and for now, I can say that it contains multiple new ideas which haven’t really been discussed and/or applied to “hormonal response training” yet. Sure it has all the evidence-based teachings that are already well-known in this field, but also a TON of new and somewhat revolutionary info.
All I can say is that the THOR-program is not your average “more squats and deadlifts bro!” kind of book.
37. Get a Quality Multivitamin
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to significantly increase your natural testosterone production is by correcting all of your underlying micronutrient deficiencies. This is best to do with nutrition, and also by using a high-quality multivitamin (affiliate link).
In fact, I would go as far as saying that the best “natural T-booster supplement” is in fact just a basic high-quality wide-spectrum multivitamin. Allow me to explain why…
…Even though many guys think they’re all topped up on all the necessary vitamins and minerals, they usually aren’t.
One study conducted by The Washington Council of Responsible Nutrition143 says:
“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…”
When you start looking at how vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect your testosterone production, you’ll realize why it’s important to keep your body topped up on essential micronutrients;
- Vitamin A is stored in testicles (and few other glands of the body). Studies have shown that when there’s no active vitamin A in the testes, T levels start dropping rapidly, and estrogen synthesis shoots up144. Also in a study of 155 male twins, a clear correlation was found between vitamin A levels and serum testosterone145. In prepubertal teens, vitamin A + iron supplementation is as effective in starting puberty as hormone replacement therapy146.
- Vitamin B complex (which consists of 8 different water-soluble vitamins), plays an important role in testosterone production and overall bodily energy levels, deficiency in many B vitamins results in increased estrogen levels, increased prolactin levels, and lowered testosterone levels147–150
- Vitamin C has a protective effect on testosterone molecules, and this is because it’s a potent antioxidant and able to block some cortisol secretion and oxidative damage.
- Vitamin D supplementation with a dose of 3332 IU’s for one full year leads to 25% higher testosterone levels in healthy male subjects151. The positive correlation with vitamin D levels and serum testosterone have been noted in various other human studies too.
- Vitamin E deficient human and rodent subjects both experience a significant drop in LH, FSH, and testosterone levels, conversely, vitamin E supplemented humans and rodents notice significant increases in pituitary LH and FSH, and also in serum testosterone.
- Magnesium intake has had a direct effect on serum testosterone levels in various studies. In one of them, 10 mg/kg of magnesium was able to increase free testosterone levels by 24%152. In another one, magnesium intake was positively correlated with high serum T levels153, and in a large review study the researchers conclude: “there is evidence that magnesium exerts a positive influence on anabolic hormonal status, including testosterone, in men.”154
- Calcium has its role in controlling neurotransmitter release and the signaling between cells and hormones. Not much is known about its effects on testosterone, but in 1976 a group of researchers found out that calcium stimulates testosterone synthesis in isolated Leydig cells155. 33 years later another study saw that calcium supplementation didn’t alter T levels at rest, but did significantly increase (18%) T levels post-exercise156.
- Selenium, mostly due to its glutathione stimulating effects, has been linked to increased testosterone production and improved sperm parameters in few studies157,158.
- Zinc has a significant positive effect on testosterone production and a deficiency will hammer the endocrine system. In fact, zinc might be one of the most important micronutrients for healthy testosterone production. It has increased testosterone levels in athletes and exercising ‘normal men’,159,160 in men with zinc deficiency161, in infertile men162, in animals163… It’s also noted in one rodent study that zinc deficiency can upregulate the estrogen receptors by 57%164, probably due to the fact that zinc has its role in controlling the aromatase enzyme.
- Boron, although not very common mineral to supplement with, has few interesting studies backing up its testosterone boosting effects. In one human study, 6 mg’s of boron for 60 days increased free testosterone levels by 29%165. In another human study, 10 mg’s of boron for 7 days increased free testosterone by 28%166.
- Manganese appears to have a direct GnRH stimulating effect in the brain167, and logic says that it should therefore also stimulate the production of androgenic hormones. However, mega-dosing with manganese should not be an option, since it accumulates in the body and can become neurotoxic at high levels. Just don’t get deficient, as one study saw that manganese, zinc, and selenium deficiencies were strongly correlated with low T168.
Not much has been talked about phosphatidylserine (PS) as a testosterone booster, even though there’s some evidence that at least in exercising individuals, PS can reliably increase testosterone levels and suppress the exercise-induced cortisol secretion.
Phosphatidylserine is actually a naturally occurring phospholipid complex present in all of the bodily cells. Its mainly a signaling molecule between cells and hormones, but may also have other functions, such as reducing the oxidative damage at the interior of cells.
Due to over 50% of the bodily PS being in neural tissue of the brain, many claims of phosphatidylserines “nootropic” or brain-boosting benefits have been made. Surprisingly enough, there’s a good amount of evidence which suggests that PS supplementation can improve cognitive functions. In fact, PS has an FDA granted ‘qualified health claim’ for prevention of cognitive decline in humans.
When it comes to testosterone, PS can improve athletic performance by reducing the exercise-induced rise of oxidative stress169–171. Furthermore, phosphatidylserine supplementation has a dose-dependent cortisol reducing and testosterone promoting effect in exercising subjects172,173. In the latter study, PS was able to improve the testosterone to cortisol ratio by 180% more in favor of increased T, aka. anabolism.
Bromelain is a pineapple extracted blend of ‘proteolytic enzymes’. More specifically, it’s a supplement containing a bunch of enzymes that can break down the peptide chains between amino-acids (proteins), improving digestion and absorption.
You can get some by eating pineapples since the stem part is loaded with proteolytic enzymes, but if you’re not a big fan of eating pineapple stems…
Why bromelain for testosterone you ask?
This is actually more for the guys who want to do endurance training, since bromelain can preserve T-levels during ‘strenuous’ endurance training, but allow me to quote one of my older articles;
40. Ashwagandha Roots
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is an Indian Herb, heavily used in their herbal medicine; Ayurveda.
When searching the internet, you can stumble upon some ridiculous claims about herbs, and ashwagandha is not an exception. Did you know that the name actually translates to “the smell of a horse”, and its claimed by some sort of shaman weirdos to actually give its user the power and virility of a horse?
(It’s not gonna do that, FYI).
Even though there are those “herbal healers” who slowly smear the name of every single herbal compound, we can’t forget the fact that ashwagandha actually has A LOT of interesting Western medicine studies on its belt…
…Take a look at these for instance (copied from my older Ashwagandha article):
b) When it comes to general health benefits, there are many. For instance, ashwagandha can greatly improve cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation, reducing the number of serum triglycerides, increasing the “good” HDL-cholesterol (~17%), and reducing the “bad” LDL-cholesterol (~9%)177. In one human study, ashwagandha was able to increase serum T-cell count, and killer-cell count, suggesting that it can boost immunity178. At 250-500mg/day KSM-66 extract has also been shown to increase hemoglobin levels179, which might be one of the reasons why ashwagandha constantly outperforms placebo-pills in studies examining power-output and anaerobic exercise capacity180. One of the more recent studies published this year (non-sponsored, double-blind, placebo, peer-reviewed, aka. highly reliable kind) found out that 600mg/day of KSM-66 ashwagandha significantly increased muscle strength and recovery in 57 young male subjects181.
c) So ashwagandha is, in fact, a pretty solid adaptogen, with a wide variety of benefits that have been proven in human studies, what could be better? Maybe the fact that there’s also solid evidence of the herb also increasing testosterone levels (actually that’s not a surprise, considering the fact that ashwagandha improves sleep quality, reduces cortisol, increases HDL-cholesterol, and reduces inflammation, all of which promote healthy testosterone production). Two human studies with infertile subjects both using 5g/day of the basic root powder for 90 days, noted significant increases in testosterone (~40% and ~16% on infertile subjects and 15% in healthy subjects) with significantly improved sperm quality182,183. One study with infertile men as subjects (this time with 675mg/day of KSM-66 for three months) showed a ~17% boost in T, with a ~36% increase in luteinizing hormone (LH)184, suggesting that ashwagandha stimulates testosterone production at the brain level. Prior to 2015 there were no studies on healthy men that would show increases in testosterone, however, the study with 57 young and healthy male subjects as described in the paragraph above (using KSM-66 extract), showed a significant ~15% increase in testosterone levels (average rise from 630 ng/dL to 726 ng/dL, which is a lot from a single herb if you ask me)181.
NOTE: When using ashwagandha, I highly recommend the KSM-66 extracted kind for best results (affiliate link).
Forskolin is a general term for a standardized extract of an Indian plant Coleus Forskohlii. You’ve probably heard about it, since its a very popular fat burner and often hyped up in the ridiculous Dr. Oz show.
Aside from the facts that Oz is a clown who only smears forskolin’s name and that it’s not really anything super awesome as a fat burner, forskolin can actually enhance testosterone secretion and upregulate androgen receptors.
Forskolin is well-known for increasing cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) levels in human tissue, and cAMP works as a secondary messenger in the body, transporting biological signals between cells and hormones. cAMP stimulation is believed to be the main reason why forskolin is able to increase T-levels.
The herbal extract so reliably boosts cAMP and testosterone levels in cell-culture studies that scientists often use it as a “positive control” to stimulate testosterone production in isolated testicular cells185.
When forskolin was tested for its hormonal effects in humans, 12-weeks of forskolin at 250mg/day was able to increase testosterone levels by 33% when compared to placebo186.
You could also call forskolin a “testosterone utilizer” since it increased the number of active androgen receptors in this in-vitro study187. The mechanism is as follows: Forskolin stimulates cAMP -> cAMP stimulates an enzyme called protein kinase A (PKA) -> PKA stimulates the upregulation of AR.
When buying forskolin or coleus supplements, make sure its standardized to at least 20% active ingredient. Also, don’t be bummed by the reviewers who say it doesn’t help with weight-loss, no supplement really does and the claims of forskolin doing that originate from the Dr. Oz show. We all know what kind of people buy supplements recommended by that fool (the nutcrackers).
Creatine is – right after protein supplements – the most popular supplement used by bodybuilders and various athletes.
It’s a naturally occurring amino acid, which has a monster amount of scientific studies proving its positive effects in strength output and lean mass gain.
Creatine works by increasing cellular ATP (adenosine triphosphate) levels. ATP is what cells use as energy, so basically you’re increasing the supply of energy for your cells when you ingest creatine. Logically this helps you perform better.
But did you know that creatine can also help raise your testosterone? Not only the exercise-induced T-levels but also your resting baseline.
As a side note for a study that tested creatine’s effect on cognitive abilities188, the researchers found out that it also increased salivary testosterone levels. In athletes creatine has been noted to reliably increase T-levels, for instance; one 4-year study noted that in athletes who reported using creatine, a trend towards increased testosterone levels was noted189.
…In swimmers testosterone levels and swim times can be improved with creatine supplementation190. In overtrained men who practice resistance training, creatine maintains power output, free testosterone, and total testosterone levels191. One study even found out that creatine supplementation in resistance trained males led to 17% higher baseline testosterone levels than what was seen in the placebo group which received sugar pills192.
Creatine is also known for increasing DHT levels by up to 56% in young rugby players.
When buying creatine, don’t get fooled by the marketers, the cheapest monohydrate forms work just as well as their expensive formulations. My personal favorite is Jarrow’s creatine (affiliate link).
The definition of probiotics is as follows: “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health beneﬁt on the host”. In other words, probiotics are friendly bacteria most commonly used to improve gut health.
The idea of using probiotic bacteria for health was first coined in 1907 by a Russian researcher and Nobel laureate Élie Metchnikoff who had a novel idea of replacing the harmful gut microbes, with beneficial (probiotic) microbes, this essentially improving gut flora and overall health.
These bacteria naturally occur naturally in many fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kimichi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and sourdough, and can also be supplemented with, currently it isn’t known which one is the better delivery method – supplements or food – but common sense would suggest its the naturally occurring kind from fermented foods.
What does all of this have to do with testosterone though?
Well for one, our gut health is strongly correlated with testosterone production. People with poor gut flora are much more likely to suffer from micronutrient deficits and lower T-levels…
…But it doesn’t end there, some modern research has shown that some strains of probiotics can directly elevate the levels of androgens in blood. Take this 2014 rat study for example193, where a probiotic strain commonly found in yogurts; Lactobacillus reuterii (affiliate link) was able to significantly increase multiple parameters related to reproductive health. In fact, the addition of L. reuterii to male rodents feed resulted in;
- increased testosterone levels
- increased testicular size and weight
- increased markers of social domination
- prevention of age-related testicular shrinkage
- improved sperm quality, motility, and volume
- increased luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormone levels
This isn’t the only rat study with promising results, another one found similar results, the more the rodents were exposed to probiotics, the higher their testosterone was194. One study also saw that a probiotic strain by the name of Clostridium scindens is able to directly convert cortisol into androgens inside the gut195.
44. The Estrogen Flush Stack
High levels of estrogens (female sex hormones) are not that uncommon in male bodies these days.
In fact, numerous things in our daily lives can increase estrogen levels and the conversion from testosterone to estrogen (which happens via the aromatase enzyme).
These include (but are not limited to); being fat, using personal care products with xenoestrogens, drinking lots of alcohol, drinking lots of full-fat milk from pregnant-cows, microwaving plastics, and yes, some men just naturally convert more of their testosterone to estrogen, as they’re “high aromatizers”.
How can you combat this and balance your levels?
Obviously, being lean, using natural personal care items, drinking less alcohol, not using too much plastic products, and switching to skimmed-milk can work wonders, but there are also some supplements that can be used in estrogen removal (you do need some estrogen for joint health etc, use the stack below if you have too much of it).
These supplements include;
- Indole-3-Carbinol (IC3), which is a compound found in many cruciferous vegetables that helps the liver chelate estrogens196 and converts stronger estrogens into weaker metabolites197, leading to lower estrogen levels in men and women subjects198.
- Calcium-D-Glucarate, which is a naturally occurring fiber found primarily in the jelly skin of dark berries. CDG can help remove estrogens by increasing bodily detoxification, in fact, one study claims cDG to be as effective as Tamoxifen199.
- Glucuronate-resveratrol, which is a polyphenol and slightly modified form of the resveratrol found in red grapes. Reservatrol is a very potent aromatase inhibitor200, but it never had a good bio-availability in the body. Glucuronate-resveratrol is better because of its superior absorption201.
45. Tongkat Ali
Tongkat Ali (Pasak Bumi, Eurycoma Longifolia) is a Malaysian herb with a massive reputation as a pro-erectile testosterone booster.
Some research suggests that it can lower SHBG levels, increase testosterone, block estrogen, and act as a powerful libido booster. Most of the studies are legit, but there’s also a bunch of studies and weird patents by a guy named Dr. Tambi, which are often cited but are really hard to find online.
Taking a look at some of the research, we can see that there are several animal studies where Tongkat Ali has increased libido, erection quality, and even delayed ejaculations202–204. In a test-tube study, Tongkat Ali has been shown to block estrogen similarly to Tamoxifen205 (popular synthetic estrogen blocker).
Looking at one patent application, there’s a citation where it claimed that Tongkat Ali works by stimulating the CYP17 enzyme in testicles206. According to a rodent study, the active ingredients from the herb to make their way to the testicles207, so it’s plausible that this mechanism could work.
The available human data is pretty interesting. In a study of 109 men208, 300mg’s of Tongkat Ali for 12-weeks was able to improve semen mobility by 44% and volume by 18% when compared to placebo. According to a questionnaire that the subjects had to fill during the study, the Tongkat Ali group also noted significant improvements in libido and erection quality, sadly hormones weren’t measured in this trial.
The only study that tested hormonal effects, was this human study where “moderately stressed” subjects took 200mg’s of Tongkat Ali for 4-weeks. When compared to placebo, the TA group had 37% higher testosterone and 16% lower cortisol levels than the placebo group209.
Tongkat Ali has some good research behind its back, would have even more so if that Dr. Tambi guy would publish his studies online. Also if you’re going to get a Tongkat Ali supplement, consider purchasing the original Malaysian 200:1 water extract (affiliate link).
L-Carnitine is a naturally occurring amino acid (protein) found in meat. It’s usually used in supplemental form to either improve cognitive abilities or as a fat-burner.
Carnitine works by shuttling fat into the mitochondria for it to use as energy, this theoretically should improve your body’s ability to burn fat (although research on this isn’t too legit) and give you some extra energy.
The reason why carnitine is perfect for everyone interested in natural testosterone optimization is that when carnitine shuttles the fat to the mitochondria, it also upregulates androgen receptor activity at the same time. This in turn leading to better androgen utilization by the body.
This effect has been shown in a study where 3-weeks of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation at 2g/day was able to significantly increase the number of active androgen receptors in exercising human subjects210. The researchers actually took muscle biopsies to be sure. In a previous study by the same researchers it was noted that even without exercise, carnitine is able to upregulate AR activity.
Since carnitine increases AR activity and also luteinizing hormone pulsation rate, it’s not a big surprise to see that it can very reliably increase sperm quality in human subjects211.
If you want to maximize your tissue uptake of testosterone, consider adding carnitine to your supplement cabin (affiliate link). According to the studies you’ll get even more out of it if you exercise and take it immediately after training.
47. Royal Jelly
Royal Jelly (RJ) is an anabolic porridge-like liquid extracted from the hypopharynx glands of the worker bees.
Its the RJ fed to a small larva which eventually makes it grow 60x bigger and live for 40x longer than the other bees in the hive. Basically Royal jelly is the food that makes the queen bee become queen bee.
Royal jelly is a nutrient bomb containing a pretty balanced ratio of carbs (15%), protein (12%), and fat (5%), while also supplying vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, biotin, and folic acid. RJ also contains the minerals: calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, potassium, silica, and sulfur.
Rest of the ‘anabolic goo’ contains naturally occurring hormones, nucleic acid, sugars, gamma globulin, and ~3% compounds still unidentified by modern day science.
What does it do to testosterone levels? Here’s a quote from my older RJ article:
Shilajit is a tar-like resin collected from the deep rocks of Himalayan mountains.
No one seems to be entirely sure how it was formed, but I guess the most accurate theory is that it would be the end result of thousands of years worth of composed plant microbial metabolites214, because of this it’s claimed that authentic shilajit can contain up to 85 minerals in their ionic form215.
The research on shilajit is still in baby shoes, but one interesting study has been made about its effects on testosterone levels216.
In the study, 60 infertile male subjects consumed 200mg/day of shilajit for a total of 90 days…
…After the three months had passed the shilajit treated group were found to have;
- 37% higher sperm quality
- 61% better sperm volume
- 17% better sperm motility
- 23% higher testosterone
NOTE: over 90% of the shilajit in the market is not authentic, and highly ineffective. True shilajit is always in its pure resin form and black (affiliate link).
49. Ginger Root
I think I mentioned ginger earlier in the nutrition part, but its worth to mention again as some might use it as a supplement too.
Ginger is generally hailed for its anti-inflammatory benefits, but it’s rare to hear anything about the fact that it can possibly be used in boosting testosterone levels.
Many animal studies have noted that ginger contains androgenic compounds, and could be used as an aphrodisiac in men217. And yes, there is a human study on gingers effects for testosterone levels, which saw that an undisclosed amount of ginger administered daily for 90-days was able to increase LH (43%), FSH (17%), and testosterone (17%) levels in infertile men218.
Whether ginger is able to do this on non-infertile men is a question we’re unable to answer yet, but due to its multiple health benefits and very low price, it’s not a big deal to try it out.
50. Horny Goat Weed
Horny goat weed (Epimedium) is a flowering plant, native to the Mediterranean region of Asia.
For centuries, it has been used as a powerful aphrodisiac in Chinese medicine and due to its high levels of the compound called icariin, which is known for its erection boosting qualities, but it might actually work to increase testosterone levels too.
Currently, no human data exists, but many in-vitro and animal studies have shown interesting effects with standardized icariin.
Here’s a quote from one of my older articles:
One rat study found out that at the dose of 80mg/kg icariin is able to triple testosterone levels, without changing the levels of gonadotropins (LH and FSH). The researchers claim that icariin acts as a testosterone mimetic in the body, and doesn’t stimulate the hypothalamus-pituitary-testicles axis like many other herbal T boosters do220.
In a few animal studies, icariin has suppressed the levels of the stress hormone; cortisol221,222. As you might already know, elevated cortisol levels will suppress testosterone synthesis, due to the facts that elevated production of cortisol “robs” the cholesterol needed for testosterone synthesis, and high cortisol directly suppresses testosterone production inside the gonads.
Icariin is also very potent nitric oxide (NO) booster. Increased NO production will relax blood vessels and increase blood flow, and this might be one of the reasons why HGW is primarily considered to be an aphrodisiac (libido booster).
51. Mucuna Pruriens
Mucuna pruriens (velvet bean) is an Indian herb commonly consumed in their herbal medicine; Ayurveda, as an aphrodisiac. M. pruriens has been widely studied in Western medicine and it is currently used in many medications to relieve the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
One of the claims that you will almost instantly stumble upon on the internet is that mucuna supplementation would be able to increase testicular size, and due to its possible effect in boosting testosterone production, this claim might actually hold some water.
The reason why mucuna would work to boost the big T is that its chock-full of a compound called L-Dopa (levodopa), which is a precursor to the hormone/neurotransmitter; dopamine. Since increased dopamine secretion is linked to increased testosterone production, one could easily imagine that M. pruriens could stimulate T-production.
According to a bunch of studies, this seems to happen in subjects who consume the herb:
Another human study followed, where 75 healthy and 75 infertile men, were given 5 grams of ground up Mucuna Pruriens for 90 consecutive days. The results showed that testosterone levels increased significantly (38% in infertile men and 27% in healthy men). Luteinizing hormone (LH) also increased (41% in infertile males and by 23% in healthy males). And prolactin decreased (-32% in the infertile group and -19% in healthy group)224. Similar results were seen in a human study where Mucuna increased testosterone levels by 38% in infertile men 225.
NOTE: When buying mucuna, make sure the manufacturer has standardized it to 10-20% L-dopa (affiliate link).
52. Additional Resources for the Testosterone-Oriented
Since you made it down here, you must be pretty interested in natural testosterone optimization and no-BS evidence-based men’s health in general.
Even though this article is probably the best free resource for natural T-optimization, I have compiled below a bunch of additional resources for the four main categories…
…That is; lifestyle, nutrition, training, and supplementation advice which will help you become a superhuman (well at least kind of).
Bonus bad-ass resources;
- Testshock Program (the ultimate natural T-enhancement guide. Best in the market. Unbeatable).
- THOR Testosterone Training program (the complete guide for how to train to elicit the maximal testosterone response).
- Eat Stop Eat (everything you need to know about intermittent-fasting and fasting in general).
- Examine.com (unbiased supplement research resource).
- Think and Grow Rich (a book that every man needs to read).