Written by: Julie Tang, MS, RDN, CNSC
Want to boost testosterone levels? Are there natural ways to help support low testosterone levels? According to science, the answer is yes!
Let’s first start off with,
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that is primarily found in males, but females also have small amounts of it. It is usually produced in the testicles of males and in the ovaries of females. It’s primarily known as the hormone responsible for libido, in other words, our sex drive. But beyond its role in our sexual health, it plays a vital role in our growth and development, influence on emotions and certain behaviors, and an important determinant in our general health and disease risks.
The production of testosterone peaks during early adulthood or when puberty takes place. When a young adult male begins to experience puberty-related physiological changes such as a change in voice, increased muscle strength and mass, and hair growth, it is thanks to testosterone. In the development of the reproductive system, it is what drives the production of sperm.
Over time, it is natural for the level of testosterone to gradually decline starting at the estimated age of 30 years old. Certain medical conditions can also cause someone to have low testosterone. Hypogonadism is a clinical diagnosis of abnormally low testosterone levels. On the other hand, hypergonadism is a medical condition characterized by an abnormal excess of testosterone production. Both conditions may require close monitoring and prescribed medical treatment by physicians.
Healthy levels of testosterone
Balancing a healthy level of hormones is important to stay healthy. Too much or too little testosterone can cause problems and symptoms may occur. Excess levels of testosterone can happen in both male and females and they result in physical symptoms such as:
- Early onset of puberty
- Excess body hair
- Changes in sexual health or desire typically increased levels
- Excess sweating
- Increase in acne
- Increased muscle mass
- Changes in mood and behavior such as irritability, anxiety, aggression or depression
On the other side of the spectrum, low levels of testosterone can take place with physical symptoms such as:
- Changes in sexual health or desire typically decreased levels
- Loss of muscle mass
- Hair loss
- Changes in mood and behavior such as irritability, anxiety, depression or lack of focus
- Weight gain
Aside from physical symptoms, serious health risks may be associated with abnormal levels of testosterone, including risk for liver disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart attack. While there is no magic bullet to managing hormone levels, there are natural ways through diet and lifestyle that can help support a healthy balance of hormones.
According to research,
These are natural ways to boost testosterone levels
While both conditions of high and low testosterone levels are concerning, low testosterone levels are actually more common than high levels. Many are interested in finding natural ways to boost their testosterone levels. Here are tips backed up by science that can help.
1. Get quality sleep
Research has found a lack of adequate sleep is linked to reduced testosterone levels, by as much as 15%. A study published in JAMA 2011 by Leproult and Cauter evaluated the relationship between sleep and testosterone levels in young healthy men. They found that in just one week, subjects who restricted sleep to only 5 hours a night had at least 15% lower levels of testosterone. The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, however, the general recommendation is to get 7-10 hours of quality rest for optimal testosterone levels.
2. Eat a healthy diet
What we eat in our diet can have significant effects on our hormones. Eating a diet with adequate calories and a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein can help boost testosterone. Some studies suggest that eating low fat and calorie-restricted diet may cause a decline in testosterone levels in men.
To find out how many calories you need in a day, utilize tools such as Meta Nutrition and work with a nutrition professional to keep you on the right track.
A focus on including foods with zinc and Vitamin D has also been shown to help boost testosterone. Several studies including a study published in Biol Trace Elem Res. in 2011 by Chang et al., Prasad et al. (1996) and Pilz et al (2011) found correlating evidence of the importance of zinc and Vitamin D in modulating normal testosterone levels in healthy men.
Foods high in zinc include:
- Shellfish such as oysters, shrimp, crab and lobster
- Whole grains
- Meats such as fish, beef, pork, and chicken
- Vegetarian protein sources such as eggs, beans, yogurt, and nuts
- Fortified cereals and bread
Foods high in Vitamin D include:
- Milk products such as milk, yogurt, cheese
- Alternative non-dairy products (maybe fortified) such as soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, almond milk, yogurt, and orange juice
- Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, canned light tuna
- Egg yolks
- Fortified cereals and oatmeal
In addition to getting Vitamin D from food, exposure to natural sunlight can also help boost
Vitamin D levels. Energy from the UV rays turns a natural substance found in our skin into a
precursor for vitamin D3. To maintain healthy blood levels, experts recommend allowing 10–15 minutes of unprotected midday sun exposure, a few times per week. Exposure time should be adjusted depending on how sensitive a person’s skin is to sunlight to avoid sunburn and the risk of melanoma.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Overweight or obese young males are more likely to have lower testosterone levels than those with a normal body mass index (BMI). Investigators studied the effect of weight loss on men’s testosterone levels and results were presented at The 2012 Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.
They found that the men who lost body weight and had a decreased waist size through diet and lifestyle modifications over one year were correlated with an increase in testosterone levels.
4. Exercise regularly
As we know, exercise has many health benefits. Now there’s research that supports exercise as a natural way to boost testosterone levels in both young and older men. Additionally, another study published in Eur J App Physiol. in 2012 by Vaamonde et al. found exercise was linked to a higher volume of sperm and motility.
Notably, endurance training and resistance training have been shown to have an acute rise in testosterone levels after exercise and provide the long term beneficial effect of reduced insulin resistance, which can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
5. Manage stress
Mild stress can be useful for tasks and cognitive performance, however, chronic high levels of stress can lead to health problems such as anxiety, depression, decreased immune system, lack of energy, weight issues, and high blood pressure.
Research has also suggested an inverse relationship between the stress hormone cortisol and testosterone level. A study by Brownlee et al (2005) found that pharmacologically increased levels of cortisol have a significant negative effect on circulating testosterone.
Another study in 2016 by Afrisham et al. found that physiological stress combined with differences in gender and personality traits could cause erratic changes in salivary testosterone levels. Make sure to find ways to lower stress through a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, hobbies, and avoid smoking.
1. Afrisham, R., Sadegh-Nejadi, S., SoliemaniFar, O., Kooti, W., Ashtary-Larky, D., Alamiri, F., Aberomand, M., Najjar-Asl, S., & Khaneh-Keshi, A. Salivary Testosterone Levels Under Psychological Stress and Its Relationship with Rumination and Five Personality Traits in Medical Students. Psychiatry Investig. 2016 Nov; 13(6): 637–643.
2. Brownlee, K., Moore, A.W. & Hackney, A.C. Relationship Between Circulating Cortisol and Testosterone: Influence of Physical Exercise. J Sports Sci Med. 2005 Mar; 4(1): 76–83.
3. Chang, C. S., Choi, J. B., Kim, H.J. & Park, S.B. Correlation Between Serum Testosterone Level and Concentrations of Copper and Zinc in Hair Tissue. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Dec;144(13):264-71.
4. Leproult, R. & Cauter, E.V. Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. JAMA. 2011 Jun 1; 305(21): 2173–2174.
5. Pilz, S., Frisch, S., Koertke, H., Kuhn, J., Dreier, J., Obermayer-Pietsch, B., Wehr, E. & Zittermann, A. Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Testosterone Levels in Men. Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5.
6. Prasad, A.S., Mantzoros, C. S., Beck, F.W., Hess, J.W., Brewer, G.J. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. May; 1996; 12(5): 344-348.
7. Vaamonde, D., Silva-Grigoletto, M.E., García-Manso, J.M., Barrera, N. & Vaamonde-Lemos, R. Physically Active Men Show Better Semen Parameters and Hormone Values Than Sedentary Men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2012 Sep;112(9):3267-73.