How to Naturally Support Testosterone
Testosterone is the primary male hormone, and it has a wide-ranging influence on men’s health and well-being. Not only is it important for sexual and reproductive health, it also affects your body composition, mood, energy, and more. Healthy testosterone levels are associated with physical strength and vigor, a healthy sex drive, and a sense of confidence. Lower testosterone is associated with muscle and bone loss, increased body fat, low mood and energy, and sexual dysfunction.
Testosterone levels tend to decline with age, with an average drop of about 1% per year after age 30. But health and lifestyle factors can also affect your testosterone levels. In fact, studies show that men’s testosterone levels have been steadily declining across multiple age groups for decades. While there’s no single cause for this shift, many health researchers draw a connection between declining testosterone levels and an overall decline in men’s health, including more sedentary lifestyles, excess body weight, increased stress and sleep issues, and nutritional challenges.
On the upside, research shows that a healthy lifestyle and the right nutrition can have a positive effect on testosterone levels. Here are 5 natural ways to support healthy testosterone:
Watch Your Weight
Excess body weight is strongly correlated with low testosterone levels in men. The influence appears to go in both directions, with body fat decreasing testosterone levels and low testosterone also increasing body fat, creating a vicious cycle.
How does body fat affect your hormones? First, excess abdominal fat increases production of aromatase, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Extra body fat also leads to insulin resistance, a metabolic condition in which chronically high blood sugar leads to chronically elevated insulin levels. And when insulin is high, it reduces levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that’s responsible for binding excess estrogen in the blood. The result is a decrease in free testosterone and a relative increase in estrogen.
The good news is that when you shed some of that extra fat, you can disrupt this cycle, and testosterone levels will increase. In one placebo-controlled study, overweight men in their 50s with low testosterone were able to increase their testosterone levels by almost 50% over one year while losing an average of 17 lbs through diet and exercise changes.
Physically active men have higher testosterone levels than sedentary men. Studies show that testosterone gets an immediate, temporary boost following exercise, so making exercise a regular habit can help stabilize your testosterone levels. While any exercise is better than none, strength training appears to have a bigger effect.1, One study found that men who did strength training 3 times a week for 4 weeks experienced a short-term testosterone boost post-workout as well as a long-term testosterone boost after the training period.
Just don’t overdo it – if you strain too hard, you’ll increase your cortisol levels, and this stress hormone has been shown to reduce levels of free testosterone in the blood.
Manage Your Stress
Stress is a notorious hormone disruptor. When your stress response is activated, your body goes into survival mode. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, take over, while sex hormones, such as testosterone, are suppressed. If you’re chronically stressed and your cortisol levels remain elevated, it can have a negative impact on testosterone production.
Ashwagandha has a well-established reputation for helping to reduce stress and balance cortisol levels. What you may not know is that this Ayurvedic herb also has a long history of traditional use for male sexual and reproductive health, which would suggest a positive effect on hormone balance in general. Research is beginning to back this up: a few clinical studies have shown that ashwagandha can help improve male fertility and sex hormone levels, including a boost in testosterone. In another clinical study, ashwagandha helped increase testosterone and DHEA-S (dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate) levels in aging, overweight males.
Get Some Zzzzs
Most testosterone release happens while you’re asleep. Testosterone levels are closely linked with your circadian rhythms, and reach their peak during your first phase of REM sleep. This means that if you aren’t getting your 7-9 hours of healthy sleep each night, your testosterone production will be disrupted. One study found that after a week of restricted sleep, healthy young men saw their testosterone levels drop by 10-15% – the equivalent of 10-15 years of aging.
There’s hope, though: another study on men with chronically restricted sleep found that their testosterone levels rose after just a few days of “catch-up sleep.” Make a point of getting a good night’s sleep as often as you can. If you have chronic sleep issues, you may want to try one of our sleep support supplements.
Support Your Nutrition
Nutritional deficiencies can also have an impact on testosterone. One of the most common nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies is vitamin D deficiency. Multiple studies have shown a strong association between vitamin D levels and testosterone levels in men. This is one reason why vitamin D is one of the most important supplements for men. In one year-long clinical trial, men with low testosterone who took vitamin D supplements increased their testosterone levels by 20%.
If you take vitamin D, you should also take magnesium. Magnesium is another common nutrient deficiency that’s often overlooked, and it can directly impact your vitamin D levels. Magnesium is needed to activate vitamin D in the body, so if your magnesium levels are low, taking vitamin D by itself may be ineffective. Magnesium levels have also been positively linked with testosterone levels.
Healthy Lifestyle, Happy Hormones
If you’re concerned about your testosterone levels, making some healthy lifestyle changes can give them a boost and help you feel better overall. If you’re experiencing serious symptoms such as chronic fatigue or sexual dysfunction, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor, who can check your testosterone levels or determine if there’s something else going on.
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