As we age, various aspects of the human body start to slow down. Testosterone, an androgenic hormone, is a perfect example of this, as it naturally starts to decrease with age. Unfortunately, low testosterone levels in men can have both physical and emotional implications. Whilst the average male loses roughly 1% of their testosterone levels per year after the age of thirty, there are natural ways you can bring up your count, including changes to both diet and lifestyle.
What is testosterone?
Essentially, testosterone is a steroid hormone that is central to reproductive and sexual development in males. Females produce the hormone too, albeit at much smaller levels. Testosterone production begins in the brain: the hypothalamus (the body’s hormonal hub) controls the volume of testosterone levels by relaying the message to the testes via the pituitary gland. Additionally, testosterone is produced in the adrenal glands, although this is only accounts for around 5% of the total testosterone in the body.
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones where it comes to health and vitality, and remains so throughout our lives. It aids in the development of crucial bodily factors such as bone density and muscle mass when we go through puberty, for instance. However, as we reach the age of 30, our testosterone levels gradually decline, causing a negative impact upon these factors – including skin health, and hair production. Associated muscle loss, decreased bone density, and weight gain (all symptoms of low testosterone) may consequently trigger an increased risk of injury, as well as of certain diseases, such as osteoporosis.
There are a number of ways to boost your testosterone including Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). However, quite often, a simple lifestyle or natural dietary change can help the body manage these declining testosterone levels, and potentially address some of the problems associated with it.
Recent studies suggest that a deficiency of this mineral can cause a decrease in baseline testosterone levels. However, it must be understood that, in this instance, the more zinc you consume does not equate to more testosterone above and beyond certain levels (of which are very individual). In fact, in large doses, zinc can actually inhibit the body’s ability to absorb other minerals and vitamins, such as copper. However, by combining zinc with vitamin B6 and magnesium – two vitamins that can aid in zinc absorption— in the right doses, the body can start to convert free cholesterol (a building block in the production of testosterone) into testosterone more effectively. The testes do this job through what’s known as the ‘luteinizing hormone’ (LH), which triggers the testicular leydig cells into converting cholesterol into testosterone.
This is an essential vitamin that can influence testosterone levels: studies show that men with a lower vitamin D intake than others have, no matter how small, lower testosterone levels. In fact, the testes actually have vitamin D receptors, suggesting that the vitamin may have a role in the production of testosterone. Much like with zinc, it is only a deficiency in this vitamin that can cause a decrease in natural testosterone levels. So in order to ’boost’ testosterone back to baseline levels, an adequate amount of UV light from sun exposure, or simple supplementation, can help to achieve optimal levels.
DHEA is a naturally formed hormone, just like testosterone, in the adrenal glands. However, like with supplementation of zinc and vitamin D, it can have markable effects on natural testosterone levels: it can actually convert to testosterone itself (DHEA converts to both testosterone and oestrogen). On top of this, supplementation of DHEA has been shown to reduce the general effects of ageing, which again are associated with a decrease in testosterone. However, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to support this claim.
A simple lifestyle change you can make is to review your daily, or weekly alcohol intake. Alcohol has quite a number of factors that can impact your testosterone levels, although these are mostly associated with alcoholism. One key point to remember, however, is that the relaxation feeling you achieve from drinking alcohol is caused by the release of certain endorphins your brain. It is these endorphins which can have a negative impact on testosterone production. Additionally, hops, the main flavouring and stability agent in beer, has been found to contain a very potent phytoestrogen. Therefore, upon consuming large quantities, the body will convert the hops into oestrogen, which can cause the testosterone levels to drop, and potentially cause testicular atrophy (the hardening of the testicles due to oestrogen dominance). Of course, these are all extreme cases, and are mainly the results of excessive drinking. Nevertheless, the effects of alcohol consumption remain abundantly clear.
A not-so-common herb, originally from South Africa, bulbine natalenis is being looked at right now for its influence on testosterone levels. Although most studies on this herb have been conducted using rodents, they have all found large increases in circulating testosterone. In fact, the studies showed a marked increase in two testosterone-inducing hormones: the luteinizing, and follicle-stimulating hormones. However, it must be said that a toxicological bell curve exists with this herb, and supplementation should be carefully thought out, and at the very least cycled, before taking. The best course of action would be to consult with your doctor or nutritionist before using this supplement.
Exercise is perhaps the easiest, and most effective natural way of boosting low testosterone levels. With advances in science and fitness, there is now evidence to suggest that high-intensity exercise, combined with intermittent fasting, may boost testosterone by increasing certain satiety hormones: insulin and leptin are known to aid in testosterone production, increase libido, and manage age-related testosterone decline.
This type of exercise and eating habit will also induce weight loss much more rapidly than any moderate or low-intensity exercise will, due to an increase in metabolic rate and rapid heart rate. Obesity is a well-known precursor to low testosterone levels, and there is some evidence to suggest that age-related testosterone decline is actually due to obesity and a high BMI, rather than age. What is clear, however, is that exercise should become an essential lifestyle requirement if you wish to boost testosterone naturally.