Unfortunately, as men age, total and free testosterone decline. Worse yet, these declines have been associated with unwanted physical changes such as increased abdominal fat and decreased muscle mass.1-4 Low levels have also been associated with low libido, low energy, and depression.5
Fortunately, certain healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercise and proper diet, may actually increase testosterone naturally. At the very least these healthy choices may simply prevent declines. Conversely, certain poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking and heavy drinking, may actually significantly decrease testosterone.6
So, learn how to increase testosterone naturally and start doing more of the things that boost your testosterone, like weight lifting and aerobic exercise. It can only help you get healthier and may even increase your testosterone levels without medical interventions. Also, if you are currently on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), appropriate healthy lifestyle modifications may enhance TRT’s benefits. Testosterone replacement therapy likely will not provide the same beneficial effects if you engage in poor lifestyle choices that are detrimental to the therapy.
How to Increase Testosterone Naturally
Lifting Weights/Weight Training – Lifting weights can help increase testosterone naturally.7 It can also increase growth hormone. The magnitude of testosterone and growth hormone release is related to the size of muscle groups used, the intensity of exercise performed, and the length of rest between sets. Working out larger muscle groups at higher intensities with less rest between sets provides the greatest testosterone release.
Utilize big, basic exercises like the bench press, barbell row, military press, straight bar curl, close-grip press, squat, deadlift, and straight leg deadlift. Additionally, perform these exercises in the lower rep range with heavier weight (5-8 reps). Big, basic exercises that hit your largest muscles increase testosterone and growth hormone levels the most, so never skip out on leg workouts.
In addition to EMG’s Workout Routines, StrongLifts5x5 is a great source for high-intensity workouts that hit major muscles group in the low-rep range. These routines are built to increase testosterone. StrongLifts5x5 uses only five free weight exercises (the squat, bench press, deadlift, military press, and barbell row). You perform three exercises each week three times a week. For each exercise, you perform five sets of five reps.
- Getting Vigorous Aerobic Exercise – Vigorous aerobic training can also help increase testosterone naturally. Vigorous aerobic training should be kept under 30 minutes to minimize the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that effectively counters testosterone. The increase from aerobic training is not as great as that from weight training. Nonetheless, aerobic exercise typically burns more calories than resistance exercise.8,9
- Getting Proper Rest in Between Weight Training and Aerobic Exercise – As mentioned above, high intensity weight training and aerobic exercise can both increase testosterone production. While exercise will boost testosterone, it is essential to rest adequately between workouts. Excessive exercise can actually increase cortisol levels, the stress hormone that effectively counters testosterone. Therefore, too much exercise can actually decrease testosterone. Most men should take at least one day off in between high intensity workouts.
Getting Plenty of Quality Sleep – Sleep is one often overlooked component of how to increase testosterone naturally. Plenty of good, quality sleep helps maintain healthy testosterone production. Most daily testosterone release occurs during sleep,10 and nightly testosterone production relates to sleep quality and quantity.11,12 Anything that reduces the quality and duration of sleep, such as alcohol, caffeine, sleep apnea, or certain medications will decrease testosterone secretion.
In a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), testosterone levels were decreased by 10% to 15% in the sample of young healthy men who underwent one week of sleep restriction to five hours per night.13 This decline is equivalent to 10-15 years of aging.
Eating Healthy Foods, Especially Healthy Fats, as Part of a Well-Balanced Diet – Being overweight lowers testosterone.8,9 Therefore, it is important to manage your weight. Managing your weight means you have to manage your diet and eat healthy. To eat healthy, consume a well-balanced diet consisting of recommended amounts of macronutrients (~15-25% protein, ~50-65% carbohydrates, and ~20-25% fats). The typical American diet consists of far too much sugar and unhealthy fats.
The well balanced diet consists of a more sensible combination of necessary macronutrients. Each macronutrient serves essential roles within the body, so a well balanced diet must include all three. Consuming healthy fats in particular can increase testosterone naturally, so make sure to consume an appropriate amount of healthy fats.14
How NOT to Increase Testosterone Naturally:
- Being Overweight – Total testosterone in obese men are significantly lower than levels in their leaner counterparts.8,9 Specifically, as fat mass increases total testosterone decreases. Eat well, get aerobic exercise, and get resistance exercise regularly to keep off excess fat and to help increase testosterone naturally. For recommendations on eating well and getting aerobic and weight bearing exercise see the above sections on how to increase testosterone.
- Smoking – Men who smoke tend to have lower total testosterone than men who do not smoke.15-17 Not only that, testosterone declines more rapidly with age in cigarette smokers than in nonsmokers.18
- Heavy Drinking – Heavy drinking will not increase testosterone. In fact, heavy alcohol consumption causes low testosterone. Testosterone is largely produced (>95%) in the testes by Leydig cells. Alcohol is directly toxic to the testes, causing reduced testosterone in men. In a study of normal, healthy men who received alcohol for four weeks, testosterone declined after only five days and continued to fall throughout the study period. Prolonged testosterone deficiency from alcohol consumption may also contribute to the “feminization” of male sexual characteristics, for example breast enlargement. 19-21
- Anabolic Men: How to Increase Testosterone Naturally
- Peak Fitness: How to Increase Testosterone Naturally
Updated April 18, 2015
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