Science backed ways to increase testosterone levels naturally

Having increased testosterone levels for both men and women is so important. Unfortunately, these levels decline as you age, [*] but there are steps you can take to slow the process down, and maybe even reverse it. Here’s how to increase testosterone naturally. 

Table of Content

  • Why it is so important to increase testosterone levels
  • Exercise
  • Balance macros
  • Optimize micronutrient status with liver
  • Reduce stress
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Take away

Why it is so important to increase testosterone levels

Healthy levels are essential for so many physical and mental functions in the body. From general health and disease risk, to sexual well-being, muscle mass and strength. [*], [*], [*], [*], [*], [*] On top of that, testosterone acts as an antidepressant. [*]

Hence why testosterone replacement therapy is commonly used in the anti-aging scene to optimize hormone levels as you age. In bodybuilders, it is widely used to increase muscle size and strength. However, hormone replacement therapy can have downsides, and if you don’t like the idea of injections or slathering your body with hormones, natural strategies may be just as effective, according to science. Let’s explore all the proven options to increase testosterone naturally. 

1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to increase testosterone levels. Several studies found that people who exercised on a regular basis had higher testosterone levels. 

Exercise increased dihydrotestosterone with 14.5% in men who previously did not moved at all. [*]

A 2016 study with obese men found that more exercise was even more beneficial than weight-loss trough diet in raising testosterone levels. [*]

All types of exercise can be effective to optimize testosterone (i.e. high intensity interval training (HIIT) and endurance training). But resistance training undoubtedly stands out as the best way of exercising to boost serum levels, both in the short- and long-term. [*], [*], [*], [*], [*

Sport supplements also help. When you combine an intake of caffeine and creatine monohydrate with exercise, you can raise your levels even higher. [*], [*]

2. Balance macros

Physical activity has such a profound effect on testosterone that the effect of diet on testosterone must be considered in association with activity level. For example, research shows that carbohydrates can help optimize testosterone levels when you are doing resistance training. [*], [*] A high-protein diet is associated with slightly lower levels in sedentary people, [*] but when combined with strength training, it can increase testosterone levels.

Constant dieting, limiting certain macronutrients or eating too much can disrupt your testosterone levels. [*], [*], [*] Men and women on a protein restricted diet showed lower testosterone levels. [*]

A study compared a 40% fat diet to a 20% diet in athletes showed lower levels in the lower fat group. Vegetarian athletes also exhibited lower levels compared to omnivorous athletes. [*] In Loma Linda, one of the populations in the world where people live to a very old age, sperm counts were found to be lower as a result of their religiously vegetarian or vegan diet. [*]

The macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates and fat all showed a positive effect on serum levels. This makes a diet based on a healthy balance of fats, protein and carbohydrates the best for increasing testosterone. [*] Of course, these sources must come from whole food ingredients.

3. Optimize micronutrient status with liver

Just as important as macronutrients, are micronutrients to increase testosterone levels.

Studies done with vitamin A and iron, both of which are surprisingly highly bioavailable in liver, show that when combined they can act as an alternative to testosterone replacement therapy, as they play an essential role in testosterone production.

A study of young boys with delayed puberty showed a combination of vitamin A and iron supplements to be as effective as hormone therapy in inducing growth and testosterone.  In the study, the boys received 12 mg/day iron and 6000 IU/week of vitamin A. [*]

In a study on rats, a decrease in plasma testosterone was associated with vitamin A deficiency. [*]

A study comparing the food intake of male twins found a link between testosterone levels and vitamin A intake. [*]  

Zinc, folic acid and vitamin D also had a positive effect on testosterone levels. [*], [*], [*] One study found that zinc and folate increased sperm count by 74%. [*] Zinc supplementation also increases testosterone levels in athletes with a zinc deficiency. [*]

One of the most concentrated sources of folic acid is…. you guessed it – liver. [*] For zinc, it’s oysters and red meat. [*] Vitamin D is best obtained through sun exposure. If you get it from food, cod liver oil is your best bet. 1 tablespoon (13.6g) will provide you with roughly 1360 IU. [*]

Don’t like fresh liver? But you do like the benefits? Check this out!

4. Reduce stress

You may have heard before, when women are in fight-or-flight mode, their reproductive system shuts down. The same is true for men. Unnatural increases in cortisol from chronic exposure to stress can rapidly lower testosterone. Cortisol and testosterone interact: when one goes up, the other goes down. [*], [*]

Exercise and yoga are a great ways to reduce stress [*], [*], as is reducing caffeine intake [*], spending time with loved ones [*], [*] and practice mindfulness. [*] 

Chronic stress and lack of sleep often go hand in hand. It works like a visual circle. Sleep deprivation makes you more vulnerable to stress and leads to suboptimal cortisol levels. [*] Simultaneously, feeling stressed makes it harder to get good sleep. [*] Since both affect your testosterone, you are at double risk for lower levels. 

5. Get a good night’s sleep 

In addition to having a great effect on your stress hormone [*], [*], and thus an effect on your testosterone, quality sleep has important stand-alone benefits for optimal serum levels.

One study showed that it only takes one week of sleeping for 5 hours at night to reduce testosterone levels by 15%. [*] Men who slept between 4 and 6 hours and less than 4 hours had testosterone levels that were 14% and 35% lower than in men who routinely slept more than 8 hours. [*] 

Another study with old men found that four hours a night resulted in a borderline deficit. The same study showed that old men sleeping 7.5 hours reached mid-normal values typically found in healthy young adults. [*]

The general advice on sleep duration in adults is 7-9 hours and 7-8 hours for older adults [*], but when looking at studies on the effect of sleep on testosterone levels, 7.5+ hours routinely is recommended for optimal levels. 

Take away

Men and women can increase testosterone naturally through lifestyle interventions such as exercise, stress reduction and a good night’s sleep. As for diet, a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats is essential. Eating liver and oysters regularly, cod liver oil as a supplement, and adequate sunlight will likely protect you from micronutrient deficiencies associated with low testosterone. 

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