There are few subjects which are taboo among men. As species go we will pretty much discuss any topic in such great detail that even the visually impaired would be able to perceive it in bright HD. However when it comes to the delicate subject of the decline in our predominate hormone, we go all Victorian English. In fact this subject is so emotive that the title for this article only needs only one word, “Testosterone”.  Loss of strength and muscle mass, Impotence, Erectile Dysfunction, loss of sex drive and even the modern phenomenon of Andropause (the male menopause) is significantly linked to the production and function of the male hormone testosterone.

Biologically speaking as a hormone testosterone is very simple, its production is relatively straight forward and its functions are primal, promoting strength, skeletal muscle development and compelling us to fulfill our biological imperative at all costs. Compare this to the predominant hormone of the fairer species, “Estrogen”, a far more complex and multi factorial chemical. This can be seen by merely observing female psychology, and before I am harangued by feminists as a sexist chauvinistic lout, I simply mean “more complex”. This is an approximation that even the father of modern psychology agreed with as the great Freud went to his death bed questioning “what women want”. Testosterone governs our thoughts, actions, even the way we perceive the world around us. Its most noticeable manifestation is “Strength & muscle mass; a primary reason for its often unnatural supplementation.

However we should not have to resort to such measures and it is for this reason that the subject of maintaining a healthy Testosterone level resonates so profoundly among many men. In this article we are going to look at why our testosterone levels are declining and some simple, no-nonsense and well documented “natural” ways to elevate and maintain the chemical that defines our species.

Stress

It is said on average that we poses significantly lower testosterone than our grandparents as a consequence of being exposed to greater, more frequent multiple forms of stress.  The mechanism in which stress negatively affects testosterone levels is known as a “Pregnenolone steal”. For those of you interested in the scientific explanation of this process, see the end of this article.

Simply saying “you must control your stress” is an overused arbitrary statement, and is as useful as saying you must eat a balanced diet. There are a multitude of stress busting tips out there. However, some of the most relevant to elevating testosterone levels are quite simple, Intelligent weight training, correct nutrition, sleep and meditation.

 

Weight Training

 As well as being psychologically cathartic, weight training has a functional effect on testosterone. When done correctly, training will cause an increase in both testosterone and growth hormone levels. For health it is advisable to complete at least 2 total body weight training sessions per week of no longer than 1 hour. The aim of the sessions is to load the muscular system causing lactate to build resulting in positive hormonal and metabolic adaptations. One of the most popular training methods to utilise is commonly referred to as GBC (German Body Composition Training). In this form of training large compound exercises are paired with short rest periods to elicit the desired hormonal response.

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Sleep

Sleep should be thought upon in the same regard as nutrition and training when it comes to our health. It is an often a neglected aspect which has the capacity to influence our entire hormonal system. It is a subject which deserves an article in its own right. However in this abridged version the take home message is to simply to regard sleep as a vitally component to health and acknowledge its importance. To function optimally the body needs 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, Whilst this may seem somewhat elementary it is more often than not clients are suffering with some form of impaired performance as a result of insufficient sleep quality. Try to ensure your room is as dark as possible, keep mobile phones and laptops etc out of sight and try and hit the hay by 11pm.

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Meditation

 I am aware that this is a touchy subject for some and many people will dismiss this practice as a hippie ideology, embraced by counter cultures, celebrities and residents of LA, but meditation is simply one of the best stress-busting tips. Furthermore it has been shown to influence the production of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) from the adrenal glands, and also testosterone in men and progesterone in women. There is an abundance of literature out there on techniques and forms of meditation but essentially its efficacy lies in the simple fact that it facilitates some thing that is an elusive and rare commodity in modern life, “complete mental relaxation”.  For 5 – 10 minutes every night the mind can be emptied with sole focus residing only on the natural process of breathing, resulting in a profound sense of calm and the circulation of bioelectricity (Qi) around the body.

 

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Food & Testosterone

 Hippocrates said “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. When it comes to maintaining natural testosterone levels one of the best nutritional methods to adopt is the appropriately named “anabolic diet”. This diet is by health and fitness lethiathan Mauro Di Pasquale. The premise of the diet is to use macronutrient timing to utilise the production of the 3 most important hormones as far as muscular growth and fat loss are concerned (testosterone, growth hormone and insulin). The diet itself is extremely applicable to daily life and can hardly be described as Sisyphean. The diet is categorised as a high protein/high fat/low carbohydrate in the week with 1- 2 high carbohydrate days at the weekend. I am a big fan of this diet; it is not only one of the best diets for optimising testosterone production but also for gaining strength, muscle mass and fat loss. I believe the book has been renamed the Metabolic Diet due to the misconception and negative stigma attached to the word “Anabolic”.

The worst kind of diet for the aging man wishing to maintain his male prowess has to be the low fat/high carbohydrate diet. This type of diet creates and internal environment which could not be further from the optimum when the production of testosterone is concerned. Firstly, testosterone is a sex hormone derived from cholesterol (fat). We need fat in our diets; in fact cholesterol is so important that one of the liver’s main functions is to produce cholesterol if we do not get a high enough from dietary intake. Secondly, a high carbohydrate diet causes the blood sugar to fluctuate dramatically, resulting in the constant release of testosterone’s nemesis, the “stress” hormone Cortisol. In short, get steak back on the menu. Keep those carbohydrates low in the week and limit their consumption to the weekends. The increase in protein and fat consumption will adequately fuel your system, enhance your aesthetics, and increase performance in the weight room.

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 Supplementation

As with any emotive malady at the forefront of public consciousness, there are a host of commercial entities ready to exploit our instant gratification culture. Although the idea of a magic bullet is appealing, the reality is that the “natural testosterone” boosting supplements promoted such as Bulgarian Tribulus, Horny Goat Weed and other such products, simply do not yield enough to be considered effective. It is my firm belief that by observing the previous nutritional and lifestyle factors that a far greater impact can be made. This being said, there are a few supplements that are not classed as testosterone boosters that are beneficial as well. The supplements below are a mixture of vitamins, minerals, pro-hormones and adaptogenic herbs that deal with the lowering and balancing of the stress hormone cortisol, repairing of the gland in which it is produced (the adrenals) and other testosterone production mechanisms.

Top Supplements for Testosterone

Name

Function

Rating

Patethine (B5)

Patethonic acid (B5) is used as it is the base compound in the testosterone production cycle. It is vital for proper cholesterol production.

6/10

Liquorice Root

Liquorice root is used to lower the stress hormone cortisol and aid the repair of the adrenal glands.  

5/10

Holy Basil/Tulsi

Used to balance the hormonal system and restore natural hormonal rhythm.

5/10

Zinc

Known as the “male mineral”, zinc is a vital cofactor in multiple enzyme reactions all over the body.

10/10

D3

The sunshine vitamin D3 is one of the most important compounds in our bodies and has positive influence on the glands which produce testosterone.

 

10/10

BCAA’s

When used during exercise, BCCA’S are an anti-catabolic product, meaning they reduce the negative effects of weight training promoting an anabolic (growing state) within the body, also allowing for an increase in post work out testosterone.

8/10

As subjects go there are few that cut as close to the bone as this. Testosterone is in essence our defining quality and the thought of our own bodies emasculating us and inhibiting the very functions and qualities that make us male is not a pleasant reality, and if Viagra sales are anything to go by it is far more common than we would care to admit. In the confines of a short non-medical article, the information presented is genuine, authentic and effective. If you suspect you are suffering with low testosterone or any of the negative associated psychological factors, it is advised you seek professional medical assistance. There is no reason why our testosterone should significantly decline with age and by paying attention to simple nutritional and lifestyle factors, we are able to maintain levels and reap its many benefits, keeping us healthy, strong and virile.

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This is a slide taken from a lecture by Dr Brian Walsh and is one of the best explanations to this complex biological process that I have ever come across. In simplistic term’s, which is the only way which I can grasp it, Pregnenolone Steal is a process which lowers Testosterone by disrupting the production pathway. As mentioned in times of stress our body produces the “Fight or Flight” hormone” Cortisol, as the body only has a finite amount of Pregnenolone in times of actual or perceived danger, as is the case in modern man, the testosterone pathway, as shown on the right, is inhibited. This is essentially because our incredibly evolved bodies have optimised us for survival and as Testosterones role exists primarily for reproductive purposes producing Cortisol is far more pragmatic when it comes to escaping danger. As such in stead of Pregnenolone feeding the DHEA – Testosterone pathway it switches to the Progesterone – Cortisol pathway to supply us with the substrate needed to evade the imminent threat. However this is all well and good in times of infrequent stressors yet in our modern lives we are constantly bombarded with multiple sources of stress both physiological and psychological, and to our bodies “stress is stress” it cannot tell the difference between the plight of the imminent presentation to the board to that of a wild animal reared and ready to pounce.

Written by Embody Personal Trainer David Lewis