Whether you are aiming to increase your level of human performance in the realms of fighting, fucking, or fitness for any aspect of life; sooner or later; you are going to want to look into testosterone.

While it is commonly known as the “male sex hormone”, testosterone is found in humans of most types. Affecting most people across the board similarly, testosterone plays a pivotal role in many physiological, psychological, and sociological functions.

The scope of this post will mostly focus on lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise factors that contribute to maintaining naturally abundant levels of testosterone. In addition to increasing our levels of testosterone we also want to consider decreaseing factors that compete with testosterone; namely, estrogen and cortisol.

There are many interrelated factors that play a role in our hormone balances and overall health and human performance and before you go running to your doctor for a magic pill or talk to that really jacked dude at the gym for a jab out in the parking lot; perhaps you could first assess your situation and figure out the root of the problem.

It is perhaps best to start with the most easily addressed aspects before navigating more complicated waters.

Testosterone & Sleep

According to the journal, Sleep Medicine Reviews, we get our biggest shot of naturally produced testosterone during sleep, and more specifically in the rapid eye movement phases of our sleep cycle.
Rapid eye movement or “REM sleep”, occurs approximately every 90 minutes or so during the duration of our sleep cycle and is classified as the deepest phase of our sleep
Our first REM phase is the most latent in testosterone and then we get a diminishing return for every subsequent one there after.

Most people require around 8 hours of solid uninterrupted sleep every 24 hours.

This would, in effect yield, 5 very decent doses of testosterone every night.
(Carskadon & Dement, 2011).

Testosterone & Alcohol

It fucks with your sleep, and in addition to that, regular consumption of the stuff has been shown to reduce testosterone levels by nearly 7%. (Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research)

That might not seem like a lot but it is actually very significant and when it comes to competing with other animals over life and death and for position and resources you really can’t afford to give them an inch!

In addition to this consuming alcohol and unnecessary calories makes you fat which takes me to my next point…

Testosterone & Body Composition

According to the The Journal of Urology, age related decrease in testosterone are significantly exacerbated in obese men.

To put things a bit more in perspective about how low testosterone in this instance can affect you: this not only dramatically increases you chances of developing type 2 diabetes but perhaps even more alarming it could destroy your chances of ever having a reliable boner.

Your boner for Christ’s sake!

This isn’t just news for old men who are classified as obese. The Journal of Reproductive Systems also looked into this correlation and found that, whether you are 20 years old or 60 years old, as your body mass index and insulin resistance increase – your total testosterone and sex hormone-binding-globulin levels proportionally decrease.

Insulin resistance has been shown to reduce Leydig Cell (found near your balls) production of testosterone. (Pitteloud et al)

So what can you do if you are overweight?

Don’t bother with the cardio!

You are most likely fat or getting fat because you constantly consume more calories than you use. I don’t care what you are eating, losing weight simply comes down to maintaining a calorie deficit. Just eat less of what you are currently eating before you try anything too foreign to what you are accustomed to.

One method of calorie restriction that is getting a lot of press these days is intermittent fasting (IF).

In addition to having a plethora of really amazing benefits; The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry has shown that IF results in changes in levels of several circulating factors including decreased levels of insulin, leptin and cholesterol, and increased levels of testosterone.

As you increase your levels of lean body mass (more on that later) and decrease your overall body fat percentage – your levels of testosterone will begin to rise. (Journal of Endocrinological Investigation)

Now that we are getting our body composition a bit more under control, perhaps now might be a good time to discuss some more specific factors in relation to nutrition…

Testosterone & Nutrition
Unfortunately, nutrition isn’t just about calories, and for us to get the most out of these high performance bodies – we’ve got to use the correct types of fuel.

Ideally you are getting everything you need from actual food sources that most closely resemble a source that was once found in nature. The more processed or foreign your food is to what any other animal might be consuming, chances are good that it will be lacking in nutrition or bio-availability.

As far as Testosterone goes, here are some different nutrients you might want to consider in relation to your diet. We might as well start at the top of the list…

Vitamin A
According to the journal Reproduction; Vitamin A (retinol) or more specifically the acid form of it, retinoic acid, is highly involved in testicular function and seems to have an effect on many testicular cells including Leydig cells.

Leydig cells produce testosterone and those who are deficient in Vitamin A are shown to have lower levels in the secretion of testosterone and their testicals can even show signs of shrinkage.

Make sure you are actually low in Vitamin A (or anything really) before supplementing it! Too much Vitamin A leads testicular lesions and spermatogenetic disorders; ie: your balls will have sores on them and you won’t produce any soldiers.

Once you’ve got a bit of the Acid of A in you it’s only a matter of time before you move on to wanting to get a bit of that D…

Vitamin D
According to Adebamowo et al, Vitamin D positively interacts with testosterone’s actions in several organ systems. What they also found is that depending on the source of Vitamin D, namely unnaturally derived supplements, you might get different outcomes across the board.

According to Pilz et al supplementing Vitamin D might increase testosterone levels. This could either be due to the fact that your vitamin D supplement might be in ineffective and shit (see above) or you already have sufficient amounts of vitamin D in your systems and adding any more will have no effect on testosterone.

So what is the best way to get a bit of D in your life?

Get naked and walk around in the sun, obviously!

Our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D in a process that takes place in our skin that converts cholesterol into Vitamin D in the presence of sunlight.
This takes us to our next nutrient…

Cholesterol
Cholesterol is super important for many physiological processes, it is not only used to make vitamin D, it is also a major building block for many hormones including Testosterone.
According to this biochemistry text book: “Cholesterol is the precursor of the five major classes of steroid hormones: progestagens, glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, androgens (testosterone is one of these), and estrogens….Testosterone, through its actions in the brain, is paramount in the development of male sexual behavior. It is also important for maintenance of the testes and development of muscle mass.”

Egg yolks are a great source of “good” HDL cholesterol.

Moving on, perhaps it’s a good time to start talking about minerals…

Zinc
It has been reported by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition that for many years we have known there is a strong relationship between Zinc and testosterone production. Those who exhibit low levels of dietary zinc are also likely to exhibit signs of hypogonadism (small balls) and growth slowing.

It is said that the ancient greeks ate sheep testicles to increase athletic performance and while testicles are large producers of testosterone they aren’t brimming with it and the testosterone enhancement actually comes due to the fact that they are a good source of zinc.

Magnesium
The International Journal of Endocrinology reports that there is evidence that suggest magnesium exerts a positive influence on anabolic hormonal status, including Testosterone, in men, making it more biologically available.

Dietary sources of magnesium include green vegetables and whole grains, something that the over processed common western diet is usually found to be lacking.

The function of anabolic hormones, where testosterone plays a key role, is mediated by mineral status (magnesium), along with caloric and protein intake which takes us to our next point…

Protein
According to the journal Metabolism: Clinical & Experimental, diets that are low in protein and high in carbohydrates result in significantly lower amount of free flowing testosterone.

Endocrinology has come out with similar findings stating that undernutrition; ie: low protein diets; is associated with hypoandrogenism and low testicular output of testosterone.

Clinical Nutrition states: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein, as promulgated by the Food and Nutrition Board of the United States National Academy of Science, is MINIMUM 0.8 g protein/kg body weight/day for adults, regardless of age.

The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reports that individuals who are undergoing caloric restriction while simultaneously partaking in resistance training (both things that you should be doing if you are trying to increase your testosterone levels) have daily protein needs of up to 2.3–3.1g/kg of body weight and the more jacked and shredded you get the higher on the scale you need to fall. That’s ~1.41 grams of protein per pound of body weight for all you yanks…

Fats
The Journal of Applied Physiology reports that several scientific investigations have determined that dietary fat has a huge effect on resting testosterone levels.

Individuals who are consuming a diet of ~20% fats compared to those whose diets contain ~40% fats demonstrate much lower levels of testosterone. In addition to that, not all fats are created equal. People who tend to consume low amounts of saturated fats and demonstrate a high ratio of polyunsaturated fats to saturated fats in their diets also tend to have lower levels of testosterone. This is often observed when comparing a vegetarian diet with an omnivorous one.

When it comes to dietary intake of fats: monounsaturated fat (g ⋅ 1,000 kcal−1 ⋅ day−1) and saturated fat (g ⋅ 1,000 kcal−1 ⋅ day−1) were the strongest predictors of relatively higher resting levels of testosterone.
The take home message from all of this stuff on nutrition is that not all diets and sources of nutrients are created equal. It is best to get your nutrition from whole foods rather than supplements. Over supplementing these various inputs may have no effect on testosterone levels, if your diet is already sufficient, and may actually have adverse effects on your overall health and wellness.

Perhaps the best way to determine if you diet is sufficient is to talk to your doctor about some diagnostic blood testing if you unsure.

Now that we are hopefully eating well and sleeping well we can pull ourselves out of the gutter of demasculinization to a normal baseline level of testosterone and begin to climb the great peaks of human performance.

As a foremost scientist of human movement, the first thing I would recommend; beyond addressing your basic needs in preparation for the journey of life; is to get your fitness in order.

Naturally, we will begin looking at this idea of fitness in the physical sense, but as we will also see: you must also have your mind and spirit just as strong and just as sharp as the body in which they are contained.
Depending on your goals; physical fitness programs can take many shapes and forms. Here, of course, we will be looking into what activities are involved in boosting our testosterone levels far beyond the levels of normalcy and into the next realm of existence.

Testosterone and Exercise

Resistance Training
The previous study on dietary fats not only showed the importance of saturated and monounsaturated fats on resting testosterone levels but also reported that resistance training has a significant effect on post-exercise levels of testosterone.

  • Twelve men performed two exercises
    • Bench Press
      • 5 sets to failure using a 10 repetition maximum load
    • Jump Squat
      • 5 sets of 10 reps using 30% of their 1 rep maximum squat load
    • Blood samples were taken 5 minutes after exercise and showed that post exercise levels of testosterone compare to pre levels were significantly higher with an increase of 7.4% and 15.1% for the benchpress and jump squat respectively.

The Exercise Physiology Division of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine did a study on the endocrinological effects of resistance training.

They found that three factors may have an effect of serum testosterone levels following a short session of resistance exercise. These factors are:

  • Intensity of Exercise
    • Percentage of 1 rep max
  • Volume of Exercise
    • Mass x Reps x Sets
  • Number of Muscle Fibers Recruited For Exercise
    • Huge movements that require many muscles vs concentrated movements on one muscle

Performing a deadlift exercise with a high intensity (5 rep max) and low volume (one exercise and 5 sets) had been shown to increase post exercise testosterone levels regardless of the subjects skill level.

In addition to this; using a moderate intensity (80% 1 rep max) and a moderate volume (3 sets of 4 exercises) also resulted in an increased post exercise level of testosterone.

Several studies have shown that consistently performing and sticking to exercise protocols, as mentioned above, will eventually increase resting testosterone levels after 16-24 weeks. And guess what? If you let your ass go for 12 weeks, your testosterone will fall…

Running
Sprinting has been shown to increase testosterone levels (crewther et al 2014) with varying effects on subjects levels of training while long distance running has been shown to lower testosterone levels. (Kuoppalsalmi et al 1979, Wheeler et al 1984)

What we can gather from the exercise section is that higher intensity exercise is the name of the game when it comes to testosterone.

As we can see from all of the information presented here; many different interrelated factors of lifestyle, diet, and exercise all contribute to maintaining optimal levels of testosterone.

As we increase our levels of testosterone we will in turn have a greater capacity to tap into many of the psychophysiological mechanisms that can additionally aid us in acquiring more socially dominant positions that will in turn increase our levels of testosterone. More on this later…

If you have enjoyed this article please share it around.

If you would like some coaching on managing your hormone levels in relation to health and human performance through various factors such as lifestyle, diet, and exercise; please get in touch!

Mark Vorkoeper

Perth, Western Australia