By Amanda Rode
Testosterone is a hormone that tends to get a bad rap. It’s often blamed for male aggression and violence. While it may be partially responsible for these negative things (when it’s in excessive amounts), it is also essential for many positive things such as muscle building, fat loss, positive moods, insulin regulation and energy for both sexes.
Testosterone is produced in the testes in males and ovaries in females. Both sexes need adequate production for optimal health. There is an epidemic right now of low testosterone levels due to inactivity, stress, certain medications, and poor diets. Low testosterone leaves you at higher risk for some cancers, diabetes, obesity, lower recovery from exercise, insomnia and depression/anxiety. Get your doctor to test your levels and in the meantime, it certainly can’t hurt to follow the rules listed here:
1. Get deep sleep:
Deep sleep allows for higher production of testosterone. Burning the candle at both ends will result in low levels of testosterone and myriad of other health issues like insulin resistance and obesity. Aim for 7-9 hours a night in a very dark, cool and quiet room.
2. Lift heavy things:
Strength training is one of the best ways to up your testosterone . And no this doesn’t mean lifting light, pink weights for 30 reps! Try to lift in the 5-10 rep range. If you can do more reps than that, crank up the weight. Keep rest periods to around 1min-3min according to the weight your using (heavier sets need longer rest periods). Stick to multi-joint moves (deadlifts, squats, rows, presses, pull-ups), which ignite testosterone production and limit isolation movements (leg extensions, bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, etc.), which do very little for testosterone and metabolism. However, avoid overtraining as excessive exercise will cause testosterone to plummet. Keep workouts short and intense (under 45min) and take a couple of full rest days per week with no more than 3 intense workouts per week.
3. Don’t run too much:
Besides lowering your immunity, damaging your heart and joints, excessive cardio will cause testosterone to drop . It will also chew up muscle tissue which will impair your metabolism even further. You are not a mouse on a wheel, so stop acting like it! A couple days a week of short, high intensity sprints along with long walks or hikes is all you need.
4. Eat fat, especially saturated fat:
Fear of fat is surprisingly still out there. The human body NEEDS saturated fat to produce hormones that includes testosterone. Coconut oil, palm oil and organic butter should be used liberally (not excessively) everyday. Plant oils (polyunsaturated fats) like canola, peanut, soy, corn and safflower should be eliminated as they are high in omega 6s, inflammatory, suppress the thyroid and not supportive of healthy testosterone levels. You can have small amounts of macadamia nuts (lowest omega 6 nut), red pam oil and olive oil as well but not more than saturated sources.
5. Eat enough protein:
Branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) are found in high amounts in animal foods such as whey, dairy and meat and help testosterone production especially when paired with resistance training . Go for grass fed, undenatured whey concentrate protein powders, organic or raw cheeses and organic, and grass fed meat. Do not eat excessive amounts though as very high protein and really low carbs can lower testosterone. Stay around 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight and eat enough healthy carbs like sweet potatoes and rice (especially on workout days).
6. Keep stress levels low:
Yet again stress is not your friend. Stress causes excessive cortisol (stress hormone) and impairs the adrenal glands, which affect sex hormone production . Chronic stress will cause low testosterone levels eventually. Learn ways to cope better such as yoga, meditation, therapy, calming music, etc. Drink chamomile, lemon balm, holy basil, and lavender tea to reduce stress hormones.
7. Don’t binge drink:
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to lower testosterone. Beer tends to be estrogenic, which competes with testosterone so keep it to a minimum. Small to moderate amounts of red wine however tends to support testosterone since it contains resveratrol.
8. Get enough zinc and magnesium:
Zinc is a mineral that is absolutely essential to manufacturing testosterone. Unfortunately, high stress, intense exercise and a diet high in grains (they have phytic acid that blocks zinc absorption) will deplete this mineral significantly. Make sure to eat high zinc foods like red meat and raw cheese and take a supplement of zinc picolinate. Only take 10-30mg a day though as zinc is toxic in high doses and will impair copper absorption. Magnesium helps testosterone production as well so make sure you eat magnesium rich foods like green vegetables, dark chocolate and nuts or take a magnesium citrate or glycinate supplement. Aim for 500-1500mg per day. Zinc and magnesium taken before bed can ensure a good nights sleep as well.
9. Make sure to get enough carbs
Low carb diets may show some short term benefits but long term can be disastrous for hormones and will cause rebound fat gain. Eat enough carbs every day and more around workouts. Carbs (including sugar) help reduce stress hormones after a workout and increase muscle synthesis. Balance all meals with carbs, protein and fat.
10. Get enough Vitamin D:
Inadequate Vitiman D levels have been shown to correlate with low testosterone . Make sure you get unprotected sun exposure for 15-20min per day and supplement with at least 1000IU-4000IU per day in the winter.
11. Stay away from soy:
Soy has estrogenic compounds that tend to suppress T levels. The worst offenders are highly concentrated soy isolate powders and flours used in many processed foods. Can you eat edamame or miso soup at the Sushi restaurant once and awhile? Sure, just make sure you aren’t eating soy everyday and aim for non-processed whole soy foods. Increase consumption of cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli and cauliflower, which help to remove excess estrogen from the body.
12. Eliminate wheat and gluten grains:
Wheat and other gluten containing grains besides causing inflammation, autoimmune diseases and digestive problems have also been found to impair testosterone levels. Eliminate all gluten in your diet and replace with amaranth, quinoa, rice or buckwheat.
13. Limit all medications/birth control pills:
Sometimes medication may be necessary but most of us pop pills far too easily at the slightest discomfort. Unfortunately, almost all medications we regularly ingest will negatively suppress T levels. Birth control pills, pain killers, anti-depressants, sleeping pills, anti-histamines, acid suppressants, etc. all wreak havoc on your liver and your testosterone levels. Eliminate or minimize as much as possible.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH
Kale and Bacon Stirfry
• 1 large bunch of kale leaves (organic) (washed and ripped into small pieces)
• 1 cup chopped onion (contains allicin which helps increase testosterone)
• 3 garlic cloves (contains allicin)
• 2 tablespoons bacon grease or 5-6 slices raw bacon (natural, sugar free)
• 2 tablespoons butter (organic)
1. Start a large skillet with butter and bacon grease (or the raw bacon, cut into small pieces).
2. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Saute for several minutes or until the onions have softened and the bacon has begun to cook.
3, Add the kale leaves.
4. Saute on medium heat, stirring occasionally, and making sure you turn over the leaves up from the bottom so that the top leaves also make contact with the hot skillet, as the whole pile cooks down. This also mixes in the bacon and onions.
5. Cook the kale until the leaves are softened to your liking.
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot become manifest, strength cannot be exerted, wealth is useless, and reason is powerless.” ~ Herophiles
Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor at Robin Mungall Fitness and Divine Health Studio.