Mention testosterone and most people think of aggressive men, bodybuilders and steroid abuse. Phrases such as "Too much testosterone." have painted the humble hormone in a bad light for decades.
However, having too much testosterone is often not the problem, especially for men in their forties and fifties. The far more serious issue is having too little testosterone.
Testosterone, a steroidal hormone made in the testicles, essentially makes men...well, men. It's responsible for a host of vital functions including, but not limited to:
Red blood cell development
Maintaining healthy testosterone levels, therefore, is crucial for optimum health. And therein lies the problem because testosterone levels naturally decline as you move beyond your thirtieth birthday. Each year, you lose around 1% of your testosterone production, and that's assuming you're living the good life.
If you factor in several other lifestyle habits and traits that tend to develop as we get older, things only get worse:
Excess weight and body fat
Lack of exercise
Poor sleep quality
High stress levels
Low intake of healthy fats
High alcohol consumption
All of the above can cause testosterone levels to drop more rapidly and, along with it, can increase the chances of various health issues, such as:
Low sex drive / Sexual dysfunction
Muscle loss / Harder to gain muscle
Increased fat storage
Poor sleep / Increased sleep apnea
Worsening of Congestive Heart Failure
If you consider how many medications and supplements have been developed over the last few decades to tackle precisely these issues; Viagra for sexual dysfunction, anti-depression drugs, various sleeping pills, plus about a million supplements for losing fat and gaining muscle, you'll realise just how serious the problem of low testosterone has become.
Tired, depressed and demotivated men with expanding waistlines, low self-esteem and even lower sex drive are forking over billions every year as the low testosterone industry now rivals the low fat industry for annual revenue.
Fortunately, as a middle-aged man, you're not doomed to forever rely on the pharmaceutical industry because there are ways you can optimise your testosterone levels naturally.
1. Maintain a healthy weight and body fat levels by eating the right amount of calories.
Excess body fat is one of the major causes of low testosterone production. Like most things with the human body, the relationship between testosterone levels and fat accumulation can develop into a vicious downward spiral.
Because testosterone helps to regulate body fat, a reduction in testosterone production as you get older means it becomes harder to shift fat, especially around the belly. This problem is then further compounded because excess body fat will reduce testosterone production even more.
So it's vital to control your calorie intake and ensure that you are giving yourself the very best chance of keeping your weight and body fat and optimum levels. Body fat levels of between 10%-18% are ideal for men and will keep your testosterone production at an optimum.
2. Eat healthy proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
As well as managing your calorie intake, it's also crucial to consume plenty of good quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and avoid refined and processed foods as much as possible.
Amongst many other things, protein provides the building blocks for muscle development, so eating adequate amounts of protein when reduced testosterone levels are making it harder to maintain and gain muscle is a must.
Healthy fats are essential for a host of functions. For a start, fat is the source material for testosterone; without fat, there is no testosterone. Low testosterone is associated with many mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, mood balance and a declining sex drive, and because fats, along with proteins, provide the raw materials for our nervous system, consuming healthy fats and oils gives your body the best chance to avoid those outcomes.
Carbohydrates provide the body with a steady flow of energy. As we get older and fatigue becomes more prevalent, and if we are not eating enough good quality carbs, we often end up relying on adrenaline and our stress responses to get us through the day, which is a problem because the more stress the body has to cope with, the less testosterone it can produce, causing levels to drop even lower.
3. Manage Stress Levels
When we are stressed, the body responds by producing a hormone called cortisol. The source material for cortisol is another hormone called pregnenolone. The body uses pregnenolone to make both our stress hormones, like cortisol, and our sex hormones, like testosterone, and as we have a limited amount of pregnenolone, it becomes a tug of war, where making more cortisol means making less testosterone. Therefore, managing stress levels and having effective stress management techniques is vital if you want to keep testosterone production at a maximum.
4. Regular Strength Training
Strength training helps to build muscle, which, in turn, helps to reduce fat by keeping your metabolism burning more calories, a real double whammy when it comes to testosterone production, especially when coupled with healthy eating, managing calories and getting a good amount of protein each day. Numerous studies have also shown that strength training can reduce overall stress levels, aid sleep, alleviate depression and other mood disorders and improve self-esteem. Performing a well-designed strength workout two or three times per week provides incredible benefits, both physical and mental, in the fight against diminishing testosterone levels.
5. Get Good Quality Sleep, And Lots Of It
Sleep quality affects almost everything related to testosterone production, from muscle growth and fat loss, stress levels and emotional balance, tissue repair and inflammation, nervous system function and, of course, hormone regulation. The simple fact is that the more good quality sleep you get, the better everything works and the more you can minimise the drop off in testosterone production.