Testosterone is often considered the very essence of manliness: it’s brewed in your balls, puts hairs on your chest and drops a Barry White on your vocal chord around the age of 12.
Aside from symbolic virility, this male sex hormone has other bodily benefits. Not only is it proven to tackle depression, testosterone can also reduce body fat, increase muscle mass and keep your bones strong (in both your pants and your skeleton).
However, levels steadily decline at the rate of about 2 per cent each year from around the age of 30. Though this is unlikely to cause any problems, there are safe, proven ways of staying topped up.
Trim The Fat
To put it bluntly, lose weight. Hormone researchers at the Endocrine Society concluded that overweight men are likely to have less testosterone, which means less energy and increased susceptibility to depression.
Exercise is essential to any weight loss programme, but there’s also an added bonus to a workout: it’ll briefly up your T-levels. In the long run, shedding fat will reignite the body’s natural production of testosterone.
Research has shown that supplementing your diet with zinc for as little as six weeks can improve testosterone levels. According to the National Institutes of Health, 45 per cent of us aren’t getting enough of the stuff.
Protein-rich foods like meat and fish are packed full of zinc, along with raw cheese, beans and natural yoghurt.
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In addition to causing you to pile on the pounds, sugar can also wreak havoc on testosterone production. Regular intake of the sweet stuff can cause insulin to spike, which is a factor leading to low levels of testosterone.
To counteract the effect, simply limit your sugar intake – the overall health benefits far outweigh a quick dopamine hit from a soft drink.
From Strength To Length
Intense strength training (read: lifting weights) builds more than just muscle, according to the Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology.
Testosterone has been shown to rise during such workouts, especially when lifting heavy on compound movements that work multiple muscle groups, such as deadlifts, squats and bench pressing.
Upping The D
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone, which means it boosts your body on all fronts: sperm count, sperm strength, libido and, you guessed it, testosterone. Natural health expert Dr Joseph Mercola points to one study that showed overweight men on vitamin D supplements experienced a significant increase after just one year.
But how do we get more of it exactly? Well, a spot of sunshine is the best way. When the sun is at its highest point in the sky is the optimal window in which to bare some flesh (though make sure you protect yourself). Better get that holiday booked.
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Kicking back is easier said than done, but a reduction in stress will work wonders for your testosterone production. Cortisol (the stuff your body makes when steam blows out of your ears) actually blocks testosterone. Chronic stress has actually been shown to stop production altogether for a period, which means bad moods, fatigue and decreased libido.
Try regulating your work hours, taking up yoga, breathing exercises or even a session on the therapist’s couch to help unload the baggage. There’s absolutely no shame in counselling, even if you feel right as rain.
Fat Of The Land
Eat ‘good’ fats of the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated variety. Although they sound complicated, you can find a high dose in foods like olive oil, almonds, avocados and grass-fed meats.
Research in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry showed that a diet with less than 40 per cent of energy derived from healthy fats can have a negative impact on testosterone.
Drop Some Acid
We’re not talking about the Glastonbury kind. Leucine, a chemical that results in higher testosterone, belongs to a group called branch chain amino acids (BCAAs).
You can find high natural concentrations of leucine in quality cheeses, or simply opt for whey protein – a quicker way to surpass normal maintenance levels and top up testosterone. However, this can disrupt the body’s insulin function and glycemic control (spoiler alert: not good). Food-based leucine will benefit your muscles without the negative side effects.
Get Enough Sleep
You can eat and drink all the right things, but if you’re not getting enough shut-eye, you’ll be seriously affecting your testosterone levels. Men who got a full eight hours sleep had 60 per cent more testosterone than their sleep-deprived counterparts, according to the Journal of Andrology.
Make the most of your kip by keeping your bedroom cool and dark, keeping gadgets out of sight and setting your body clock by heading to bed and waking up at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends).
Cut Down On The Booze
We all know that alcohol consumption is bad for us – but it’s bad for the boys downstairs too. Not only does too much booze lower growth hormone levels and increase cortisol, it will reduce your testosterone levels for up to 24-hours, as any man who’s had a six pint-fuelled bout of erectile dysfunction will tell you.