In Why Boost Testosterone Levels Without Testosterone we discussed reasons why you might want to use testosterone boosters. Today we review those boosters. Some testosterone boosters are nutritional supplements and some are prescription medications. And, some are nothing more than lifestyle change. That’s right. Simply changing the way you eat, exercise, and sleep can improve your testosterone levels. Some studies have shown that the effects of testosterone replacement therapy improve two-fold when coupled with the proper diet and exercise program. That illustrates how powerful and important lifestyle is when it comes to testosterone and our general health.
Nutritional Strategies to Boost Testosterone
Much of what follows we have covered in many other articles on this site about nutrition. There are things you should eat and other foods you should avoid. First, here’s what to avoid. These foods either lower testosterone production, enhance its binding to proteins making testosterone unavailable, or interfere with the testosterone-cell receptor complex preventing testosterone from getting into the cell diminishing its effectiveness.
- any food in a box
- any food in the middle of grocery store (shop the perimeter only)
- packaged meat
- high fructose corn syrup and all forms of refined sugar
- soda and energy drinks
- trans fats
- soy products
- wheat products
- anything deep-fried
- fast food
- minimize use of condiments
For the most part this is a long way of saying do not eat anything in a bag, box, can, or jar which is another way of saying do not eat anything that was not available to our Paleo ancestors.
- animal protein sources including fresh or water-packed fish, wild game, lamb, duck, organic turkey and chicken, learn organic meat, oysters, and farm fresh eggs.
- nuts and seeds including almond, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, sesame seeds. pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
almond butter only – no other nut butters.
- fruits – whole preferable, but water packed or frozen.
- almond butter only – no other nut butters.
- fruits – whole preferable, but water packed or frozen acceptable
- vegetables that are raw, steamed, sautéed, or roasted
- non-gluten grains and starches (quinoa, brown rice, millet, amaranth, potato flour
- oils – olive, flax, safflower, sesame, almond, coconut, walnut, and pumpkin
- fluids including mineral and seltzer water, distilled or filtered water, teas, and milk from glass containers only (plastic bottles contain hormone disruptors)
- condiments/seasoning – vinegar, salt, pepper, basil, cur cumin, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, and turmeric.
This a winded way of saying if it flies in the air, swims in the water, grows from a tree or plant, falls on the ground, runs across the ground it is okay to eat which is another way of saying anything that is natural and not man-made.
Exercise as a Testosterone Booster
Again we have discussed the effects of exercise on testosterone and other hormones in many other articles but here is the bottom line. You can boost your testosterone by doing high intensity interval training and strength training. Prolonged sub-maximal exercise as you do with typical aerobic or cardiovascular exercise can actually lower testosterone levels lasting several days. Over training also lowers testosterone. Be sure to get adequate rest between workouts. If you see diminishing returns on your workouts you are probably over training
Oh yeah, don’t ignore maybe the best exercise booster of testosterone – sex. Studies show that testosterone levels increase on the nights after sex.
A lack of sleep is linked to many chronic diseases. Much of the our hormone production including testosterone and growth hormone is linked to our wake-sleep cycle. Six to eight hours of restful and uninterrupted sleep is essential. A sleep disorder that becomes more common in men as they age is sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea alone can correct low T in some men. See our article Sleep and Increased Longevity for tips on how to improve your sleep.
*In Why Boost Testosterone Levels Without Testosterone we mentioned the testosterone levels can fluctuate from day-to-day. This is now much easier to understand when you understand the effects that exercise, diet, and sleep can have on testosterone production.
Let’s move on to nutritional supplements and prescription medications (outside of testosterone) to boost testosterone.
Nutritional Supplements Used as Testosterone Boosters
Many supplements are touted to boost testosterone but the evidence is only strong for a few.
- zinc: zinc is an important co-factor in the production of testosterone and has been shown to improve testosterone in men deficient as well as improve sperm counts in several studies. It is naturally found in red meat, lamb, oysters, and almonds. 15 mg is the minimum dose. Higher doses up 100 mg a day can help block the conversion of testosterone to estradiol thereby increasing testosterone levels even further.
- saw palmetto: saw palmetto is an herb and used frequently to treat BPH or benign prostatic hypertrophy. It shrinks the prostate by blocking the conversion of testosterone to DHT or dihydrotestosterone thereby theoretically increasing testosterone levels. Typical dose is 160 mg twice a day.
- magnesium: magnesium is a mineral an important nutrient in many physiologic processes including testosterone production. It is naturally found in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Recommended dose is 400 mg to 800 mg a day.
- DIM and I3C: DIM and I3C are compounds found in the cruciferous family (think broccoli) that alter the metabolism of estrogen limiting its breakdown into the healthy cancer causing 16 alpha hydroxyestrone. It also displaces testosterone from one of its carrier proteins SHBG or sex-hormone binding globulin which leads to an increase in the free testosterone – the testosterone that can actually enter the cells.
Prescription Medications to Boost Testosterone
- progesterone: though we think of progesterone as a female hormone, men make a small amount of it too. It helps prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT and estradiol making more free testosterone available. Recommend dose is 5 mg to 10 mg a day.
- clomiphene: clomiphene (Clomid) is a fertility drug used in both men and women. It increases LH and FSH levels. LH (luteinizing hormone) in men stimulates the testes to make testosterone. Testosterone levels can increase two to three fold in men. It works better in men under 40 and not very helpful in men over 60. Usual dose is 50 to 100 mg a day.
- HCG: HCG or human chorionicgonadotropin is a hormone produce by the placenta during pregnancy that maintains the corpus luteum. It has functions similar to LH in men and stimulates the testes to make testosterone. Like Clomid it is more effective the younger the male. There several dosing regimens where smaller doses are injected daily to larger doses being injected twice a week. Weekly therapeutic doses begin at 1,500 units and up to 5,000 units or higher. It can be expensive and it is an injection and needs to refrigerated – so those are some downsides.
*The reason clomiphene and HCG are more effective in younger men is that as men age the number of Leydig cells which produce testosterone decline. At some point there are not enough Leydig cells for clomiphene or HCG to stimulate to produce a meaningful amount of testosterone. Most men pass the critcial threshold somewhere in their 50s though I have seen a small number of men respond to HCG in the early 60s.
There are numerous testosterone boosters. Start with lifestyle changes first. You’ll be surprised how much changing your diet and exercise regimen can have on your testosterone levels.