Testosterone is one of many important chemical messengers in the body, particularly for men. For men, testosterone is synthesized in the testes and adrenal glands and declines after the age of 30.
Canadian prevalence of testosterone deficiency is estimated to be approximately 25% among men aged 40-62 years old and 28-49% in men over the age of 70. Although testosterone is found in both males and females, low testosterone is more detrimental to men’s health as it’s an androgen hormone (which is widely referred to as a male hormone because of its role in male reproduction).
With that being said, low testosterone and its health effects are not exclusive to men’s health. Low testosterone in both men and women can be attributed to disrupted sleep patterns, low libido, shortened telomere length (which affects age expectancy and cellular health) poor body composition, and overall energy levels. Testosterone also protects mitochondrial function.
Let’s look at some lifestyle habits that can positively affect testosterone levels.
Resistance training is beneficial for several reasons. Not only is resistance training available to everyone (think push-ups and body squats), but it’s a highly effective way of upregulating androgen receptors. The physiological effects of testosterone are controlled through the interaction of testosterone with the intracellular androgen receptor.
Resistance training that emphasizes the lower body along with repetitions (reaching muscle failure during a workout set) is beneficial in up regulating (an increase in the density of cell receptors) androgen receptors, raising serum testosterone, free testosterone, cortisol and growth hormone.
Resistance training has other health benefits, including improving aspects of blood sugar regulation and body composition (which are associated with lower testosterone levels). Higher body fat contributes to higher aromatase activity (aromatase is the enzyme responsible for the biosynthesis of estrogens) while insulin resistance diverts resource used to secrete testosterone thereby lowering it.
Nutrition habits vary from person to person, but when it comes to testosterone optimization, there are a handful of effective tips that apply to everyone. Generally, a diet that emphasizes healthy fats (aim for 30-40% of total calories from fat) and foods with high micronutrient value (think greens) are helpful with supporting testosterone production.
Specifically, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are known to have aromatase inhibiting effects. That means they help the body regulate estrogen by preventing increases in estrogen and in some cases, making estrogen into less potent forms. This is mainly due to the compounds found in the brassica family known as indole-3-carbinol and diindolymethane.
Quick Fact: Indole-3-carbinol and diindolymethane are both known to modulate the expression of enzymes involved in eliminating endogenous compounds like estrogen.
Including a variety of fat sources are needed to synthesize hormones. Saturated fat and cholesterol have received a bad reputation in the last 20 years, but in moderation, they serve as precursors to sex hormones. Dietary fat is also capable of increasing nutrient absorption while containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that fight free radical damage (something that is known to lower testosterone).
Recovery, Sleep and Stress Management
It’s been well studied that stress levels affect testosterone production. This is mainly due to the elevation in our stress hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol can be beneficial when needed as it mediates our stress response, but when chronically elevated, it alters hormone synthesis between cortisol and the androgens (particularly testosterone and androstenedione).
Breathwork and meditation can be a great practice to implement daily (maybe in the post-workout window) and can be beneficial as training and exercise are known to elevate cortisol.
When it comes to sleep, there’s not much a good night’s sleep can’t do including supporting healthy testosterone levels. Studies have shown that impaired and poor quality sleep can contribute to suboptimal body composition, overall mood, and hormone production. Aiming for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is the sweet spot in many studies that have looked at sleep and testosterone secretion.
It’s worth noting that supplements aimed at raising testosterone levels will best serve deficient individuals.
Here’s a list of supplements worth adding to your personalized testosterone protocol.
Zinc: As an essential dietary mineral involved in various aspects of cellular metabolism, zinc supports insulin sensitivity, immune function, and is shown to be lower in individuals with low testosterone levels.
Vitamin D: Immune function, bone health, and mood-related issues are all linked to Vitamin D levels in the body. From a testosterone perspective, lowered T levels are associated with low Vitamin D status. Vitamin D is obtained through sunlight exposure, but the frequency of exposure, weather, and climate all affect how much Vitamin D the body produces. That’s why a Vitamin D supplement such as Platinum Naturals Vitamin D is recommended.
Magnesium: Not only is magnesium a cofactor for over 300 metabolic reactions, but it also helps Vitamin D convert to its active form. A nighttime routine that includes a highly bioavailable form of Magnesium such as EasyMag Magnesium Bisglycinate can be effective in supporting healthy testosterone levels.
Antioxidants: ACES + Zinc, Selenium, Resveratrol, and Quercetin have all been shown to support healthy testosterone levels and serum hormone levels. In order to synthesize testosterone, the body needs cofactors like vitamin C within the HPA axis. Indirectly, antioxidants support testosterone secretion by limiting oxidative stress (which is known to divert the body's resources of secreting testosterone).
A general antioxidant and immune support product can be found with the newly launched activated-C by Platinum Naturals. activated-C combines Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium and Citrus Bioflavonoids in amounts that can be taken as a daily supplement.
In general, a diet that includes micronutrient and antioxidant-rich foods paired with a tailored supplement can be beneficial to supporting testosterone and overall hormonal health.
The tips mentioned above serve as a good starting point to supporting testosterone and hormonal health through nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle, but as always, consult a health practitioner for advice when it comes to hormonal health.
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21058750/ - Androgen Receptors
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15507691/ - Forced Reps
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15618989/ - Prolonged Exercise and Testosterone
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30225799/ - Sleep and Testosterone
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17984944/ - Zinc, Exercise and T Levels
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18413429/ - Sleep Quality and Testosterone