Let’s be honest, it’s hard to imagine having too much testosterone.
The same way it’s hard to imagine having too much horsepower or too much money.
It never happens, right?
Now testosterone is the dragon slayer of hormones and is responsible for making guys guys.
It’s the reason we like fast cars, fast bikes, and jump out of perfectly good airplanes.
But it does so much more than that.
How do things like promoting muscle mass, reducing body fat, improving energy levels, mood and bone health grab you?
And that’s just for starters.
Above average testosterone levels are associated with reduced likelihood of hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, type II diabetes, and heart attack.
All huge things, and damn good reasons for keeping testosterone levels as high as we can.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature has other plans.
Middle Age Happens
Things keep cranking until sometime in our 30s when she begins to put a slow stranglehold on our cojones.
Testosterone levels start to slide, morning wood becomes something you throw onto the campfire first thing, and even Sex and the City doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore.
And, if you’re a dad, there’s another kick in the nuts headed your way.
Not from Mother Nature, from your kids.
Studies have found that testosterone levels in fathers dropped significantly compared with non-fathers.
In addition, fathers who were more involved with child care tended to have lower testosterone levels than fathers who weren’t.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Another study found that fathers who slept on the same surface as their children had a greater daily drop in testosterone compared with fathers who slept separately.
Which is really bad news for folks here in Japan that sleep on tatami mats with their kids.
The reality is higher testosterone helps you get the girl, and get the girl pregnant.
But from then onwards, levels are only going to head in one direction.
And that’s down.
Testosterone: Some Numbers
OK, maybe this all sounds a bit theoretical – I mean, how potent can testosterone actually be?
Well, a 1996 study took 43 regular dudes and assigned them to one of four groups:
- Placebo with no exercise, or
- Testosterone with no exercise, or
- Placebo plus exercise, or
- Testosterone plus exercise
The testosterone guys were given a weekly 600 mg testosterone enanthate injection, while the placebo guys were injected with an inert substance.
And the exercise protocol? That was our old friend, strength training.
Now the results were almost unbelievable.
Just check out the increase in lean body mass that each group had.
The men that did a 10-week resistance training program while taking testosterone put on an average of over 13 lbs!
Now if that doesn’t sound like much, go to the supermarket, buy 13 lbs of ground beef, and pack it all over your body.
It’s a lot of meat.
And it was almost three times the gain of the group that did exercise but didn’t receive testosterone injections.
Those guys put on around 4½ lbs.
But here’s the kicker.
The guys that took testosterone but did NO EXERCISE put on 7 lbs of lean body mass.
That’s 50 % more than the guys that lifted weights but received no testosterone.
Crazy stuff, right? A 7-lb gain from 10 weeks of sitting on your ass.
Not only that, those guys also added close to 30 lbs to their squat strength.
All from nothing more than getting jabbed with a needle once per week.
Bottom line, testosterone is massively powerful stuff.
How We Can Keep Testosterone Levels Up
First off, we’re not encouraging dads to cut and run from family commitments, shoot up testosterone enanthate, or feel sorry for ourselves because we’re no longer teenagers.
We’re better than that.
The take-home point is we don’t need to do anything bad for testosterone levels to creep down.
But we do have a choice.
We can decide to roll over and let things take their course or we can come out swinging and land a few hits of our own.
So here’s how we can fight back.
• Consume a diet that’s 90 % minimally processed whole foods
• Get 8 hours of good quality sleep every night
• Don’t let stress get to you – social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk describes how even body posture can affect testosterone levels
• Throttle back on alcohol consumption
• Get sufficient vitamin D – if you don’t get much sun, supplementation may be your best bet
• Get sufficient EFAs (essential fatty acids) – if you don’t regularly eat oily fish like mackerel, sardines or salmon, consider supplementation
• Take an inexpensive multivitamin/mineral supplement as insurance – this is not an alternative to eating properly
Keeping testosterone levels as high as possible fundamentally comes down to looking after ourselves.
What About Testosterone Boosting Supplements?
Supplementing with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 is frequently recommended as a way to increase testosterone.
Now that may work if you’re not consuming adequate quantities of those from food.
But it would probably be better if you fixed your diet first.
And if you are consuming adequate quantities through diet, pounding fistfuls of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 isn’t going to send testosterone levels skyrocketing.
Rather than kick testosterone production into overdrive, any intake in excess of that required to correct a deficiency will simply get excreted.
So you’ll basically be flushing money down the toilet.
OK, how about those “natural testosterone boosters” like tongkat ali, tribulus terrestris and nettle root extract?
Well, tribulus has bombed worse in studies than 47 Ronin did at the box office.
And there’s no compelling evidence that the others are any better.
Think of it this way.
If they really were that effective, wouldn’t they be classified as prescription drugs?
The best bet is to save your money and spend it on real food instead.
How About Soy?
No article about testosterone would be complete without mentioning soy.
Many folks believe that consuming soy and soy products is a one-way ticket to chemical castration.
But in 2010, a meta-analysis (basically a review of existing studies) concluded that neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements appeared to have an effect on male reproductive hormones.
Another study concluded that a soy-based protein supplement helped to improve body composition (body fat ↓, muscle mass ↑) and metabolic function in middle-aged males.
So, if you enjoy soy or soy products, don’t let unfounded fears about testosterone stop you from consuming them.
That’s especially good news for folks living here in the land of Soyjoy and Kikkoman.
Wrapping it Up
Ultimately, here’s what it boils down to.
Eat well, sleep well, lift heavy, relax more, and have fun with your kids.
Not a bad prescription for a good life.
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