Did you know that having a healthy level of testosterone can improve your sex life, your focus at work, your energy level, your weight, your muscle mass, and much more? Get your testosterone levels (free and total T) confirmed with a simple blood test.
Most of my busy male patients will wait to feel symptoms such as decreased libido/impaired sexual activity, and/or fatigue before mentioning anything to their doctors (IF they decide to bring it up at all). But it’s important to know that other symptoms of low T include fat gain, rapid hair loss, depression, brain fog, and even enlarged breasts.
Needless to say, low testosterone levels can really affect your quality of life. Fortunately, it’s easy to improve T levels so that you can go on with your business at full strength.
Why is my Testosterone Low?
First thing’s first, let’s look at the factors that can lower testosterone in men:
- High stress
- Zinc deficiency – Zinc is a mineral that when deficient can lead to increased estrogen production
- Natural anti-androgens which are compounds that reduce the activity of androgen hormones (including testosterone) in the body. e.g. spearmint tea and licorice
- Certain medication such as cholesterol medication (or statins), blood pressure medications (such as beta blockers), and depression medications (SSRIs)
Sure, some of these things, like aging, are out of your control. But besides inventing a time machine, how can you revert to your youthful energy?
How can I increase my testosterone levels?
There are five easy ways every man can optimize their testosterone levels: weight loss, resistance training, natural supplements, sleep, and managing stress levels.
1. Weight loss
A 2012 study showed that weight loss in overweight men could significantly improve testosterone levels. Here’s what Dr. Hayes of St. Vincent’s University Hospital had to say:
Doctors should first encourage overweight men with low testosterone levels to try to lose weight through diet and exercise before resorting to testosterone therapy to raise their hormone levels.Frances Hayes, MD, professor at St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin.
By making a few tweaks to your diet like adding a protein-based breakfast in the morning to increase your metabolism, avoiding sugary snacks during meetings, and not skipping lunch due to your busy schedule, you can easily lose a few pounds here and there and save your testosterone. That’s right, NOT skipping lunch can help you lose weight while improving your testosterone levels.
That being said, weight loss can also reduce estrogen levels in men which, in turn, can increase testosterone levels. So it’s a win-win!
2. Resistance training
Most of my patients fall into 2 categories. You either love your cardio and enjoy your morning jog, rowing machine, or maybe your new peloton stationary bike. Or you’re more of a gym rat and workout your upper body while incorporating HIIT workouts.
If you’re in the second group, then you’ll be happy to hear that resistance training is a great way to promote an acute increase in testosterone levels (sorry to my cardio lovers). So try to have at least 2 weight lifting sessions during the week where you focus more on lifting heavy rather than doing many reps.
A word to the wise, a lot of my male patients only workout their upper body, which is great, but add more squats and lunges to your routine to get the most from your workouts!
3. Natural supplements
Now this is my favourite part of any nutrition blog! Supplements! Natural ones, of course! There are so many benefits to eating a variety of foods, but it’s impossible to eat everything that’s good for you all the time, especially when you’re busy.
Natural supplements solve this problem.
I am a firm believer that supplements are an essential part of a healthy routine and can have an overall positive impact on your wellness.
Of course, I am not promoting the intake of any supplement you read on the internet. Only the supplements your body ACTUALLY needs to function in a more optimal way. And this is the beauty of working with an expert dietitian who will tell you exactly what supplements you need to take based on your health conditions, bloodwork, diet, etc.
Now back to your testosterone levels. Both vitamin D and zinc can really help increase your levels. Always make sure to consult with your doctor, dietitian or healthcare professional before taking anything!anything!
I always think of vitamin D as the underrated vitamin. This vitamin has the important job of working alongside calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t ask for vitamin D to be checked in their bloodwork requisition, which is a shame.
If you ask me about the percentage of vitamin D deficient patients that I see on a daily basis, I would easily say 90%. The remaining 10% have an optimal level thanks to a good vitamin D supplement. In 2015, according to Stats Canada, 1/3 of Canadians had a vitamin D level below the minimum cut off (50nmol/L). But the optimal level of vitamin D is 125 nmol/L, which is 2.5 times that minimum cutoff. Meaning that the proportion of people with vitamin D deficiency is much more than ⅓ of Canadians.
A study showed that men with higher vitamin D levels had significantly higher levels of testosterone. Also, testosterone levels varied based on the season: in the summer, their testosterone levels were at their highest, thanks to our best source of vitamin D, the sun!
So, try to get your physician to test for vitamin D. This way, you can easily take a dosage of vitamin D that is suitable to your needs.
When we feel like a cold is coming, zinc is one of our go-to magic pills to stop any virus from coming uninvited in our system. Along with vitamin C, zinc is a great mineral that helps boost our immune system. Health Canada estimates that 10-35% of Canadians are deficient in zinc, meaning that their diets lack this important mineral.
In this study men were put on a diet with restricted dietary zinc for 20 weeks. Testosterone levels were measured before and after the restriction and the results showed that dietary zinc restriction led to a significant decrease in testosterone levels. The study concluded that zinc may play a role in testosterone level in men.
You can get all the zinc you need through diet, so here are some great sources of dietary zinc for you to enjoy: pumpkin seeds, cashews, mushrooms, egg yolks, and grass fed chicken, lamb and beef.
4. Sleep (REM)
I talk about sleep with every patient I see. Guess why. Because for most of my patients who run businesses and manage people, sleep is an issue and chances are you have either trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep.
Or even worse, both.
Sometimes, patients tell me that they can manage with only 5-6 hours/night, but they soon realize that the lack of sleep starts working against them.
If you are a businessman who is always thinking about the next purchase to make, the next employee to hire, or how to cut production costs, you will find that these stressful thoughts tend to resurface at night when you’re lying in bed. The more stressed your demanding job leaves you, the harder it is to stop these intrusive thoughts. This definitely affects the quality and duration of your sleep.
Unfortunately, even if you think you don’t need all those hours of sleep, your testosterone level increases with sleep and decreases the longer you stay awake. The majority of your testosterone is produced during the deep REM sleep, which is a very important phase for learning, memory, and mood. In fact, a study showed that if you reduce your sleep to 5 hours/night for 8 nights, your testosterone level can decrease by 10-15% .
So the lack of sleep will not only affect your testosterone level, but also your ability to have a good productive day at work. Nobody wants a moody boss on a Monday morning (or any other morning)!
Not only does stress alter your sugar cravings and affects your ability to lose weight, it can have an impact on your sex hormones. With chronic stress, the main hormone in play is cortisol. This can suppress your sex hormones, and decrease the availability of testosterone.
What can you do to help?
I won’t ask you to commit to an hour long meditation routine in your already very busy schedules (I don’t want to add any more stress). But just 5 minutes a day can make a difference in the long run. Just try to breath for 5 minutes at the end of the day, or stretch for 5 minutes in the morning before leaving your room. It seems like nothing, but at the end of the week, those are 35 minutes (5 minutes x 7 days) of your time where you were able to keep your stress level low. That’s a great start.
If you are interested in meditation though, I recommend you try apps like Calm (iOS or Android) or Headspace (iOS or Android)- I’ve heard nice reviews from my patients who are using those apps.
Testosterone, the key to having an endless amount of energy for work and family, a great libido, and a great mood.
So now you know that a low testosterone can be easily and naturally managed by weight loss (especially fat loss), weight training, natural supplements, good sleep hygiene, and some meditation. I also want you to give your body some time when trying to boost and stabilize your hormone levels. Those hormones did not get out of balance overnight! So, be consistent with your healthier lifestyle, and you will be able to improve your testosterone within 6-12 months.
Have you tried any of these tips or do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll reply ASAP!