(Natural Ways to Increase Testosterone, Written by
Changing levels of testosterone are part of a man’s life cycle.
You’re born with a little, then start to have a lot as a teen and young man. Sometime around middle age, your production slacks off gradually.
For some men, that lower production happens earlier or more drastically than is normal.
A man’s low-T situation can come from illness, toxic environment, lifestyle, diet, or simple aging.
Regardless of why, the results are the same: higher risk of:
- Sexual problems like lower libido, trouble ejaculating, unsatisfying orgasms, and erectile dysfunction
- Reproductive issues including lower semen volume and reduced sperm count and health
- Mental health challenges like fatigue, depression and anxiety
- Structural changes to the body such as increased body fat, lower muscle and thinning bones
- Serious health problems ranging from heart disease to type 2 diabetes
If your testosterone is lower than your health and sexual health need it to be, you pretty much have three options:
- Live with the symptoms and change your lifestyle from what you want to what you can have with your condition
- Undergo big pharma testosterone therapy, with all of its risks and side effects
- Use natural methods to get your body to produce all the testosterone it needs on its own
You get three guesses which method I recommend.
Natural ways to increase testosterone fall into four broad categories: diet, activity, lifestyle and environment. What follows is a detailed list of different things you can do to up your T naturally by making changes in any or all of the four.
Testosterone and Your Diet
It should come as no surprise that what you eat impacts what your body produces. Sports cars can’t run on cheap gas, and computers made with shitty components break down all the time.
“Eat right” is lame advice: too general and easy to hear somewhere else. But here are specific ways to change what you eat to boost your body’s testosterone production:
Get Off Atkins. Sure, lower carbs are good for losing fat without working out. But high-T men hit the gym. If you eat a low-carb diet, a serious workout elevates your cortisol levels (source).
Cortisol is a stress hormone, like adrenaline. Though it doesn’t reduce your body’s production of testosterone, it does block your body’s ability to use it. Which has the same result as low-T in the body.
Action Item: keep your calorie count on point for your weight loss or muscle gain goals, but keep carbs in rotation.
Increase Your Dietary Fat. Forget the anti-fat craze of the 90s. Turns out your body needs HDL cholesterol. Not only that, but testosterone is made out of dietary cholesterol. Without that building block, you’re out of luck for producing enough T.
Egg yolks are among the best options for taking in dietary fat. They have more good cholesterol and less bad cholesterol than many other foods. Plus they’re easy to cook in a variety of ways, so you won’t get tired of them.
Action Item: add egg yolks to your daily food regimen. It doesn’t matter how you cook them, but the more delicious the better.
Three Words: Grass Fed Beef. You want red meat for your testosterone production, but you need the right red meat. Factory produced beef gets too few nutrients and too many antibiotics and growth hormones to be a safe bet for helping with your own hormonal health.
Grass-fed beef also contains more nutrients associated with higher testosterone like CLAs and antioxidants than grain-fed or factory-produced beef.
Action Item: go to a trusted butcher and try a few cuts of grass-fed steak or a pound of grass-fed ground. Your taste buds won’t be the only things that thank you.
Get Off the Sugar Wagon. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, too much sugar doesn’t just make you fat. It decreases your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which forces your body to create more insulin to process sugars normally. More insulin = less testosterone (source). Which means more sugar = less testosterone.
Action Item: get familiar with your product labels and watch for the many names of sugar. Cut them out of your diet. When your sweet tooth speaks up, opt for fresh fruit to curb the craving. Bonus points for pomegranates, raisins, and dark berries. All of these directly boost testosterone production.
Go Big on Pro-Testosterone Foods. Some foods just naturally contain vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that increase testosterone production or sensitivity. In some cases, it’s a nutrient your body needs to make the hormone. In others, it’s a substance that helps you process what you make.
Either way, a diet rich in these foods ups your testosterone. As a bonus, most of these items are good for general health, so your diet will improve other parts of your life while you’re at it.
Action item: Put foods good for testosterone production on heavy rotation in your meal plan. Besides what I’ve already mentioned, here are a few of the best:
- Olive oil, argan oil and coconut oil
- Grass-fed butter and yogurt
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower
- Organic bacon
- Onions and garlic
- Macadamia and brazil nuts
- Bleu cheese
Drink enough water. You already know you’re supposed to
drink water to keep all of your body’s and mind’s systems
But did you know dehydration lowers your testosterone? It works like this:
If you don’t have enough water in your system during a workout, it cancels the testosterone-boosting impact of that workout by raising your cortisol levels (source).
You don’t get the benefit of your workout, and (like I mentioned earlier) your body is less able to process what testosterone you do produce.
Action Item: keep a water bottle full and nearby at all times, and try to drink at least a quart out of it each day. Drink a few gulps before any workout, and keep sipping throughout.
Periodic Fasting. It’s contrary to other advice you might have heard or read, but eating fewer meals in a shorter window of time is one of those health “hacks” that really works well. Fasting for even 12 consecutive hours can almost double your testosterone production for a day.
Turns out that asking your body to process food less often leaves it more energy during those “down times” to repair tissues, produce hormones, and generally engage in upkeep of your systems. That leads to higher testosterone and (as a happy bonus) more burned fat.
Action Item: start by skipping breakfast. If you avoid eating until 10 or noon, you add enough hours to your non-eating sleep time to activate the benefits of a short-term fast.
Testosterone and Activity
Hormones like testosterone are more complex than structural parts of your body like muscle and bone. Your activities impact how your body produces them and how it puts them to use. So changes to your activities can naturally increase testosterone.
Start Power Lifting. Testosterone is why men have more muscle than women, and your body responds to things that build muscle by producing more testosterone (source). Power lifting also creates an upward spiral, since bodies with more lean muscle mass also maintain a higher testosterone count overall.
Action Item: lift weights two to three times a week. But pump iron, don’t “nudge aluminum.” Go for the high-weight, low-rep big exercises like bench press, squats and lat pulls. The ones that make you feel like a caveman when you rack the bar.
Go Outside. Your mom was right about this one, but for the wrong reasons. A stack of studies have confirmed a direct correlation between vitamin D intake and testosterone production (source).
We’re less certain as to exactly why this correlation exists, but science has established that it does. Time outdoors can also combat some of the symptoms of low-T, especially the mood problems like anxiety and depression.
Action Item: go outside in the sun. Walk to work, or walk your dog. Play ball with your kid or stroll with your partner. Don’t stay out long enough to get a sunburn, but do stay out long enough to feel your skin respond to the sun.
Trade Long Cardio Workouts for HIIT. The same cortisol production I mentioned earlier in this article turns up during long cardio workouts. This is because long cardio puts your body under stress for long periods of time.
If you have to choose just one kind of workout, go for the power lifting. If you have time to cycle in other routines, opt for High Intensity Interval Training. This stimulates testosterone production immediately and over the next few hours the same way power lifting does (source).
Action Item: take on one interval training session a week (three if you’re not also power lifting). Go for 15 minutes with three minutes of hard effort alternating with three minutes of lower speed on the same exercise. Or sign up for a class at your gym.
Get Laid. An incredible amount of research has linked sex and testosterone production. The more sex you have, the more testosterone your body produces (source). And it’s sex with somebody else who does this, not just masturbation.
Although I say “get laid,” there’s ample evidence that sex within a committed relationship increases T even more than just sex in general. This is because of the mental health benefits and stress relief associated with a good romantic and sexual partnership.
Action Item: this one’s obvious. Go have sex with your partner. Right now. I’ll wait.
Testosterone and Lifestyle
What you do from time to time in your life impacts testosterone levels, but more important are some of the habits you form.
Changing some of your lifestyle decisions can drastically increase your testosterone production. This is true whether you add some good habits or drop some bad ones.
Choose Your Booze. Drinking to excess will drop your testosterone production (source). While it’s at it, it can also nuke your finances, relationships, lifespan. But smart, moderate drinking can actually be okay.
The good news here is you can knock back a couple of drinks a couple of times each week. You’ll be fine, and it can help you fight stress.
The bad news is that beer is off the table. Hops stimulates estrogen production, which is basically the opposite of increasing testosterone. Sorry, guys. Not every fact of life is pleasant (source).
Action Item: if you’re not drinking, don’t start. If you do drink, stick with red wine (which increases testosterone) or hard liquor mixed with a sugar free mixer (which is testosterone-neutral). And limit yourself to four or five drinks per week.
Meditate. I’ve mentioned cortisol before in this article, and how it directly inhibits how much benefit your body can get from testosterone. Your body produces cortisol in response to stress. A grown up adult man can’t avoid stress entirely in the modern world, but he can do something to reduce its impact.
Simple meditation like breathing exercises, walking practice, or “zazen” sitting meditation all immediately and significantly reduce your body’s production of cortisol and other stress-related hormones. If you have time, consider a meditation class like yoga, tai chi, or active visualization.
Action Item: sit and meditate for five minutes once a day. Set a timer. Sit down. Breathe. Think about as little as possible until the timer rings. Try this for a week and see how it feels.
Get Enough Sleep. Sleep deprivation ruins your testosterone production.
Turns out that sleep is when your body produces most of its testosterone for the day, and it’s when your body repairs the systems responsible for processing most of your hormones.
Studies have found that the difference between 6 and 7 hours of sleep is a 15% increase in testosterone (source). The same was true for 7 hours vs. 8 hours, though more than 8 began to see diminishing returns. Don’t even think about getting less than 6 hours on a regular basis.
What’s more, that same extra hour of sleep has profound impacts on mood, stress, and productivity. Getting enough sleep reduces the things that make it hard to sleep well the night before, creating another of those upward spirals that can really kickstart your testosterone production.
Action Item: get to bed on time. That’s 9 hours before you need to wake up, to give you an hour to wind down and drift into dreamland and 8 hours of good, deep shut-eye. You can download any number of free or cheap Apps for your phone to help you manage this.
Do “Man Stuff.” Hormone production is in part a function of mood and what’s going on around you. It turns out that if you do “manly” things, your body produces more of the “man hormone.”
I already mentioned having sex and eating red meat, but that’s just the tip of the man stuff iceberg. A few other activities which have been conclusively linked to more testosterone production include:
- Standing with an upright, “high-power” posture
- Being successful with money or your career
- Playing competitive sports
- Drinking coffee instead of tea
Action Item: commit to finding three hours a week to focus on at least one of the activities above. Make it part of your lifestyle.
Testosterone and Environment
Some environments are metaphorically toxic, which is why I recommend so many stress-reducing activities for modern men living in the modern world.
But the world also contains a bunch of literal toxins. Many of them directly impact your testosterone production. Look at these as the opposite of things you should eat to boost testosterone. These are things you should eliminate to keep your T levels where they should be.
Be Wary of Plastics. Many plastics contain BPAs, which mess with almost all of your endocrine system, including how much testosterone you produce (source). Other plastics contain phthalates, which can stimulate your body to either produce more estrogen directly, or to convert more testosterone to estrogen-like substances.
You’re not going to be able to eliminate plastic from your life completely (you’re reading this on a device made mostly of plastic, for example). But you can especially watch ways plastic interacts with what you eat.
Action Item: don’t drink from, store food in, or serve food on stuff made from plastic. Replace any plastic cooking utensils with stainless steel or wood. Whenever possible, avoid buying foods with plastic packaging.
Watch Medication Side Effects. It’s no secret I’m drug-averse when natural alternatives are available, but even I understand that sometimes you’re going to need to use medicine.
But that’s not a reason to drop your guard about drug side effects. Read and understand what kinds of side effects your medications can have, especially on your endocrine system and testosterone production.
Ask your pharmacist for more information, and listen to see how much it matches what your doctor told you.
Action Item: make a list of all prescription medications you currently take (and all over the counter medications you take regularly). Research and understand all side effects and interactions of those drugs.
Don’t Rub Cosmetics on Your Skin. A lot of skin products contain endocrine-disrupting compounds. As the name suggests, endocrine disruptors that impact your hormone production one (or more) of three ways (source).
- They can directly reduce testosterone production or uptake
- They can directly increase estrogen production and conversion of testosterone to estrogen
- They can impact the general function and health of your endocrine system.
Specifically, you want to avoid parabens (found in sunblock, moisturizers, lube, shaving gels, shampoos and toothpastes), benzophenones (used in sunblock) and triclosan/triclocarban (added to antibacterials like soaps and hand sanitizer).
Action Item: check your toiletry kit and your bathroom shelf. Replace anything in there which contains these substances with products made from natrual ingredients.
Go Organic. Although this could have fit in diet above, I’m including it here because it’s not about what you eat. It’s about what you don’t eat.
Industrial farming coats your food with pesticides and fertilizers replete with chemicals that impact healthy testosterone production. Many of these also have other harmful effects on your general health.
An incomplete list of the most common toxins found on non-organic food: TCPY, glyphosate, organophosphates, and PCBs.
Studies have shown both a direct link between ingesting those chemicals and poor endocrine health, and an increased amount of those chemicals in the blood and urine of humans who eat industrially produced foods.
Organic foods use non-chemical means to ensure good produce growth and to drive away pests. You get just the food, without the side-order of poison.
Action Item: start by shopping in the organic section of your local grocery store for your produce and meat. If it’s hard on your pocketbook, just do what you can for now. All organic is best, but some organic beats no organic at all.
Natural Ways to Increase Testosterone-Conclusion:
Nobody has enough hours in their day to take on every single item on this list, but if you start with one thing from each category you’ll be on your way to higher testosterone and better health.
Add some, drop some, and experiment. Each body is different, so I can’t tell you which combination will best improve your testosterone levels and life.
A word about side effects:
The reason I’m strongly anti big pharma solutions like testosterone therapy is the side effects. Often they’re identical to or worse than the symptoms of low testosterone. That’s not my idea of a healthy time or effective “solution.”
I won’t say that natural ways to increase testosterone don’t have side effects. I will say you should look at the side effects they carry:
- The “side effect” of weight lifting and HIIT is stronger muscles and a sexier body
- The “side effect” of meditation is more productivity and a longer life
- The “side effect” of financial success is more options and flexibility
So if you have low testosterone, regardless of the reasons, your first line of defense is to use your body’s natural systems to bring those levels back to normal. Give it a try. The worst case scenario is your health improves in ways other than your testosterone production.
And the best case is a well-rounded, healthier life.