Testosterone. Its responsible for sex drive and plays a vital role in sperm production. It also affects bone and muscle mass, the way you store fat in your body, and even influences red blood cell production. Your testosterone level also impacts your mood and mental function. It’s the quintessential male hormone.
Some scientists believe we are in the middle of a low testosterone epidemic. One study showed that since the 1980’s, average testosterone levels have been declining by about 1% every year. Another study of Danish men showed double digit drops in testosterone when comparing the average man’s testosterone from the 1960’s to those of the 1920’s. As alarming as this is, it’s also a mystery. Scientists can only guess at this point why the average man’s testosterone levels have been declining. Some of the symptoms of low testosterone include low sex drive, less energy, weight gain, depression, loss of mental drive and motivation, lowered strength, diminished muscle mass and thinner bones.
If you’re reading the symptoms of low testosterone and your nodding your head, don’t feel bad, I have some good news. Testosterone is pretty responsive to changes in lifestyle. In other words, your diet and lifestyle can have a pretty dramatic impact on your testosterone levels. Before I continue, I think it’s important to make the following point. Your symptoms of low testosterone may not be caused by low testosterone at all. You could be stressed, lack adequate sleep or just have overall poor health. Although those things can cause low testosterone themselves, they don’t always. But they can cause the same SYMPTOMS. This is why I recommend you get a hormone test just to be sure. The range of what is considered “normal” for men is usually 270-1070 ng/dl. One more note, regardless of where you fall with testosterone, it can go up or down due to lifestyle and diet and still stay within range. In my experience, it’s probably more desirable to be in the higher end of normal than in the lower end.
A diet that is too low in any macronutrient (protein, fat or carbs) can have a lowering effect on testosterone. If you’re on a low fat or low carb diet, try bringing the levels up to see if it has an impact. Calories that are too low can also cause testosterone levels to drop. On the flip side, eating so many calories that you are obese can also lower testosterone. With diet, it seems that balance is key.
Being inactive can also cause testosterone levels to lower. Any physical activity that improves health will likely increase testosterone levels; resistance training is by far the most effective. Lift weights to build muscle and get stronger and your testosterone levels will likely increase.
Sleep is another big testosterone factor. If you aren’t getting adequate sleep, or if your sleep is of poor quality (waking up at night or feeling restless), your testosterone levels will dip. To maximize the beneficial effects of sleep, I suggest following a “sleep routine” before bed. Set yourself a bedtime that allows you to get 7-8 hours of sleep. About 1-2 hours beforehand, turn off all electronics or wear strong blue blocking glasses to mitigate the negative effects that the blue light from those electronics can have on your sleep.
Finally, get appropriate sun exposure. Lack of sun has been linked to a whole host of health issues with one of them being low testosterone. Low vitamin D levels are consistently connected to lower levels of testosterone and one of the most effective ways to naturally raise vitamin D levels is through sun exposure. If you live in a part of the world without much sunlight, or struggle to find time to get some sun, you can supplement with vitamin D (although supplementing is not as good as actually being out in the sun).