Testosterone therapy remains in high demand in recent years, and while it’s an effective treatment option for many men, boosting testosterone levels may not require a visit to your doctor’s office.
If you suspect low testosterone levels, there are several evidence-based methods you can begin today that can increase testosterone naturally, including changes to your diet, sleep schedule, and supplement routine. If necessary, your integrative medicine doctor can work with you to rebuild hormonal wellness.
Testosterone Levels in Men
In healthy men, serum testosterone levels range from 300 to 1050 ng/dL, peaking in the late teens and early 20s before plateauing and beginning a gradual decline at about 1-2% per year after age 30.
According to the American Urological Association (AUA), a level of at least 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) is normal for a man.
Increase Testosterone Naturally
Both men and women depend on healthy levels of testosterone to prevent disease, maintain body composition, sexual function, and overall health.
Diet and lifestyle interventions are often very effective at increasing suboptimal levels. For example, exercise has been shown to increase testosterone in elderly males, as well as well-trained young men. Reducing toxin exposure, drug use, and alcohol can also increase testosterone, as well as address nutrient deficiencies like zinc and vitamin D.
Though testosterone typically decreases with age, it’s crucial to maintain healthy levels throughout adulthood.
So what exactly is the optimal testosterone level for men, and what can you do to get there?
Normal vs. Optimal Testosterone: What’s the Difference?
Though the AUA defines low T as anything under 300 ng/dL, health benefits are associated with “optimal” testosterone levels, which are not necessarily the same as “normal for age” levels.
According to data obtained by NHANES, the average serum T level for men aged 20-39 is between 600 and 700 ng/dL. Optimal levels may mean restoring testosterone to a level at which symptoms improve on an individual basis, rather than a measurement of clinical deficiency as defined by the AUA.
Though testosterone generally declines with age, there are many men with healthy levels of this hormone well into their 60s.
This begs the question of whether or not integrative medicine and researchers have fully explored the effect of diet and lifestyle choices on testosterone, rather than accepting a pre-programmed decline.
Here are 8 evidence-based ways to increase testosterone production naturally.
Numerous studies confirm that strength-based exercise can support and even increase testosterone levels.
All types of exercise are beneficial for healthy testosterone, but strength exercises, like lifting weights, body weight, or calisthenics, are the most beneficial.
Regular exercise can also help you decrease stress and lose body fat, which are two other major contributors to low testosterone levels.
Eat to balance blood sugar
If you have diabetes, you’re as much as three times as likely to have lower T. Insulin dysregulation as a result of diabetes can negatively impact testosterone function.
In the absence of diabetes, it’s also crucial for testosterone production to maintain insulin and blood sugar within a healthy range.
Prioritize a diet with adequate protein, healthy fats, and nutrient-dense carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, fruits, and minimally processed grains such as quinoa, rice, and oats.
Decrease stress and cortisol
Physical, emotional, or mental stress can negatively affect testosterone production. This is because stress disrupts the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, or how the male body signals the testicles to produce testosterone.
Cortisol (the main hormone produced during stress response) and testosterone interact in a see-saw-like fashion. When one is high, the other is low. Elevated cortisol can even make workouts less effective because of its testosterone-dampening effects.
Low (or even low-normal) T levels can indicate the presence of more overall stress than the body can handle.
Address nutrient deficiencies
Adequate amounts of key vitamins and minerals are vital for testosterone production. Magnesium, B vitamins, selenium, and vitamin D at minimum. A provider can help you determine healthy levels of these nutrients.
Zinc is an essential mineral for hormone health. Zinc enables the body to produce testosterone and promotes healthy sperm quality.
Testosterone follows a circadian rhythm. It’s why you stand at attention in the early morning hours, and why libido is likely lowest in the evening hours. Because of this rhythm, healthy T levels are dependent upon adequate and consistent sleep.
In fact, just one week of restricted sleep has been shown to cause hormonal imbalance in men.
Avoid estrogen-like compounds
High exposure to estrogen-like compounds may also affect hormone levels. Things like BPA, PFCs, and other toxins are endocrine disruptors, which means they can change the way your hormones function, including testosterone.
Estrogen, both endogenous (inside the body) and exogenous (outside the body) in excess, can shut down testosterone production at the level of the brain. If you’re overweight, or diabetic, you’re more likely to have high estrogen in relation to testosterone.
It’s also worth it to note that drug use and overconsumption of alcohol can also decrease testosterone.
As you work on lifestyle changes to boost testosterone, you can also try these natural testosterone-boosting supplements.
Supplements to Boost Testosterone
Changes in diet and lifestyle have proven effective in raising testosterone in many men, but they’re also maybe some holistic supplements that can aid this process and support healthy hormone production.
- Tribulus terrestris – This herb has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and some evidence suggests that it may enhance sexual function and libido in both men and women.
- Zinc – This mineral is necessary for healthy sperm production, as well as testosterone function. However, it’s important to note that supplementation with zinc won’t help if you already have adequate levels of this mineral.
- Ginger root – In one study, 75 men with infertility took a daily ginger supplement. After 3 months, they experienced a 17% increase in testosterone levels. Ginger root also supports digestion and can modulate inflammation.
- Berberine – This alkaloid has been shown to improve metabolic syndrome, which can lower testosterone levels in men and women.
- DHEA – A precursor for sex hormone production, DHEA levels decrease with age, stress, and other lifestyle factors. If your DHEA is low, your body doesn’t have the necessary building blocks for hormones, including testosterone, and your levels will drop.
Men’s Hormone Balance + Integrative Medicine
Testosterone is a crucial component of hormonal wellness and overall health for both men and women, but it decreases with age, lifestyle, and dietary factors. While sometimes a decrease in hormones is expected with age, it is possible to restore low testosterone levels.
Increasing testosterone naturally through diet and lifestyle changes has proven to be incredibly effective for many people. Your integrative medicine doctor can help you determine if your testosterone levels are healthy, and what you can do to boost them.