When it comes to building muscle and feeling your very best, there is one hormone that has such an important role for men that it encompasses an entire range of supplements dedicated to it, a medical procedure to increase it, and countless articles and talk shows about it.
Of course, we are talking about testosterone, found abundantly in men and sparsely in women.
Increasing during puberty, it is the hormone that gives men their facial hair, a deeper voice, a better ability to gain muscle and sex drive. Women also have testosterone in their body, but since it is about 1/10th of what men produce, they do not see any of these effects (unless of course they take external sources of testosterone).
Unfortunately aging and certain lifestyle choices can lower our testosterone levels below the normal amount, and cause us to experience a decrease of quality in many aspects of life. In this article we will be going over some of the symptoms of low testosterone, as well as how to hopefully raise your testosterone back to normal levels.
Do I Have Low Testosterone?
Luckily in our current medical advancement, there are tests that can tell you exactly how much free testosterone you have in your body at any given time.
The normal range that men should have is between 300 and 1000 nanograms per deciliter (better abbreviated as ng/dl). It is a common myth to think someone who has a level of 600 will have twice the strength, facial hair, and whatever else than someone with a level of 300. As long as you are within the normal levels, your body will function just as effectively as the next person.
What this means is that we are all different, and a testosterone level of 400 in one person will be equal to 800 in a different person. It is only when individuals become enhanced and can increase their levels above 1000 ng/dl that they will start to see additional muscle mass and libido gains.
With all that being said, if you think you might have a testosterone level below 300 ng/dl and are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms then it would be smart to go see your doctor and ask them to test you (because if it turns out your levels are actually normal then you can investigate further into what is causing the issues). Some symptoms associated with low testosterone include:
- Little to no sex drive and/or infertility.
- Decreased muscle and strength gains as well as increased fat gain.
- Increased stress with daily activities due to heightened cortisol levels.
- Non-genetic hair loss (meaning nobody in your family that is your age is balding but you are).
- Inability to get a full night sleep, i.e. restlessness (low testosterone can also worsen sleep apnea).
- Low energy on a daily basis even when you can get 7-9 hours of sleep and consume caffeine/enough calories.
- Mental fatigue as well, including increased anxiety and slower thought processes.
As we age, our testosterone levels naturally get lower. In our 20’s we are in our prime with peak sexual performance and muscle building abilities, and this can extend into our 30’s as well for most. It’s when men hit around 40 that testosterone tends to decrease by about 10% per decade (or about 1% a year).
So depending on your age, sorry to say some of these symptoms might just be part of getting older. On the other hand, if you are a sprightly 21-year-old and are suffering from some of these symptoms, it might be a fixable problem.
How To Fix Low Testosterone
As we get older, again typically above 40, we can begin to utilize a treatment known as TRT (testosterone replacement therapy). Don’t get this confused with the testosterone that bodybuilders use to break past their genetic potential though, as TRT is only meant to bring your levels back to a normal range and eliminate side effects.
For those of us who are younger or want a more natural solution to fixing low testosterone, a few do exist that have potential.
The first and most important step is exercise and a proper diet. This is because those who suffer from obesity and low muscle mass will be much more at risk for low testosterone. Losing weight in general will benefit you in various ways, but lifting weights in particular has been shown to temporarily (during lifting) and even permanently (once you start to grow your muscles) increase testosterone levels as you train and make gains.
Next, there are certain vitamins and minerals that can possibly help increase testosterone in those who are deficient.
The first is vitamin D, which has many benefits in the body in addition to possibly increasing testosterone. If you live in a cloudy location that doesn’t get much sun and you don’t regularly take a multivitamin or eat foods that contain vitamin D such as cheese, eggs, milk, fish, and fortified foods, this could be a real issue.
You could get a vitamin panel test done to check your vitamin levels, but the simplest thing to do is take a vitamin D supplement with over 3,000 IU daily, find time to expose more of your body to the sun and/or eat more foods that contain the vitamin.
One mineral that also may have a direct correlation with testosterone levels if you become deficient in is zinc. Much like vitamin D, zinc can possibly increase your testosterone back to normal levels if your diet lacks this metal.
Other than taking a mineral supplement, some foods that contain zinc includes red meat, shellfish and oysters, beans, nuts, dairy, and tofu.
The last way we will talk about to increase testosterone is getting enough quality sleep as well as avoiding too much stress in your daily life.
Cortisol has an inverse relationship with testosterone, meaning when one goes up, the other goes down. You’ve heard it a million times before, but getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is important for all aspects of life even beyond testosterone levels.
Take Home Message
As for supplements claiming to be testosterone boosters, take these products with a grain of salt.
Almost no test boosters on the market that claim to increase it have research and/or studies behind the claims on the label. These supplements are usually very expensive and it is easy to add ingredients we can’t pronounce and fool those who see a professional looking label and trust it.
With that being said, short of TRT, there are natural and cheap ways to help boost your testosterone back to healthy levels and help you in your pursuit of getting bigger, stronger, and feeling your best!