Testosterone is usually mentioned in the context of men’s health when both males and females produce it. Testosterone is a hormone produced in the testes, as well as ovaries and adrenal cortex. Higher levels are found in men but spikes (both high and low) can impact physical and mental health. Though usually linked to sex drive, unhealthy testosterone levels are associated with weight gain, weaker bones, depression, low energy levels and less body hair.
A man’s testosterone levels begin to decline around the age of 30, but there are several things a person can do to increase it. Weight training, weight loss and high-intensity training have proven highly effective at naturally boosting testosterone levels.
Lifting weights and heavy resistance training has one of the greatest effects on testosterone. To optimise this, for the most effective session, you should aim to use as many muscles as you can. This means overall, full body workouts and compound lifts that engage as many of your larger muscle groups as possible. You should choose these in place of isolating exercises that work smaller muscles, such as bicep curls and leg extensions.
For optimum results go for a heavy lifting session, as opposed to reps. Shorter rest periods between exercises are also widely recommended so opt for a high percentage of your one rep max and 5 sets of 5. The logic here is that you may spread out more lifts of a higher weight while taking advantage of a short rest in between.
Weightlifting activates production of cortisol, which cancels out testosterone, meaning that overdoing it can work against you. For this reason stick to a rule of working out for less than 60 minutes, or a maximum of 20 reps, depending on your experience and recovery times.
It’s not all about building and heavy weights. If you are overweight then you will have lower testosterone. A good place to start is to reduce the amount of processed sugar and refined carbs in your diet. Carbs are an essential part of your nutrition, but there are good and bad kinds. Refined (or empty) carbs are a bit like putting the wrong fuel in your car. It is technically fuel, but not what your body needs to keep it running as well as it could. These are usually found in processed foods and can leave you feeling hungry sooner, as well as sluggish. The answer is simple, with a few slight adjustments you needn’t starve yourself but instead replace the likes of white bread and French fries with whole grains, oats and sweet potatoes.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to boost testosterone levels, though it comes with a myriad of other health risks. Intermittent fasting boosts testosterone by increasing the expression of satiety hormones including insulin, leptin, adiponectin, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), cholecystokinin (CKK) and melanocortins, all of which are known to potentiate healthy testosterone actions, increase libido and prevent age-related testosterone decline.
Due to the negative effect that being hungry can have on your testosterone (and libido), a sturdy whey protein supplement after exercise can be a far healthier option than going without food.
Regular high-intensity interval training has been proven to prevent testosterone levels from dropping, as opposed to longer, easier paced endurance running and exercise that doesn’t have a great impact.
HIIT means getting your heart rate up and keeping it up for short intervals followed by shorter rests. The good news is sessions are over quicker than most, with you working to the max for under 20 minutes. A good rule of thumb to go by is the 2:1 ratio, meaning you work at high intensity for one minute (running, cycling, whichever cardio exercise you choose) and then rest for thirty seconds. Doing this continuously for as long as you can manage (12 mins is a good target).