Aging Gracefully: Reclaiming Your Testosterone
Countrymen, gents, boys. Our testosterone is in free fall. Testosterone in Western men has never been at a lower level. It’s an unspoken epidemic. This ongoing evaporation of testosterone coincides with with a culture that devalues all things male.
One of the biggest lies perpetuated by the fitness and health industry is that testosterone decline in inevitable. They say it is a part of aging that you cannot control, so you might as well not even try. You should give up, eat whatever you want, and buy this testosterone cream. This could not be further from the truth.
Testosterone production is controlled by your lifestyle. It is possible to maintain optimal testosterone levels as you age.
If you are over the age of 35 and feel sluggish or pudgy you are suffering from decreasing testosterone. If you are under 35 and find yourself tired and disinterested in sex you are suffering as well.
Low testosterone levels can cause depression and obesity. It causes a man to be disinterested and lose all sense of competition. To be a happy, masculine man you need to optimize your testosterone levels as you age.
As a personal trainer I see it all the time. A man hits a certain age and he begins to feel tired. His testosterone has decreased. This constant tiredness leads him to not exercise. Instead of going to the gym he goes out and eat like shit, which causes him to gain fat. This extra fat causes his body to produce even less testosterone.
It’s a cycle of failure. It is both caused by and accelerates declining testosterone levels.
The cycle can only be broken by the hammer of hard work and discipline. There is no need to resort to expensive creams or injections.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone. It is produced in our body by a complex process that involves our brains, pituitary glands and testicles. It made by converting cholesterol. A small percentage is produced by our adrenal glands. The majority is produced by our testicles.
Testosterone plays many roles in our body. They include regulating our sex drive, bone density and fat distribution. In my eyes the most important aspect is the regulation of muscle mass. A man with low T will have a hard time building and keeping any muscle mass at all.
There have been many lies about testosterone. It does not cause anger or anti-social behavior. It does not cause prostate cancer. I believe these myth’s spread due to testosterone’s association with anabolic steroids.
Testosterone declines as we age. Yet men across all age ranges have 20% less testosterone today than they did 20 years ago. Men's testosterone levels are lower than at any other point in history. This is because we eat a garbage diet, we don't exercise, we don't sleep well, and we're all stressed.
There is no easy trick or magic bullet to optimize your testosterone levels. There is no over the counter supplement you can take, or quick fix I can give you. The unsexy truth is that optimizing your t-level requires long term changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Diet plays a massive role in testosterone production. Our bodies need certain minerals to begin the testosterone production process. As mentioned earlier, the dietary precursor to testosterone is cholesterol. The best thing you can do to increase your t-levels is to eat more fat.
That’s right, the old boogie man cholesterol. Recent studies have shown that men should not be as afraid of cholesterol as they are. Men on a low fat diet often exhibit lower t-levels than man who eat bacon and eggs for breakfast. Consider that your permission to eat bacon every day in moderation.
More healthy fats will result in a higher testosterone count. Foods like avocados, nuts, steak and eggs all contain the minerals needed to increase your production. They are also delicious and easy to make a staple of any diet. It is important to remember that fats contain 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrates only contain 4. To maintain a proper calorie count it may be necessary to lower carbohydrate intake as you increase fat.
Certain exercises actually cause the body to produce more testosterone. Exercising also increases muscle mass and reduces body fat. This creates the proper biological environment for optimal t-levels.
Exercise will also help manage stress. There is no better stress reliever, or mood elevator than a good workout. Well, maybe besides one thing...
If you are serious about optimizing your t-levels you must begin to lift weights. I don’t mean doing circuits on the machines at the gym. You must learn to lift heavy, and you must learn the major compound lifts.
Lower body compound lifts (squatting and deadlifting) cause your body to produce testosterone. They increase blood flow to the area around your testes, and involve 40% of the muscles in your body. The more muscle fibers you stimulate the more testosterone you will produce. There's a joke in there somewhere.
Learn to master these exercises, but don’t overdo it. Overtraining will tax your central nervous system and cause you to produce less testosterone. There is no need to go to failure every time you set foot in the gym, despite what you saw at the CrossFit games.
Perform 3-4 full body workouts each week. Each workout should be built around 1 or 2 compound lifts. For example you could squat and bench press on Monday and Friday. While you deadlift and overhead press on Wednesday. This schedule will provide adequate recovery and stimulation needed to increase muscle mass. If you don't know how to program a workout, have someone else do it for you.
You also need to rethink how you are doing cardio. You don’t want to slog away for 10 miles a day on a treadmill. Studies have shown that HIIT training causes your body to produce testosterone. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
HIIT calls for shorts bursts of intense effort followed by period of less intense effort. Basically it is a sprint/rest/repeat cardio protocol. My favorite way to incorporate HIIT is by jumping rope or using battle ropes. It can be done on any piece of cardio equipment in the gym.
Get Better Sleep
Most american men do not sleep enough. Studies show that less than 5 hours of sleep per night results in a 10-15% decrease in testosterone production. If you're not getting enough sleep you can't produce testosterone as efficiently or effectively.
Our bodies produce the majority of our testosterone while we sleep. This is why we wake up with erections in the morning. If you do not wake up with "morning wood" you are suffering from low testosterone.
The obvious step is to go to bed earlier. You can also decrease your caffeine intake in the afternoon. Another must is to limit your exposure to "blue light" from your phone or tablet. Taking a warm shower before bed will help relax you.
My favorite and the most enjoyable way to get better sleep is to "save" my carbs for night. Carbohydrate intake in the evening helps reset circadian rhythm. This allows you to fall asleep easier and sleep deeper. I do this by abstaining from serious carbohydrate intake until dinner.
I put this last because it is the least important. There are a host of “Natural Test Boosters” available at any health store- none of them work. Exercise, diet and sleep are the most important steps to optimizing your testosterone levels.
Vitamin D3 is deficient in most Americans. The largest reason is due to lack of sun. This deficiency is tied to a lower level of testosterone. Take 2,000-4,000 IUs every morning.
Fish Oil and Omega 3 have been shown to increase the hormone needed to trigger your testes production of testosterone.
If you are eating properly and exercising these are the only two supplements you might need to take. Anything else is a waste of money.
As with anything good in life, optimizing your t-levels is going to take work. The process that will resculpt your body will also restore your hormones. As you can see these are simply a series of healthy habits and lifestyle tweaks. Sure, you could get prescribed testosterone cream or injections. They will increase your t-count but they will not make you healthier, and you will be reliant upon them for the rest of your life.
Hard work in the gym and diligence in the kitchen will stop and reverse declining t-levels. Age related testosterone decline is not inevitable. If you are maintaining a healthy lifestyle you will maintain a healthy testosterone level.
Now go pump some iron and get some sleep.