Increasing your body’s testosterone levels is one of the most important things men can do to remain healthy throughout their lives. In the weightlifting and bodybuilding communities, it's the holy grail of hormones. It has a whole host of benefits for people with normal to above average levels including: increased muscle mass, decreased body fat, increased sex drive, more frequent erections, improved mood, and energy.
How Testosterone is Produced
The majority of testosterone is produced in the gonads or testicles of a male. How much testosterone is produced is controlled by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. A small percentage of testosterone is produced by the adrenal glands, but only about 5%. In order to kickstart the body’s production of testosterone, the brain’s hypothalamus sends gonadotropin releasing hormone to our pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland then secretes two hormones, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone. Both hormones travel to the testes via the bloodstream. Once there, the follicle stimulating hormone signals the testes to produce sperm and the luteinizing hormone signals the testes to produce testosterone. Cholesterol produced in the liver aids in the process of producing testosterone.
The chemical breakdown of cholesterol helps to form androstenedione in the gonads. The luteinizing hormone acts on leydig cells in the gonads to signal the conversion of androstenedione to testosterone. The production of testosterone is a very complex process. Too little or too much of any of these chemicals or hormones can affect your testosterone levels.
What are Normal Testosterone Levels?
There is a really wide range for normal testosterone levels in men. Typically normal is considered between 249 to 836 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) for adult men under 50. This range changes to 193 - 740 ng/dL for men over 50. While doing research, I found several variations of this range. So there’s not one definitive range for normal testosterone levels in men.
So comparing two men, one with a testosterone level of 250 and another one with a level of 750, both are considered to have normal testosterone levels. This doesn’t make much sense, considering one has three times as much testosterone as the the other one. Furthermore, if you have a testosterone level on the low end of the spectrum and are in your early 20’s, you wouldn’t qualify for hormone therapy. There are a bunch of discrepancies when it comes to normal testosterone levels.
Symptoms of Low Testosterone
Low sex drive
Low sperm count
Loss of muscle mass
Increased risk of osteoporosis
Like estrogen, testosterone levels can also be too high. This is rarely the case though. It’s typically found in people taking prohormones or synthetic testosterone. Too much testosterone in your body can cause mood swings, behavior changes, acne, difficulty sleeping, increased appetite, and shrinking of the testicles.
Even though there’s not a lot of scientific evidence to support it, some think that higher testosterone levels could also lead to heart disease. There’s also ongoing studies on how low testosterone could lead lead to cardiovascular disease too, so it’s kind of a double edged sword. However, there are several prominent bodybuilders that have reportedly died of congestive heart failure at an early age that were known to take synthetic testosterone.
The positive effects of increased testosterone are an increased ability to gain muscle, an increased sex drive, and more frequent erections. For bodybuilders and people that regularly lift weights, these benefits make increasing testosterone levels an important goal.
If you are looking to increase your body’s natural testosterone, here are some suggestions.
Maintain a Healthy Weight- excessive fat, especially around the midsection can lower testosterone levels.
Exercise regularly- regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight and helps release hormones into your body. Most forms of exercise can be beneficial, but lifting weights is the preferred choice if your goal is to boost testosterone levels.
Focus on Your Legs- There are specific things you can do to boost your testosterone levels when it comes to lifting weights. Train your legs often and focus on compound movements. Doing compound movements like squats, deadlifts, clean and jerks, and snatches can lead to increases in testosterone.
Upper body training shouldn’t be neglected, but you just don’t release as much testosterone or growth hormone as you do when training your lower body. If you want to gain 10-15 pounds of muscle and get bigger biceps, focusing on your legs is crucial to your success.
Control Stress and Cortisol- Stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol, a catabolic hormone. Testosterone, due to its ability to promote muscle growth is anabolic. When cortisol levels are elevated, testosterone levels could significantly decrease. Also cortisol supposedly can lead you to crave foods that aren’t very healthy, thus further decreasing your testosterone levels.
Get Enough Sleep- When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more cortisol than usual. Getting enough sleep also helps your body’s endocrine system function properly. Your growth hormone and testosterone levels are highest in the morning.
Eat a Healthy Diet- Make sure to eat plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Protein contains amino acids and of many of these amino acids help your body produce the chemicals needed to form testosterone. D-Aspartic Acid helps your body produce more luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.
Healthy fats can increase the amount of HDL cholesterol your body produces. More HDL cholesterol could help you produce more testosterone. One way to do this is to eat more eggs. Eggs were once thought to increase LDL cholesterol but this is falling out of vogue as of late. The late great Vince Gironda used to have his bodybuilders eat a ton of eggs to increase testosterone and gain muscle. Stay away from processed foods. They contain food additives that can decrease testosterone levels. Avoiding soy products is also important because they are known xenoestrogens.
Play Sports or Do Something Competitive- Men who play sports or even watch sports get an elevation in testosterone levels. Other competitive hobbies can also lead to an elevation in testosterone levels.
Take Vitamins and Minerals- Vitamins and minerals are crucial for your body perform its natural processes. If you are lacking in any of the necessary the necessary key vitamins and minerals these bodily functions could be inhibited. Healthy levels of vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium have been linked with increased testosterone levels.
Use Supplements- ZMA, ashwagandha, tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, blamus, and DAA are all supplements that could help boost testosterone levels. There are a ton of supplements on the market that could help you boost your testosterone.
Hormone Replacement Therapy- If your testosterone levels are really low and you’ve tried all of the previous suggestions, consult your physician. They may recommend hormone replacement therapy to bring up your testosterone levels.