Testosterone is a hormone found in humans, as well as in other animals on the planet Earth. The testicles primarily make testosterone in men and women’s ovaries make testosterone, though in much smaller amounts. Testosterone production normally starts to increase significantly during puberty, and begins to dip after age 30 or so.
Testosterone is most often associated with sex drive, and plays a vital role in sperm production in men. However, it also affects both men’s and women’s bone mineral density, muscle mass, the way men store fat in the body, and even red blood cell production. A man’s testosterone levels can also affect his mood and a woman’s testosterone levels can affect the quality of her sleep.
While testosterone production naturally tapers off as we age, other factors can cause hormone levels to drop: chronic diseases, endocrine system disruptors and stress are three of the biggest culprits.
How Exercise Affects Testosterone
Your testosterone levels vary throughout the day. Levels are typically highest in the morning and lowest in the afternoon. Although, a person’s testosterone levels also get a boost during and directly after exercise.
Doctors and fitness professionals still have a lot to learn about exercise and its effects on testosterone, but several factors besides your workout can affect when and how much testosterone the body produces and they are: your weight, age, fitness level, and the timing of your workout.
Research has found that strength-training and high intensity style workouts may have the biggest positive effect on testosterone levels.
By utilizing the following strategies when exercising, a person can be sure they are receiving the largest boost in testosterone from your strength training workouts.
- Use shorter rest intervals between sets during your workout.
- Lift heavier weights rather than doing many reps of lighter weights.
- Use compound exercises that recruit more muscles in the body. An example would be a multi-muscle recruitment movement such as a barbell squat. Such movements positively affect the production of testosterone more than a single muscle movement, such as biceps curls.
Now on the other hand, aerobics or prolonged moderate exercises have not been shown to increase testosterone levels and have even been shown to negatively affect them.
Why Are We Seeing Such Low Testosterone Levels
Testosterone levels in men across America has been seriously declining for the past 20 years. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
So why are men’s Testosterone levels declining at such an alarming rate?
Most believe that having a low testosterone level is almost entirely age related, as well as the amount of muscle mass that you have. Unfortunately, this could not be farther from the truth as that is a normal misunderstanding of how the body works.
Now testosterone does like muscle and does generally decrease as we age, but like everything else in the human body, it is more dependent on the communications and exchanges with the body’s other hormones and even more importantly, what is going on in the environment. As the environment plays a huge role when it comes to the body’s ability to produce testosterone.
You see, your Testosterone levels and how you use the Testosterone in your body are affected by the following factors:
- Your diet
- Your muscle mass
- Your activity and exercise
- Chronic stress (which includes irregular sleep or lack of sleep and skipping meals!)
- Toxic chemicals in and around you
All factors above are contributing to the decline in testosterone in the common day man. Until we proactively choose to remove and improve the factors above the situation is most likely going to get worse.
How Can we Maximize our Testosterone Levels?
- Maintain a Healthy weightAs your waist line goes up, your testosterone levels come down. Ideal body fat levels for maximizing testosterone production are 10-20% for males and 18-28% for females.
- Exercise RegularlyAs previously stated, when you increase the strength of your muscles, you will also increase testosterone levels. However, as with anything, there is absolutely a point of diminishing returns that must be monitored (especially in the mixed modal setting.)
- Eat more fatWhile avoiding poorly raised animal fats in your diet can get you very lean, it can also cause a down regulation of sex hormones like testosterone. With the knowledge that cholesterol is the beginning building block of a process that helps produce testosterone, research continues to prove that higher fat consumption can increase our hormonal levels.
- Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol consumptionWhile we recognize the social aspect of drinking, we also have to be real about the effects on the body. A recent study showed that even moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks daily for 3 weeks) can decrease testosterone as much as 7%.
- Reduce StressStressors in life cause us to live in our sympathetic nervous system, or our “fight or flight” system. This causes an increase in cortisol which allows us to handle the stress, but long term stress will result in the inability to make testosterone or use less of it within tissues. Remember that “stress” comes in many forms – and it is not always just emotional stress. It can be physical (overtraining) or chemical (endocrine system disruptors).