Okay, it’s time to talk about testosterone.
Testosterone is typically known as the “male hormone” even though both men and women produce it. Men just happen to produce so much more of it than women that we just decided to refer to it as the male hormone.
There’s a whole lot of boring stuff I could tell you about testosterone, but I’m going to skip all of it and go straight to the point(s) that the vast majority of people reading this will actually care about.
And that is, testosterone is the hormone that plays the largest role in our libido and our ability to build muscle.
When it comes to muscle growth, the higher a person’s testosterone levels are, the better/faster that muscle growth will take place.
This, of course, explains why people with great genetics typically have naturally above-average testosterone levels, and why some people (e.g. bodybuilders) use various drugs (steroids) to unnaturally increase theirs to well-above-normal levels.
With these facts in mind, the rest of us are left with a bit of a dilemma: we want to improve our ability to build muscle, but we don’t actually want to use steroids.
And so that brings us to a question: how do we naturally increase our testosterone levels?
Testosterone Boosting Supplements
Most of the articles that attempt to answer this question tend to focus on the ever-increasing list of natural “testosterone boosting” supplements on the market.
However, I’m not going to do that here.
Partially because I just hate talking about supplements, and partially because the overwhelming majority of the supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters” are complete and utter shit.
Yes, even the newest supposedly magical herb they recently discovered deep in the mountains of Testosterania or whatever the hell the sales pitch may be.
While some of those kinds of supplements (e.g. tribulus terrestris and fenugreek) may indeed have some degree of beneficial effect in terms of increasing libido, they’re virtually all completely useless when it comes to actually increasing testosterone levels in any meaningful way whatsoever.
So, yeah. I’m going to skip right over this entire aspect of things.
(If, however, you’d like to know more about these types of supplements, including which are legitimately proven to provide any sort of real benefit to your libido or testosterone levels, then I’d recommend getting Examine.com’s Stack Guides.)
Here’s what we’re going to do instead…
What I want to focus on instead are simple factors within your life right now – things you are currently doing or not doing – that can be having a meaningful testosterone-lowering effect.
And then, even more importantly, I’m going to show you the extremely easy (and completely natural) adjustments you can make to stop, prevent and reverse these effects and increase your testosterone levels as high as they are naturally capable of being.
Sound like fun? Let’s do this…
8 Natural Factors Affecting Your Testosterone Levels
1. Fat Intake
Research shows a fairly meaningful connection between dietary fat intake and testosterone levels. Studies (like this, this and this) have linked lower fat diets to lower testosterone levels, and higher fat diets to higher testosterone levels, thus making a sufficient fat intake (and possibly more specifically, a sufficient saturated fat intake) an important aspect of our diet.
So, how much fat should you eat per day to cover these bases?
For most people, getting 20-30% of your total daily calorie intake from fat will be the sweet spot, with that fat coming from a good mix of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Foods high in dietary fat include eggs, nuts (all kinds), nut butters, olive oil, coconut oil, seeds, fish (fatty types like salmon), avocados, beef, dairy, etc.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has become one of the most recommended supplements over the last few years due to its proven positive effects on everything from immune function, to bone health, to mood, to reducing the risk of a variety of diseases, and more.
Most relevant to this article, however, is the role it plays in regulating testosterone levels.
Studies (like this and this) link lower vitamin D levels with lower testosterone levels, and show an increase in testosterone after using supplementation to get vitamin D up to sufficient levels.
As it turns out, low vitamin D levels are actually quite common. This is because it’s not something that’s found in many foods (or found in anything but tiny amounts in the few foods that do contain it).
Instead, the most abundant source of vitamin D is the sun. Meaning, actually being outside… in the sun… with the sun actually getting to your skin. So, no sunscreen or long clothing blocking it.
The problem with this is that 1) many people avoid direct exposure to the sun to prevent skin cancer, and 2) most people spend most of the daylight hours indoors at work, in school or taking part in some other non-outdoor-activity (Netflix, video games, etc.).
Which means, unless you happen to be a mailman or a dog walker or something that involves being outside in the sun on a daily basis (including in the winter), there’s a very good chance your vitamin D levels are at least lower than optimal… potentially even with a full blown deficiency.
How can you find out for sure? Go to your doctor and get a blood test. It’s the only way to know.
If a legit deficiency is present, your doctor will probably prescribe a fairly high dose of vitamin D to get things back to normal as quickly as possible, followed by some smaller maintenance dose to continue taking from that point on.
However, what if there is no deficiency but it’s still on the lower end of the normal range? Something that’s just… sub-optimal?
Or, what if you don’t have any insurance/money to get a blood test done to find out for sure?
Or, what if you just don’t get much (if any) direct sun exposure and assume you’d probably benefit from supplementing some sane amount of vitamin D?
In those cases, a daily dose of 2000-3000 IU of vitamin D tends to be the sweet spot for most people.
That’s the amount I’ve been taking myself since around 2010. NOW Foods Vitamin D3 is the specific supplement I use and recommend. (Also keep in mind that vitamin D is fat-soluble, so it should be taken with a meal that contains a source of fat.)
If, however, you’re already getting an optimal amount of vitamin D, then supplementing additional vitamin D beyond that amount will NOT increase testosterone levels any further. The only time vitamin D supplementation helps in this regard is when your vitamin D levels are taken from low to optimal.
From optimal to more-than-optimal has no additional testosterone increasing effect.
And now you can take most of what I just said about vitamin D and apply it to zinc.
Meaning, research (such as this and this) also shows a link between zinc deficiencies and lower testosterone levels.
And, just like with vitamin D, when zinc supplementation is used to bring things up from deficient to sufficient levels, testosterone levels increase right along with it.
Also just like with vitamin D, if you are already getting a sufficient amount of zinc, additional supplementation beyond that amount will not have any additional test-boosting effect.
So, if you are someone with a zinc deficiency (zinc is lost through sweat, so it’s a somewhat common deficiency among athletes), then getting your zinc levels up to sufficient levels via your diet (foods that contain zinc include shellfish, beef, lamb, certain nuts and seeds, etc.) or via zinc supplementation (Examine.com’s Stack Guides cover all of that) will most likely result in a beneficial increase to your testosterone levels.
Studies (like this and this) also show an association between insufficient amounts of sleep and lower testosterone levels.
Another study (this) had a group of young males sleep 8 hours per night for a week, followed by 10 hours per night for 3 nights, followed by 5 hours per night for the next 8 nights.
Guess what happened?
There was an immediate 10-15% reduction in testosterone levels after the nights when they slept 5 hours per night.
What can you do to prevent or reverse this?
That’s easy. Get a sufficient amount of sleep every night.
What qualifies as “sufficient” exactly? I’d say anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night will be ideal for most people.
Additional details here: How To Fall Asleep Fast and Sleep Better Through The Night
In the same way that we consider testosterone to be the fun, happy, sex and muscle building hormone… we also consider cortisol to be the bad, sad, unhappy, fat, weak, depressing, stress hormone.
Technically speaking, of course, cortisol isn’t actually bad. In and of itself, at normal, healthy levels… it’s perfectly fine. It actually plays quite a few important positive roles in the body.
However, prolonged elevated levels of cortisol… THAT’S problematic.
One of the many examples of this problematic-ness is the fact that cortisol suppresses testosterone.
And the more stress we experience in our lives (be it mental or physical stress), the more our cortisol levels increase. And the higher cortisol levels increase and the longer they remain elevated, the more detrimental it is to our overall health and well being… and the more our testosterone levels decrease.
So what do I mean by “stress” exactly?
Well, stress comes in a variety of forms.
There’s the common generic life stress most people are probably already thinking of… typical issues with your job, school work, family, friends, husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, social life and really whatever other normal day-to-day obviously stress-inducing problems people experience.
Then there’s more personal forms of stress that are specific to each person and whatever craziness happens to be going on in their head at any given time (e.g. anxiety, depression, etc.).
Then there’s physical stress, which can include all sorts of things. For example, insufficient sleep (sleep deprivation is associated with higher and/or dysregulated cortisol levels… another reason why sleep is so important), excessive amounts of exercise (e.g. stupidly high volume never-ending “bodybuilding routines,” hours of cardio most/all days of the week, always going to failure, etc.), excessive caloric deficits (in terms of size, duration, or both… more about this one later), digestive issues (it’s more than just problems with bloating, poop and farts… it’s a real form of stress being put on your body). And more.
So, what are you supposed to do about this?
Simple. Avoid stress.
Wait, what’s that you say? It’s impossible to avoid stress?
Well, physical stress is probably the easiest to come close to avoiding. For example, sleep 7-9 hours a night, avoid excessive amounts of exercise and design an intelligent weight training routine (or better yet, use one of the proven routines I include in Superior Muscle Growth), avoid foods you have issues digesting, etc. etc. etc.
As for mental and emotional stress… yeah… that’s a little bit harder.
It’s also a little bit harder for me to give any recommendations for that sort of thing. (You hate your job? Quit! Your boss is a dick? Punch him in the face! School is boring? Drop out! Your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband sucks to be around? Leave them!)
So I guess my recommendation here would be to find some way to at least minimize whatever mental/emotional stress you have in your life, and/or find better ways of dealing with that stress.
- Do more of the things you enjoy doing (and less of the things you don’t).
- Spend more time around people you like being around (and less around people you don’t).
- Laugh more.
- Play more.
- Listen to music.
- Take a walk outside.
- Find some other relaxing hobby.
- Have more sex – it’s a proven stress reliever AND sleep aid – and ideally have that sex with another person rather than just by yourself, as that has been shown to be more beneficial in this regard.
Whatever it is, anything you can do in your life to reduce stress (and keep your cortisol levels where you want them to be) will benefit your testosterone levels.
And benefit virtually everything else, too.
6. Alcohol Consumption
Let me make this one as clear as possible.
Small to moderate amounts of alcohol consumption (i.e. the kind of drinking that you don’t feel the next day) on a semi-infrequent basis (let’s say once or maybe twice a week) is probably just fine for most people.
On the other hand…
Larger, more excessive amounts of alcohol consumption and/or more frequent alcohol consumption can potentially be a lot less fine for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it has been shown to lower testosterone levels (studies here, here, here, here, here, here and here).
So what’s the big obvious point?
If you’re going to drink, staying within the realm of “moderate” alcohol consumption will probably be just fine. But the more you exceed “moderate,” the more detrimental it’s going to become.
7. Body Fat Percentage
Ready for a shocker? Being overly fat is bad for you.
In fact, being overly fat is associated with damn near every single adverse health marker you can think of. Research (such as this and this) has shown that one such example is a strong association with lower testosterone levels.
The surprising solution? Lose fat and get leaner.
I explain exactly how to do that here: How To Lose Fat and The Best Way To Lose Weight Fast
The surprising prevention method? Don’t ever get overly fat in the first place.
This, of course, is one of MANY reasons why Superior Muscle Growth places so much emphasis on building muscle without gaining excess body fat, and part of why you shouldn’t ever “bulk” (aka go into a caloric surplus for the purpose of building muscle) until you are first “lean enough” to do so (details here: Should I Bulk Or Cut First?).
And while we’re on the subject of body fat percentage, there’s another point that I should also mention for the few people it might be relevant to.
If a person tests their test levels (I’ve been waiting all article to work that line in) when they are fat, and then tests them again when they are lean, they will almost always see a meaningful increase. Which means, the leaner you are, the better your hormonal profile will be.
That is… to a point.
You see, there’s a point when a person can get so lean (let’s say mid single digit body fat for men, and low teens for women) that it begins to have a negative effect on testosterone levels and damn near everything else, for that matter (including stopping a woman’s menstrual cycle).
For any guy who has ever gotten that lean, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Your sex drive damn near dies, and your ability to get “things” up and ready to go for the purpose of actually having that sex (which you’re not even interested in having) falls short.
Fortunately, things do return to normal once body fat levels return to a more “normal” level of leanness, which is nice.
But please realize that this isn’t something most people will ever need to worry about, as most people A) don’t want to be THAT lean in the first place, and B) many of the handful that do are unlikely to successfully reach that level even when they are trying to.
So to sum this one up…
- Avoid getting overly fat. Lower testosterone levels are just one of a billion reasons to avoid ever letting that happen.
- If you already are overly fat, lose that fat and get leaner. Doing so will increase your testosterone levels by some meaningful degree. And likely improve most other things, too.
- If you are someone who wants or needs to get extremely lean (e.g. a bodybuilder preparing for a contest… as this study looked at), prepare for it to have a detrimental effect in this regard, at least until you return to a less extreme level of body fat.
8. Your Approach To Losing Fat
Okay, so, being lean is better for you than being fat, and losing fat and getting leaner will result in higher testosterone levels.
Cool. Now for the ironic part.
The process of losing that fat so you can become leaner/healthier/better is something your body kinda hates.
What I mean is, the sole requirement of fat loss is a caloric deficit, and a caloric deficit is literally an energy deficit. As it turns out, your body doesn’t really enjoy being in this energy deficient state (it’s a form of physical stress being placed on your body), even if the whole purpose of being in this state (losing fat and getting leaner) is indeed something that your body will love once it happens.
The deficit itself is still something it hates.
Why is this?
Well, it all stems from the fact that your body only knows and cares about one thing: survival.
It doesn’t know or care if you’re in this caloric deficit because you want to lose fat, get lean, be healthier, feel better and look prettier, or because you’re about to starve to death. So, it will only ever react in the only way it knows how: by doing whatever it can possibly do to fight back and prevent this from continuing to happen.
This is why people trying to lose fat experience everything from hormonal issues, metabolic slowdown and hunger, to problems with sleep, mood and strength/muscle maintenance. And on and on and on.
Basically, in a deficit, all things that are ideally higher tend to gradually become lower (this includes – among other things – testosterone levels), and all things that are ideally lower tend to gradually become higher (this includes – among other things – cortisol levels).
The bad news? This is unavoidable.
The good news? The extent to which it occurs will differ greatly based on your approach to losing fat.
Meaning, the longer your deficit lasts and/or the larger your deficit is and/or the leaner you begin to get… the more pronounced these negative aspects of being in a deficit will be.
This is why very large deficits (via excessively low calorie intakes, excessively high amounts of exercise, or both) are a terrible idea for most people and should be avoided in place of something more moderate (20% below maintenance is a good starting point for the average person).
This is also why things like refeeds, diet breaks and cyclical forms of dieting are frequently recommended for people trying to reach lower levels of body fat and/or those who will be in a deficit for a significant period of time… as these methods all exist for the purpose of preventing, reducing and fixing the various negative issues associated with being in a deficit.
So, what’s the big point for this one? A few things…
- Being lean will result in higher testosterone levels than being fat.
- However, the caloric deficit required to lose that fat and get lean is something that, in and of itself, is capable of causing testosterone levels to decrease gradually over time (while also causing cortisol levels to gradually increase over time).
- It’s important to note that the degree at which this occurs will be at its highest the larger the deficit is, the longer the deficit lasts, and/or the leaner the person gets. It will be at its lowest in the opposite scenarios… sometimes to the point where it’s not even going to be worth caring about (e.g. someone with a lot of fat to lose who is in the early stages of losing it).
- To minimize this, most people should avoid very large deficits in the form of excessively low calorie intakes, excessively high amounts of exercise, or both.
- In addition, many people should consider using refeeds, diet breaks and/or cyclical forms of dieting for similar reasons, especially if they are attempting to get fairly lean.
Nothing fancy. No unproven supplements. No magical foods. No crazy claims.
Just 8 legitimately proven ways to increase your testosterone levels naturally, all of which involve simple adjustments you can start making right now.
Feel free to do so.
61 thoughts on “How To Increase Testosterone Naturally (Foods, Supplements and More)”
thanks a lot for this information, very very useful….
Just one question, I know it has no accurate answer, but maybe an approximate? When you say long deficit in time…. when should we think a deficit is too long?
There will be an entire chapter about this in my upcoming book. Stay tuned. 😉
Great. I look forward to it!!!
read in one breath ;))
WOW!!! Jay this is so right on time, Bro! I’ve already been implementing zinc, vitamin D, getting more sleep which I know has given me more of that happy hormone known as TESTOSTERONE! If this 53 Year Old woman can build muscle, than ANYONE can do it! Of course getting yourself a copy of ‘Superior Muscle Growth’ wouldn’t hurt either! =) RAWK ON JAY!!!
Ha, glad to hear it May! Thanks.
After Reading superior muscle growth, I realized I need to cut body fat before I begin a muscle building program. Was in caloric deficit for five months. I didn’t take any diet breaks and my muscles took a huge hit! I’m sure my testosterone levels must have been low. As soon as I finish cutting you posted an article about the importance of diet breaks. I wish I would have known about that before. But live and learn. I’m back in caloric surplus now. And I’m excited for your new book superior fat loss. I’m hoping that will help the next time I need to cut. Thanks for the great article!
Ohhh, definitely. SFL is going to be designed from top to bottom to help eliminate (or at least greatly minimize) every single one of the things that suck about losing fat… including muscle loss.
Looking forward to this, can’t wait!
I don’t know how much difference fat intake manipulation makes. I’ve had a couple discussions with Spencer Nadolsky about this, and he too (among others) was of the opinion that total caloric intake has more to do with it rather than fat intake. Now of course, eating 0 g of fat is going to be bad. I am talking about eating ALL the fat, cause fat intake -> testosterone. I know you didn’t say that, but I’ve heard people say this.
Realistically, any variation will be negligible. Now if someone has clinical hypogonadism, that’s different, but for a person with normal levels, a 5 % variation isn’t gonna do anything.
The idea of mega-dosing fat is just as dumb/pointless/potentially bad as the idea of mega-dosing any other thing that is good in optimal amounts (e.g. fish oil). Too low is bad. Too high is bad.
It’s not that fat intake = testosterone, rather just that insufficient fat intake vs sufficient fat intake will play some meaningful role in optimal hormone production.
Good job, as usual.
I definitely need a clue of what’s to long for a caloric deficit …. In Your Opinion, a month in and I’m feeling the effects. Would’ve never gained any knowledge of not for You Jay …. Thanks You’re the best
Thanks man! SFL will cover all of this in detail, I promise.
Very well presented!
Ok I am very curious about something …. does this article also applies to women considering they produce much lower amounts of testosterone ?
I am not a woman but I observed so many times in my life that the more fat and obese a girl is …. the more aggressive she is. Some of them even want to physically fight you . Since aggressiveness is associated with Testosterone …. how is it possible ?
I think that’s just a coincidence rather than a cause and effect thing.
Some people, male or female, are just more aggressive/mad/angry/easily-angered/confrontational/assholes/etc. than others for a million different reasons… regardless of their body fat percentage. Testosterone levels are just one factor.
Also consider the possibility that you might be giving overweight women a reason to want to hit you? 😉
I wasn’t talking from my personal experience only …. I also have friends who experienced the same. I don’t care if they want to hit me … fuck them.
So you are saying that it’s more of a coincidence …. but you still didn’t told me if all these factors also apply to women in general or they are only men related ?
Yes, it applies.
In 20% calorie deficit since march 23rd otherwise I’m doing ok for the other bits.
Looking at losing another 7-10lbs so might be a while longer yet. Time to go for maintenance calories for a while?
If you feel like a break is needed, definitely feel free to go to maintenance for 1-2 weeks and then get back to losing those last 7-10lbs.
Hi Jay, great article!
Quick question: what should be the breakdown in terms of fat (saturated, monosaturated, polyunsaturated)?
20% of calories from fat seems reasonable and it debunks the myth that existed for years that fat was making people well… fat.
One more quick question: although it is probably obvious to most readers, my question would be then what makes McDonalds and Co. so unhealthy then (besides the obvious enormous amounts of sugar in the Coke which I strongly advocate avoiding)? For example, a Big Mac and Fries would seem like a testosterone-boosting dream meal (and tastes great) if I match it to the requirements of the article (zinc, saturated fat), so I guess I am missing the bigger picture. Please don’t tell me I’ve been avoiding Mickey D’s for no reason!
Last one for now: is there any danger of overdosing on vitamin d if one supplements with 2000 IU but already had enough?
Thanks as always for your hard work and awesome articles…
1. 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 is likely a fine starting point. A little less/more of one type of fat from one day to the next is still going to be fine, too.
2. Well first, it doesn’t work like that in terms of a high fat meal being a “test boosting meal.” It’s a consistent sufficient fat intake (in conjunction with a sufficient overall diet) that can be beneficial to testosterone levels. The idea of a “test boosting meal” is silly click-bait nonsense that terrible writers write about. 😉 As for McDonald’s in general… generally speaking it’s usually low in micronutrition, excessively high in calories and sodium, and contains who-the-fuck-even-knows to keep it fast, cheap, and prevents it from apparently ever going bad. Other than that, it’s just calories like anything else and, as long everything else is done correctly, has the potential to be a minor part of a person’s diet if they wanted it to. Details here.
3. There’s always a danger of taking too much of anything… but 2000 IU is unlikely to be “too much” even if a person was already getting sufficient amounts from the sun. A blood test to confirm if it was needed in the first place would be the ideal/recommended option, of course.
Thanks Jay, that makes sense. Would a fish oil capsule count as a source of fat, with which one can take Vitamin D? Also a somewhat related question: does one need to take protein powder with a source of carbs to create an intentional insulin spike (to drive the protein to where it needs to be), or is simply a mixture of powder and water sufficient? Thanks again.
Yes to fish oil as a source of fat… no to protein powder needing to be taken with carbs. Just water is fine.
So the mainstream info out there claiming that Polyunsatutated fats lowers testosterone wrong? :/ Are test boosting sites out there who bash polyunsaturated fats incorrect? They claim saturated fat should be twice has high as monounsaturated fats to boost Free Testosterone. And How Polyunsaturated Fats should be kept as low as possible for high test.
Do you have any advice for people suffering from skinny fat syndrome? Do we need extra protein, more zinc, etc?
Read this one.
Regarding the sun, some people may even live in climates where sun exposure is deficient, at least for 7-9 months per year.
Yup, another very good point.
I noticed the first two things you mentioned were saturated fats and vitamin d which are both in whole milk, and I usually drink a half gallon of whole milk a day so is that more beneficial than eating something like chicken and rice?
It’s the totals for the day that matter, not the individual food sources that provide them.
Sorry this is off topic but I really need your opinion and I haven’t seen it addressed at all.
I’m a female 45 pounds over weight and I found your articles and lowered my calories accordingly and so far have lost 8 pounds in 3 weeks! My question is about Coke Zero. I love coke (quite possibly addicted lol) and had to cut it out due to it being wasted calories. I know calories are what count and since Coke Zero has zero calories I switched to that. I drink between 3-4 cans a day. I’ve read things like artificial sweeteners aren’t good for you but it would be disappointing if I had to stop drinking them. Maybe you could let me know if this is true and if drinking them will affect my weight loss at all. Thanks for changing my life. I truly appreciate what you are doing.
As long as your calorie intake is what it needs to be each day (i.e. a deficit exists), you’ll lose weight just the same whether you drink Coke Zero or not.
As for the artificial sweeteners themselves, read this one and this one.
Thanks so much!
I have to disagree with this one. 3-4 cans per day for a long enough time (years) will cause problems with your goals. You may escape the calorie trap with diet sodas – and we can leave the artificial sweeteners debate for another time – but not the phosphoric acid in high quantities in all sodas.
Excessive chronic consumption of phosphoric acid (phosphorus) depletes the body of micronutrients. Namely iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and eventually potassium.
Iron is needed for oxygenated red blood cells. Without it, you are fatigued, winded, and experience muscle weakness which make it difficult to exercise effectively. (Eventually you become anemic but you can have symptoms of iron deficiency well before that).
Iron is also needed by your thyroid to properly regulate metabolism.
Zinc’s correlation to testosterone is mentioned in this article. Low testosterone will make it difficult to build muscle.
Magnesium (along with B vitamins) is responsible for properly metabolising carbs, fat, and protein.
Low magnesium eventually causes low potassium, which results in uncomfortable bloating (significant water retention), fatigue, muscle weakness, muscle aches and pains, and feeling winded. This impacts ability to exercise effectively and although water weight gain is not fat, no one likes feeling puffy & bloated by 4.5kg/10lbs.
If you don’t want to cut back on the Coke Zero, be sure to eat a varied diet rich in micronutrients and red meat and duck, consider taking a calcium-magnesium supplement, and monitor your ferritin levels via regular blood work. Ferritin stores iron, so low levels mean low iron. Optimal levels for adult women are around 70, and remember “optimal” is different than “normal” in lab reference ranges. With caution, consider supplementing with iron bisglycinate at a conservative dose if ferritin drops too much. Don’t take iron supplements willy nilly as you can retain to toxic levels if you take them when your body doesn’t need them.
This is from a former Diet Coke addict who became anemic and blood work showed all the above patterns.
I also meant to say that yes, even with these deficiencies, there should still be some threshold at which the calories-in-calories-out model still works. However, its an uphill battle requiring absolute religious adherence with no room for the tiniest slip up, which is a frustrating, discouraging experience.
When deficiencies become severe enough, it may well be that you’d have to consume too many calories to get the micronutrients back up to normal without supplements. And intense exercise depletes iron, increasing iron needs, which is a problem if you’re already in a deficit even if you can somehow force yourself to exercise through sheer willpower in spite of physical, mental and muscular fatigue.
Thanks, great article.
I have a question.
I am someone who’s a genetic freak, or was at least.
I never had any excess fat. I work out on and off, and when I do I grow a decent amount of muscle, which I slowly lose when I stop.
However, a few months ago I became 30 years old, and like clockwork, I’m starting to see some belly fat for the first time in my life.
I have not changed anything in the way I eat (I like to call my diet AnythingGoes, :D)
Could it be because my testosterone levels are dropping as I grew older?
If so, should I start a diet like normal people do?
It’s much more likely that you are either eating a bit more than you previously have been, moving a bit less more than you previously have been (and thus burning less calories per day), or some combination of both.
I’m a woman who can personally attest to the effectiveness of these recommendations.
I was suffering all the symptoms of low testosterone so I lab tested testosterone (and other hormones) via both saliva and blood, my cortisol via saliva, and my copper & zinc via hair (controversial, I know). At first, my cortisol was way out of whack, my testosterone was so low as to be almost undetectable, my copper levels were double what’s normal, and my zinc was depleted.
I implemented everything mentioned in this article, plus I removed my copper IUD and supplemented with DHEA. I tested again at 3, 6, 9 months and saw dramatic improvements but not where I needed to be yet. By one year later, my labs were all normal and I felt soooo much better.
Now I would like to add a few things to this article for the WOMEN out there:
1) TESTOSTERONE MATTERS FOR WOMEN TOO! This should go without saying, but even though we may have significantly less testosterone than men, its still just as important to maintain healthy levels. Too many women (and even some men) seem to think testosterone conversations are irrelevant to women. Frustratingly, even *doctors* don’t tend to think of low testosterone in women as anything of concern. It does work a little differently in terms of hormonal pathways and levels, but testosterone has the same function (libido, muscle, etc) and low testosterone can happen to women too with all the same symptoms. Fortunately, as this article explains, you *can* take matters into your own hands, quite effectively and safely.
2) Ok, this is going to be a hard sell. LOSE THE COPPER IUD! Or at least give your body a few years in between replacement IUDs, rather than replacing them back-to-back. Yes, the *copper* one without hormones that you probably specifically chose not just for convenience but because everyone including doctors insisted that it doesn’t affect your hormones. Guess what? It does. Think about how it works. It creates a hostile environment in the uterus via excess copper and inflammation. There are studies showing that it increases your copper levels to double the normal range, which is not toxic but causes low level chronic issues over time, including depleting zinc which depletes testosterone as described in the article. Second, chronic inflammation is a bodily stressor. The body always responds to stress in the same way: cortisol. Prolonged elevated cortisol eventually impacts hormones. Eg, testosterone crashes. No, you won’t find any doctors nor studies saying copper IUDs do this, but there are plenty of studies on each of these processes individually – copper, inflammation, cortisol, hormones, etc. – to be able to put 2 & 2 together. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of pseudoscience and quackery to wade through out there, so I get it if you have difficulty believing me. All I can say is its a conclusion I came to after researching PubMed and Google Scholar for years. Oh, and actually removing my IUD and finally seeing improvements in my labs which wouldn’t budge beforehand, as well as other health improvements. [As an aside, I only use barrier methods now – condoms, spermicide, sponges, cervical caps, diaphragms – because I absolutely refuse to f**k with my hormones anymore. I understand that won’t be acceptable for some women’s lifestyles.]
3) TRY CONSERVATIVE DHEA SUPPLEMENTATION. I took 25mg of Thorne brand (high quality from my naturopath but you can get other brands over the counter in health supplement stores in the US) with 30mg zinc citrate (also Thorne) per day. We make testosterone from DHEA naturally, so light supplementation just gives that process a little boost. Zinc blocks some conversion to DHT so you keep your testosterone, which is probably why zinc has benefits on its own as per the article, but it also works synergistically with DHEA supplementation. [Those of you, especially men, in the know about AAS might jump at the DHT reference but hormonal pathways are different and very sensitive in women. That’s a whole other conversation and probably endless dispute.] Note: zinc will make you very nauseous if you take it on an empty stomach.
I welcome discussion and hope that was helpful or thought-provoking.
4) QUIT DRINKING SODAS. See my reply on Rachel’s Coke Zero conversation above.
Hi! I really love your articles. Keep up the great work!! 🙂
I have a question. I’ve heard that increased levels of testosterone in women isn’t healthy. Is that bullshit? Does increasing your testosterone decrease your estrogen levels?
It depends what you mean by “increased.” If levels are increased from low to optimal, it’s a good thing. If it’s increased from optimal to above-what-it-ideally-should-be, that’s when it can be potentially problematic for both men and women.
Exactly. See #1 in my comment above.
So the mainstream info out there claiming that Polyunsatutated fats lowers testosterone wrong? :/ Are test boosting sites out there who bash polyunsaturated fats incorrect? They claim saturated fat should be twice has high as monounsaturated fats to boost Free Testosterone. And How Polyunsaturated Fats should be kept as low as possible for high test.
What’s the truth???
So’ that’s why it’s not optimal trying to gain mass when u are in a deficit. It’s definitely harder when your test and cortisol is not going the anabolic mode.
That’s one part of it, but the main part is that synthesizing new muscle tissue requires additional calories, and a deficit provides the opposite of that scenario.
Hey there – thanks so much for your incredibly helpful website. You write with more clarity than 99% of the fitness writers I’ve come across.
About 8 months ago my doctor prescribed me testosterone to treat low levels for my age, and I’ve had the usual, positive side effect: more energy, more sex drive, etc.
My testosterone level is now “good,” but not great, yet my doctor is hesitant about prescribing a higher does now that I have achieved a reasonable level. So my question is:
To what extent do these testosterone boosting methods you describe work for those of us already on testosterone therapy?
Thanks again for all your great writing.
Nothing will be as significant as testosterone therapy itself would. But, the stuff on this list can certainly still help. To what degree would depend on how many of these factors are currently suboptimal for you, and just how suboptimal they currently are.
This was a great read for me. I’ve been over obsessing with losing fat for almost a year not to where I was lifting insanely everyday but not taking in close to enough carbs a day(maybe about 100g or less a day and I was 6’3 225 17%bf) plus a fat burner every day for months, fat intake poor. Calories were insanely low. Basically focused on just protein..I’m a clear case of everything you mentioned here except sleep, I work at night and sleep from 7am to 5pm, good sleep but ZERO sunlight. Total test ended up being at 15. Anyway this was a great read and also a wake up call. Thanks man.
Glad to hear it helped!
What’s considered a sufficent saturated fat intake? 20 grams a day? More? Less?
20-30% of your total calorie intake is a good place to start.
Thank you. 🙂 Thanks to you I am free from the brain-washing/scare tactics of various diet cults and other nonsense! When is SFL coming out? This year I hope!!! At 12% body fat (abs appear VERY sharply when flexed but not when relaxed…at least i think thats 12 % body fat…is it????). So starting to plan next fat loss phase.
Glad to hear it dude! SFL will hopefully be out around the beginning of the summer. Hopefully.
12 % body fat – abs appear ONLY when flexed AND look sharp.
8% body fat abs appear when relaxed AND look sharp.
Is this an accurate ESTIMATE?
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