What is testosterone?
Testosterone is the main sex hormone produced by men and is responsible for many masculine characteristics. The hormone plays a role in growing facial and body hair, regulating sex drive, building muscle mass and mental wellbeing. Therefore, lacking the hormone can result in hair loss, increased body fat, reduced muscle mass and a low libido.
Not a day goes by without a new testosterone supplement being promoted as the best way to build muscle with ease. To put it frankly, this is complete garbage! Unless you have a medical condition that inhibits your testosterone production, there aren’t any government approved testosterone supplements. Boosting testosterone can merely be put down to this: get enough sleep, eat well, stay active and manage your stress. Simple!
Sleep is important to maintain a healthy body. A lack of sleep inhibits your body to produce many hormones including testosterone. Research has shown that testosterone levels are higher the longer you sleep. It is recommended that you achieve 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night to give your body enough time to rest and repair.
When it comes to testosterone, zinc and vitamin D are of particular interest.
Zinc plays an important role in testosterone production and even a mild deficiency can impact hormone levels. The good news is an adequate amount of zinc is usually achieved by maintaining a well-balanced diet. The best foods for zinc include beef, turkey, prawns, scallops, seeds, lentils, spinach and asparagus.
A study on the link between vitamin D and testosterone, has shown that individuals with higher levels of vitamin D, also have higher testosterone.There are small amounts of the vitamin available in fish, eggs, UV-irradiated mushrooms and fortified milk or cereal products. However, the best source of vitamin D is not obtained through diet but through exposure to sunlight.
Your body produces testosterone in response to how active you are. Basically, if you don’t exercise your body reduces testosterone production as it is not required to support muscular growth and bone density. Similarly, increasing your activity levels stimulates your testosterone production to improve muscle mass and bone density. Research shows that multi-joint exercises such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses are the way to go. Free-weights are also preferred over machines as your core muscles are more engaged triggering more testosterone production.
When you are under physical or emotional stress, your body releases the hormone Cortisol. High levels of cortisol within the body reduces the amount of testosterone produced by the body. Therefore, reducing stress and subsequently cortisol will help to maintain testosterone levels. The best way to manage stress varies person to person so finding the right technique for you can take some time to figure out.
Written by Perri Simon
SiSU Wellness Nutritionist
Brownlee, K. K., Moore, A. W., & Hackney, A. C. (2005). Relationship Between Circulating Cortisol and Testosterone: Influence of Physical Exercise. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 4(1), 76–83.
Shaner, A. A., Vingren, J. L., Hatfield, D. L., Budnar Jr, R. G., Duplanty, A. A., & Hill, D. W. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), 1032-1040.
Wehr, E., Pilz, S., Boehm, B. O., Marz, W., & Obermayer?Pietsch, B. (2010). Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clinical endocrinology, 73(2), 243-248.