Everything You Need to Know About Testosterone and How to Greatly Increase It

By on September 11, 2014

I have a confession to make: I once sort of accidentally took steroids. Hey, we’ve all been there right?

Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I didn’t take a steroid but rather I took a prohormone called Oxavar that essentially did the same thing as a steroid (prohormones are precursors to steroids that get converted by the body once you ingest them). It was being sold at my gym and is legal in the UK thanks to a loophole in the law. At the time I was naïve and didn’t know the difference between a testosterone booster (think herbs like tribulus terrestris) and a prohormone (basically a steroid). Oops!

A few extra eggs and I woke up like this...

A few extra eggs and I woke up like this…

Anyway, taking this prohormone led to some pretty impressive muscle gains as you might imagine and I pretty much ballooned up and built a ton of extra muscle. It was awesome but when I learned what Oxavar was, I stopped taking it. Well, that and they stopped selling it (but I like to think I’d have stopped taking it regardless…). But this is why I’ve never been that interested in articles on ‘natural ways to boost your testosterone’. I’ve seen what really boosting your hormones can do, and quite frankly chasing down a long list of different vegetables is hardly going to do the same thing. In fact I presumed that lifestyle and diet would never have anywhere near a comparable effect and I was better off focusing on other factors.

Or at least that’s what I thought until recently…

See lately I’ve been doing a lot of research and I recently changed my diet to essentially decrease carbs and increase protein and saturated fat. Mainstays of my diet are tuna fish, eggs, chicken, beef, coconut oil and cheese. Bread is pretty much out.

And during this diet I’ve seen my muscle balloon in almost record time, similar to the way they did when I was on the Oxavar. I then did some research for a client, looking at more recent studies on boosting testosterone… and as it turns out I’ve been doing all the right things. And it really shows.

So this isn’t going to be your typical ’20 ways to boost testosterone with pointless things you’ll never do’ article. Rather it’s going to be a look at the science and a few tips on how to improve T big time.

Why You Probably Have Low Testosterone

First though, let’s talk about you. And your inefficient testicles.

See, it turns out that the average man today has 20% less testosterone than he did 20 years ago (and similar is probably true for women). That’s a 1% decline for every year, and it’s probably been going on longer than that. Why is that? Well it’s likely a result of us getting less sleep, of us leading less active lives, of us getting less sunlight and of us being more stressed. It could also be something to do with weightwatchers and our misguided attempts to reduce saturated fat. (we once thought it was guilty of increasing weight gain and cholesterol. It isn’t.)

Currently there isn’t really a standardised test for testosterone levels and what doctors consider ‘the normal range’ is probably way too low. If you feel tired a lot of the time, if you’re stressed, if you have a low sex drive, if you gain weight easily and struggle to build muscle and if you suffer from things like depression, then you may have low testosterone (1, 2). Testosterone gets lower with age (dropping by about 1% a year once you’re past 30), but you can mitigate this. Low testosterone also doesn’t just affect those in their 30s+ – low T is more and more common in people as young as 20!

Total testosterone is measured in ng/dl or ‘nanograms per decilitre’ and generally you’re considered ‘normal’ if you have anywhere between 350-1100 ng/dl. This is a useful resource that gives you an idea of what your testosterone should be like at different ages. But while your doctor might be happy if you have 350 ng/dl of testosterone, you certainly shouldn’t be. Don’t aim for average or ‘acceptable’ – aim for optimal. That way you’ll be more the man you were meant to be with bigger muscles, more determination, more sex drive and more machismo.

How Testosterone is Made

So hopefully you’re now interested in boosting your testosterone levels. Cool.

To do this you first need to understand how testosterone is made in your body and what the difference is between ‘total T’ and ‘free T’.

Testosterone is a 19 carbon steroid hormone that your body makes from cholesterol. On average your body produces roughly 7mg of testosterone a day, but this varies. A little bit of testosterone is produced by the adrenal glands, but the lion’s share (95%) comes from your testicles. This process is triggered by the hypothalamus which detects when we need more testosterone and responds by releasing something called ‘gonadotropin-releasing hormone’ (yup, gonadotropin!). This in turn stimulates the pituitary gland at the back of the brain to produce follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone. It’s luteinizing hormone that we’re interested in, because this is what travels to the testes and stimulates the leydic cells to create testosterone from cholesterol. Your testicles can produce a little of their own cholesterol, but this works much better if you provide your body with additional cholesterol.

From here the T will then be sent into the blood stream where it can react and become one of three things: SHBG-bound testosterone (sex hormone binding globulin), albumin-bound testosterone or free testosterone. SHBG and albumin bound testosterone means that one of those proteins respectively has bound to the testosterone, whereas free testosterone is roaming free. Free testosterone accounts for about 2% of your total T, whereas the other two are split roughly evenly.

Now really, if you’re interested in becoming more powerful, confident and ripped, then you want more free testosterone. This is the stuff that travels around your bloodstream and actually has positive effects on your mood, your muscle mass and your bone health. Free testosterone is measured in pictograms per millilitre, just because doctors like to be difficult I guess. Free T is also very hard to measure though, so you’re best off assuming that it correlates with your total T.

How to REALLY Increase Testosterone

As mentioned, there are countless articles on raising testosterone levels, but unfortunately they’re mostly pretty uninteresting. Things like tribulus terrestris hardly work, and eating more broccoli is going to have such a tiny impact as to be almost pointless.

On the other hand though, increasing your intake of protein and saturated fats – i.e. cholesterol which is what your testosterone is made of – will greatly boost your levels of T (3). I attribute some of my results to the simple fact that I switched to whole milk and started eating at least three eggs every morning. Boosting saturated fat has also been shown to help protein absorption, brain health and more and it doesn’t increase your risk of bad cholesterol or heart disease (4,5). Old-time strongmen used to swear by eating eggs… so learn from them. They were immense. You’ll also get a ton of protein with a great amino acid profile this way.

It’s not just me who has found eating eggs to be the secret to increased testosterone production either. Read this great post over at the Art of Manliness to see how Brett McKay managed to double his testosterone production in pretty much the same way…

A by-product of this increased protein and saturated fat intake by the way is usually a decrease in carbs – which is a good thing too seeing as spiking blood sugar is also known to decrease T. I’ve been pretty much avoiding bread (just because I ate a lot of fast carbs that way before) and there’s a good chance that has helped.

So if you want to do one big thing to improve your testosterone (and you should), then eat more eggs. A secondary thing to consider though would be getting more vitamin D3, probably through supplementation. As you probably know, our bodies produce vitamin D naturally when we’re exposed to sunlight but unfortunately most of us aren’t getting enough exposure and studies suggest that up to half of the population might have a deficiency (6). Vitamin D3 isn’t actually a vitamin per say, but a steroid hormone like testosterone itself. Its role is in regulating thousands of bodily functions including hormone secretion and that way it has been seen in studies to increase testosterone up to 25% in one case over the course of a year (7). Vitamin D taken in the morning will also help you to sleep better and this can lead to improved testosterone and GH production in itself. Getting more vitamin D will also improve your bone health, your immune system and more.

Of course boosting sleep generally is also really important. And that means not just getting more sleep, but doing everything you can to increase the quality of that sleep too by decreasing light in your room, taking a warm shower before bed, having a ‘wind down’ period before you go to sleep and reducing late night caffeine (caffeine in general is actually a little damaging to your T levels).

I presume if you’re reading this, then you know just how important it is to be working out. But just in case, make sure you’re engaging in big compound lifts that involve the biggest muscle groups in unison. HIIT is also an effective way to stimulate testosterone and GH production.

It’s also important to get plenty of zinc and magnesium, which is best accomplished by eating beef and green veg.

How to Increase Your Free Testosterone

Another angle to come at this from, is to increase the amount of free T compared with your bound T. You can do this by reducing the amount of SHBG in your system, meaning there’s less for the testosterone to bind with in the first place. Albumin-bound testosterone is actually relatively easily converted into free testosterone so this isn’t as much as an issue.

And it turns out that another of my diet changes has improved me on this front. This time it’s increasing my tuna fish intake (though I’ve always eaten a lot to be fair). Tuna fish contains omega 3 fatty acids, and omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce SBHG count (8), to increase luteinizing hormone (9) and to combat estrogens (9).

One I haven’t tried, but certainly looks interesting, is to use a boron supplement. Boron is a trace mineral that normally comes from soil and which plays a role in our endocrine system. One of its jobs is to decrease SHBG, and it’s through this mechanism that two separate studies found it was able to reduce testosterone up to around 29% (10, 11).

The Takeaway

What you should take away from this, is that there’s a good chance you’re not producing enough testosterone and that this is damaging your energy and your drive, making you less ‘alpha’ and preventing you from packing on as much lean muscle mass as you might like.

And the answer? Well if you only do one thing, that should be to eat lots of eggs and/or drink whole milk. If you want to go a bit further, start taking a vitamin D supplement and eating more tuna fish or other sources of omega 3. For extra credit, improve sleep quality and consider using a boron supplement. This on top of the intense workouts I know you’re already doing.

Then eat lots of protein and hopefully you’ll get similar results to me – almost comparable to prohormones and definitely much safer!

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    Hey friend, awesome website! I did notice that in the paragraph on increasing free T, you wrote that boron reduced free T, when I think you meant to write increased it. Having a great time checking out your articles though, keep up the good work!

    Fellow health and biohacking enthusiast
    http://www.yourfusionhealth.com

  2. James says:

    I’ve been meaning to eat more eggs haha. Thus is prob a little late to ask a question but what do you reckon to gold top milk as opposed to regular blue top?

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