The Testosterone Advantage – How to Tap Into the Effects of Testosterone in the Brain

By on September 5, 2019

Testosterone doesn’t just lead to big muscle and low fat. It ALSO impacts the brain – for better or for worse – and is responsible for many characteristics we consider to be alpha male traits.

It makes people driven, determined, assertive, and confident.

These “alpha males” exude confidence, they’re physically imposing, and they speak in a charismatic and engaging way.

The Rock Alpha Male Traits

When they talk, people lean in and listen. When they lean back, arms crossed, people want to impress them. They’re driven, determined, and nobody messes with them.

I know a few people like this. And the weird thing is that some of them weren’t always like it – they somehow became alpha males. And none of them on paper have anything that would necessarily make them more alpha than other guys I know. They aren’t necessarily wealthier, or taller, or better looking. They just have “something.”

These days, a LOT of guys suffer from low testosterone

If you don’t quite know what I’m talking about, then the best person to look at is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. That guy is alpha in every discernable way. He’s charismatic, charming, confident, and magnetic.

Optimus Prime alpha male traits
Optimus Prime is as alpha as you like. And the fact I think that is how you know I’m not…

But as the YouTube channel Charisma on Command pointed out, he wasn’t always that way. Check an interview from early in his career and he comes across much more reticent, even shy!

Did the Rock use deliberate alpha male strategies? How did he get those alpha male traits?

How to Become Alpha Male

I believe it has to do with the affect testosterone has on the brain. Is this something anyone can tap into? Is testosterone a potential nootropic?

Is testosterone a potential nootropic?

These days, a LOT of guys suffer from low testosterone. In fact, men on average experience 1% less testosterone every year! Combine this with the state of chronic stress most of us are in all the time – caused by work, debt, and lack of sleep – and you have something of a crisis on your hands (cortisol counteracts testosterone).  Those same men lose many alpha male traits and instead feel slow, lethargic, and depressed. With more testosterone coursing through their brains, they would feel assertive, aggressive (in the positive sense), confident, energetic, driven, virile, and powerful.j

There are a lot of studies showing this in animals and humans alike. Testosterone can boost memory and performance in cognitive tests (study), it increases risk taking (study, study) which can be useful in business within limits, aids visuomotor speed according to self-reports (reference), and likely decreases anxiety/social anxiety (study).

Forget modafinil. If you want to chase down your goals, become more persuasive in the boardroom, feel more confident, take risks, focus harder, and be singled out for promotion… testosterone is what you need!

Forget modafinil.

And when you see someone use steroids you see this. They don’t just build muscle, they become more masculine and commanding as well. They develop more alpha male traits. In fact this is one of the things I suspect may have affected the Rock. By which I mean no disrespect at all.

So, if you want an “alpha male how to” should you start taking steroids? Obviously not. That is not what I’m recommending here, not only because of the risks associated but also because testosterone can actually deplete in the long-term after using steroids.

Dwayne Johnson Body Language

I’ve explored boosting testosterone naturally in previous articles. Things like vitamin D, DAA, fasting, and consuming more fats all appear to offer amazing benefits; increasing testosterone by 30% or more!

That’s not enough to trigger massive muscle growth or fat loss. After all, average testosterone is anywhere between 250-900NG/DL, whereas someone on a steroid cycle will have testosterone levels in the thousands or even tens of thousands.

Average testosterone is anywhere between 250-900NG/DL, whereas someone on a steroid cycle will have testosterone levels in the thousands or even tens of thousands.

BUT you might expect these 30% increases to have at least some impact on psychology right? So why isn’t this the case? Taking tribulus terrestris or DAA won’t give you alpha male traits or turn you in Optimus Prime (the most alpha of all alpha males).

You can have all the testosterone in the world coursing through your body, but without the androgen receptors you won’t have alpha male traits.

And the possible reason for this? Androgen receptors (ARs).

Receptors are “holes” at the ends of neurons that react to neurotransmitters and hormones. If you think of chemicals like dopamine and testosterone as keys, receptors are the keyholes. Thus, for any chemical to have an effect on the brain, you need to have receptors for it – Androgen receptors in the case of testosterone. You can have all the testosterone in the world coursing through your body, but without the androgen receptors you won’t have alpha male traits.

winner effect testosterone

So instead of focusing purely on testosterone, if you really want your “alpha male how to,” then you need to focus on increasing ARs too.

How to Increase Androgen Receptors and Gain Alpha Male Traits

I said I wasn’t going to go there…

But there is a possible way that you can increase androgen receptors to a significant degree as a guy.

And that’s “no-fap.” As in, you stop masturbating.

You become more driven, confident, and assertive to increase your chances of success.

Every time you ejaculate, you actually reduce the number and sensitivity of your androgen receptors (study). This effect is more pronounced when there is no partner present, due to the lack of prolactin and other chemicals that promote sexual satiety. Periods of abstinence allow these receptors to return, thereby allowing the testosterone to once again more strongly impact on your brain function.

Limitless alpha male traits

This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint: when you haven’t had sex for a while, you become more driven, confident, and assertive to increase your chances of success. It just so happens that these are the same alpha male traits that also help us in the boardroom, at the gym, and in social settings.

Guys who try nofap often report gaining “superpowers”

But if you masturbate daily, you don’t give these receptors time to replenish. They therefore lose sensitivity and numbers more and more each time, essentially making the testosterone in your brain inert. Your brain thinks you are living in a time of plenty, and so it goes soft. This effect seems to be compounded by similar changes in your dopamine reward circuitry.

The result of all this is that guys who try nofap often report gaining “superpowers” once they hit around the seven day mark. They feel more confident, women start noticing them, and even other guys treat them differently. It helps that the seven day mark also sees a huge spike in testosterone (study). This unfortunately doesn’t last, but the increased sensitivity does – giving those guys more alpha traits as a result.

nofap superpowers alpha male traits

There are caveats of course. There’s a period of “flatlining” and the evidence is mostly anecdotal or based on animal research. Still though, it certainly makes logical sense and there are a lot of people who swear by the technique. For me, abstaining entirely is more likely to be counter productive, but exercising a little… restraint… appears to have noticeable benefits for my focus and drive. And yes, it arguably increased other alpha male traits such as social confidence and assertiveness too.

Doubling Down on Testosterone

I could end the story there, but what about other ways to increase androgen receptor density and sensitivity?

Fasting may likewise increases androgen receptor density.

One option is fasting, which may likewise increases androgen receptor density. I can’t access the one study on the subject though, which was comparing the effects of fasting on obese vs non obese men (study). It’s also unclear whether this would affect receptors located in the brain specifically.

But it makes sense that it would. Once again, the body is being told that resources and opportunities and resources are scarce – so it follows that it should aim to increase competitiveness. And it is widely reported that intermittent fasting increases focus and motivation.

If we combine these two practices, perhaps we could expect to see a bigger change in alpha male traits?

On top of that you could also add caffeine consumption, which appears to raise androgen receptor counts, as well as exercise.

Caffeine androgen receptors

Likewise, what if you also increased your testosterone using the various other methods we’ve looked at in the past? You could boost testosterone by 30% but actually feel the difference this time!

The Winner Effect

Finally, one other interesting method for boosting both testosterone AND androgen receptors is to win a lot. This is due to a process observed in nature dubbed “The Winner Effect.” This basically states that an animal that wins lots of encounters with rival males will be more likely to win future bouts. Let that animal win against smaller, weaker animals, a few times, and it will then be more likely to win against larger, stronger animals! (Study, study)

An animal that wins lots of encounters with rival males will be more likely to win future bouts.

This is especially true if the animal has won territorial disputes on “home turf.”

As the mice and fish that have been tested experience more ego-boosting wins, they also begin to use more of a specific network of brain regions. This changes the way they react to a dispute, making them more likely to be successful in territorial disputes.

winner effect
“Bruce” fighting Wong Jack Man in Birth of the Dragon

Another way this has been described is as power itself making us more alpha. And this does gel with the image of the high-flying executive who is intimidatingly alpha. They got that way from taking risks and bossing people around – but that also made them more alpha. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Power itself makes us more alpha.

Studies have even shown how this can work specifically through particular pathways in the brain – and how by stimulating these networks of brain regions in mice, it’s possible to instantly introduce more alpha male traits to their behavior (such that they win more contests). One brain region that seems to be particularly important in this process is the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex. This brain region has been linked to “inferring mental states” and working with high level, abstract, social thinking (study).

The advice that many people give based on these findings, is that in order to develop more alpha male traits, you should practice setting yourself small goals and ticking them off as wins. That could mean writing 100 words of your book.

alpha male traits in business

Personally, I doubt this would have the same effect as winning an argument with a rival about resources, or coming first in a footrace in front of a huge crowd. I do think that lifting a very heavy weight might be comparable as this is a highly visceral personal challenge. I also suspect that what you wear can have a big impact in this sense. Dress like a high-powered badass and you’ll feel like one. Moreover though, I think the takeaway here is just not to be a pushover.

Practice letting people walk all over you and your brain will physically change shape to make it happen more often. Stand your ground and assert yourself though, and you will find it makes you helps develop those alpha male traits. BUT I also don’t recommend being aggressive and unpleasant.

Optimus Prime Alpha
Prime knows when to be an alpha badass, and when to be compassionate and sensitive.

Keep in mind that being alpha isn’t always the best route to take. Just as often, using your social intelligence and empathy to carefully navigate a situation can be far more effective, not to mention kinder and more moral. My interest is in using that alpha energy to drive through goals and increase energy. As always, there is no single best “brain state” and optimal performance means being able to switch between them at will.

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. Imad says:

    This is the best artcle I’ve ever read on this subject and I really enjoyed it. I would like to read more articles on this alpha testosterone stuff. Thank you so much.

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