Testosterone, or more specifically low testosterone, has received a lot of attention lately. Men who are feeling a little less energetic race to their doctors to have their hormones tested and hope for a quick fix with a patch, gel, injection or pill. But before you do the same, you may be able to fix the problem naturally. The secret is nothing new: a healthy lifestyle.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is a hormone that occurs naturally in men and women. It is more pronounced in men and puts hair on your face and makes your voice deeper. It elevates your libido and helps put muscle on your frame. Its production is increased during puberty and slows down from your mid-30s.
Symptoms of low testosterone
Men with low levels of testosterone often complain of fatigue and low sex drive. They may also experience erectile dysfunction and weight gain. On top of it all, testosterone deficiency has been linked to certain metabolic disorders including insulin resistance and diabetes.
If you have these symptoms, you may want to see your doctor. But the symptoms may or may not be related to low testosterone. If you get a low reading, try these five natural fixes before you see if testosterone replacement therapy is right for you.
Have a gut check
Research shows a link between an expanded waistline and lower testosterone. A study published in 2011 in the Asian Journal of Andrology studied more than 200 men between the ages of 54 and 86. They reported that men with the highest waist-to-height ratios had a tendency toward lower levels of testosterone. It doesn't mean that every guy who sports a beer keg will have lower testosterone. It just means that there is a higher risk.
Here's how you check your gut. Take a tape measure and put it around your waist, above your hip bones. You want that number to be close to half of your height. A lower weight with the same waist size may not cut it. Your pants should actually feel looser around the middle. Keep reading, the next two points will help you get there.
Here's a kick in the sweet tooth. Researchers from Ireland studied the effects of sugar consumption on testosterone secretion. They found that high blood sugar levels can sap your testosterone production by as much as 25 per cent. Even two hours after drinking 75 grams of glucose, 15 per cent of subjects still had very low levels of testosterone. So reduce your consumption of sugar and flour. Beer is probably a culprit, too. One thing to remember – if you get your testosterone tested, it needs to be done while fasting.
As we get older, we tend to lose muscle mass. A regular strength- training program will help you maintain it. And that same program will help you increase your testosterone level. You will benefit most from exercises that use a lot of muscles. Research shows that higher intensity exercises tend to have a bigger effect on testosterone production. So pick exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench pressing and chin-ups.
To help you succeed with your strength-training program, you need proper recovery. Your body doesn't get stronger during exercise; it gets stronger after exercise. If you did your job with the weights, your body needs time to adapt to the stress and get stronger. That includes proper sleep patterns. And a good night's sleep will help maintain a healthy testosterone level.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at a group of young, healthy men that had their sleep time reduced from eight hours to five hours for one week. The result? Their testosterone levels dropped by 10 per cent to 15 per cent. Yes, the study was small, with only 10 participants. But this was only one week of sleep restriction for guys in their 20s. Can you imagine what happens to a new dad in his late 30s?
Now, let's take that sleep-deprived new dad and put him in the pressure cooker for 60 hours a week. Men that reported the highest levels of anxiety, hostility and depression had a lower testosterone level. If your testosterone levels have plunged to the basement, taking steps to manage your stress levels will go a long way. That could mean simply saying no to a few social commitments, focusing on a favourite hobby, taking up meditation or even seeking professional help.
The bottom line
Give your body what it needs and it will stay healthy. Hormone replacement therapy has its risks. So use external testosterone only as a last resort. The suggestions in this article will not only help your hormones, they will make you feel a whole lot better, too.