Increasing your testosterone can drastically impact strength, energy levels, and muscle mass, not to mention your general health and wellbeing. And as most men know, this male sex hormone is the main contributor to the physical changes you experience during puberty; we're talking hair growth and the deepening of your voice, of course. However, optimal levels of testosterone are essential throughout adulthood. And for those who didn't know, it plays a role in female health as well.
Naturally, testosterone levels decline as we age, but there are steps we can take to slow down or even reverse this process. By doing this, we'll increase the chance of staying healthy, increase our vitality, sex drive, and more. The best way to improve testosterone levels is by adopting certain lifestyle habits; here are some you can work on starting today:
The majority of testosterone release in men occurs during the night, and your body can't produce testosterone as effectively if you don't get enough sleep. According to research, after just one week with restricted sleep (5h), testosterone levels drop by up to 15%. In contrast, testosterone levels naturally decline about 1% per year as you age. Less sleep also contributes to higher levels of cortisol, which can reduce testosterone. Make sleep a priority; it's at least as important to your general health as diet and exercise.
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We're sure you've heard that a healthy diet is important before, but what if we told you it also increases sex drive? Now that's an incentive to listen. The best diet for optimal testosterone levels consists of primarily whole foods with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Eating enough protein is, in fact, associated with healthy levels of testosterone and may aid in fat loss. A healthy and nutritious diet will help keep your hormones in check. On the other hand, overeating and yoyo dieting can disrupt your hormone levels. Try to get enough magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D through your diet; consider supplementing these if you find it hard to get enough.
Keep weight in a healthy range
Obese males between the ages of 14 and 20 have up to 50% less testosterone than those who are not overweight. Overall, men who weigh more have lower testosterone levels. But why? Adipose tissue (body fat) converts testosterone into oestrogen. The less fat we have, the more testosterone we get. Also, note that chronic diseases associated with weight gain are linked to a decrease in testosterone.
Yes, another reason to get moving! People who exercise more have higher testosterone levels, research shows. All forms of exercise work in some capacity, with resistance training being the most effective. Not only does it raise testosterone post-exercise, but it can benefit testosterone production long-term by reducing insulin resistance and improving body composition. However, the law of diminishing return applies, don't overdo it. Prolonged endurance exercise can cause a reduction in testosterone.
Are you stressed? It's important to take a deep breath and relax sometimes. We all have so many external stressors pulling us in different directions all the time. Unfortunately, the stress hormone cortisol decreases testosterone levels. When cortisol is high, testosterone is low.
Furthermore, stressful events contribute to erratic changes in testosterone levels. Since cortisol and testosterone have this correlation, a vicious cycle is created. Stress causes lower testosterone levels, which then causes more stress, which causes testosterone to drop further. Other side effects of stress are poor sleep and a lack of motivation to exercise, also contributing to decreases in testosterone. Like that wasn't enough, when your stress levels are high, cholesterol is converted to cortisol instead of testosterone. To manage and lower stress levels, you can use tools such as meditation and breathing techniques. Just by taking deep breaths through your nose, you can reduce stress levels instantly.
Yes, you read that right. Simply breathing through your nose can decrease stress and increase testosterone levels. But how? Breathing through your nose leads to increased oxygen uptake and a reduced offload of carbon dioxide, in other words, more effective breathing. It also makes you a better sleeper. When sleep apnea is reduced or eliminated during sleep, significant increases in testosterone can be observed.
Viewing bright light (in the morning)
Your light viewing behaviour can have a direct effect on hormone levels. Increased viewing of sunlight (to the eyes) increases dopamine levels in the brain, which subsequently increases the activity of melanin-producing cells (these give pigmentation to the skin), indirectly increasing the amount of testosterone and oestrogen in the human body. To optimise testosterone levels, you need a sufficient amount of light in your eyes to have adequate levels of dopamine. Get anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes of bright light exposure (preferably the sun) early in the day. This is critical for timing cortisol release properly. Limiting cortisol release to the early part of the day and getting the subsequent increases in dopamine will promote the production of testosterone to healthy levels. Try to avoid bright lights in the middle of the night.
Supplementation can certainly help, but won't make up for lousy lifestyle habits. To optimise your testosterone levels, incorporate some form of resistance training, manage your stress levels, eat a nutritious and balanced diet while making sure you get enough quality sleep. Remember that all of these factors are correlated and work synergistically. If you don't breathe right, you won't sleep right, when you're tired, you lack both motivation and the decision-making skills to eat right. Without proper nutrition, you won't have the energy to get outside and move your body.
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