It may come as a surprise, but testosterone is a hormone that is necessary for both men and women.
Optimal levels of testosterone not only affect (men’s and women’s) libido, but also muscle strength, muscle recovery, lean muscle to body fat ratio, good mood and feelings of well-being, bone density, energy levels, and overall aging.
Testosterone levels tend to decrease starting around the age of 40 at the rate of about 1% a year. Short term that doesn’t seem like a lot, but over a few years, it can be a significant amount and be a cause of low libido, obesity, brittle bones, muscle loss. and depression.
Testosterone levels in the low range may also increase your chances of dying of a heart attack. While low testosterone levels primarily affect men and women in middle age, it can also affect men as young as 30.
The first most noticeable symptom for low testosterone levels is lack of interest in sex.
And this applies to women as well as men. Some men may have difficulty obtaining an erection as well. “If you have reduced levels of sexual desire, have your testosterone level checked immediately,” says Dr. Allen Seftel, a urologist at Case Western Reserve University Hospitals of Cleveland.
Men and women with borderline testosterone scores can raise their levels by natural means before getting into medical testosterone therapy. And it pays to start at a younger age as well.
Do women need testosterone?
Yes. Women’s testosterone levels start to rise in puberty, because testosterone is actually a precursor to estrogen. Testosterone in women increases libido, helps clear thinking, sound sleep, and overall feelings of well-being and confidence as well helping the body maintain lean muscle mass and less body fat.
During perimenopause and menopause, testosterone production drops as the ovaries stop producing hormones. Women’s ovaries produce most of the testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen in the body.
Most women only replace estrogen after menopause, and replacement of estrogen alone will not correct the loss of interest in sex, loss of muscle, and general lack of mental get-up-and-go.
This decrease in testosterone production is sometimes referred to as andropause in men. Falling levels of testosterone can cause a wide variety of unrelated symptoms including:
-sexual dysfunction, including loss of interest, inability to have orgasms and impotence
-irritability and mood swings
-loss of strength and lean muscle mass
-increased body fat
Lifestyle factors such as poor diet, excessive beer drinking, stress, lack of exercise, exposure to environmental toxins, smoking, and certain prescription medications can significantly reduce testosterone.
But there is good news. You can actually increase your testosterone significantly naturally by following the guidelines below.
1. Eat grass-fed beef instead of commercially raised beef.
Commercially raised animals are fed growth-stimulating hormones–including synthetic estrogens, antibiotics and processed grains. These hormones in commercially raised beef affect the body’s natural testosterone levels.
Research shows consumption of hormones from commercial beef contributes to falling sperm counts, cancer, and obesity.
2. Increase your zinc.
Supplementing with zinc can really help raise testosterone levels. Zinc is the most crucial of all the minerals in the body for testosterone production. And, zinc deficiency is very common in the U.S. population, especially among athletes and the aged. Zinc is missing from most commercially-processed foods, and easily lost by drinking alcohol, sweating, and medication.
Red meat, especially grass-fed meat, is high in zinc, as well as seafood–especially oysters.
3. Along with zinc, vitamins A, E, C and B6 are all necessary to convert pre-hormones in the body to testosterone.
Eating bountiful helpings of fresh vegetables is essential in testosterone production–especially green, leafy and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. These vegetables all contain chemicals that are essential for healthy metabolism of estrogen in both men and women, allowing better utilization of testosterone.
4. Omega 3 fatty acids and saturated fats, are essential for normal testosterone production.
Foods containing cholesterol (your body needs cholesterol, and it will NOT contribute to heart attacks) are excellent, so eating butter, egg yolks and other animal products will supply the necessary cholesterol.
Did you know that the body makes most of its hormones from cholesterol? So, cutting back on fats, cuts down your body’s ability to make the hormones it needs. Studies clearly indicate that low fat diets result in lower testosterone levels. A high protein, moderate amount of fat and lower carbohydrate diet will contribute to the best levels of testosterone.
4. Limit your intake of refined, high-carbohydrate foods.
Of course that means cookies, candy and ice cream, but also starches such as breads, potatoes and pasta. Excess intake of these carbohydrates raise blood sugar rapidly, creating chronically elevated levels of the hormones insulin and cortisol.
Insulin and cortisol oppose testosterone and slow its production.
5. Losing weight alone will restore testosterone production.
In both men and women, fat cells breed aromatase. Aromatase is the enzyme that converts estrogen into testosterone. Fat cells also store estrogen, and too much is harmful to both men and women. As you loose weight your ability to convert testosterone to estrogen diminishes.
6. Lifting weights stimulates testosterone release for men and women, while excessive cardio decreases testosterone.
The best movements involve compuond movements like squats, dead lifts, pushups, pullups and presses. The greatest workout-related testosterone production occurs with the use of heavier weights and lower rep range. A study shows that the best is 85 per cent of your one-rep max. Make sure to train with high intensity for short periods of time. Your overall weight training workout should not last longer than 60 minutes (45 min is optimal). Train hard and get out of the gym to let your muscles recuperate and grow!
Rest Harder Than You Work Out.
If you overtrain — meaning you don’t allow your body to recuperate adequately between training sessions — your circulating testosterone levels can plunge by as much as 40 percent.
To avoid overtraining, make sure you sleep a full eight hours at night, and never stress the same muscles with weight-lifting movements two days in a row.
If you follow the above guidelines you may find your low testosterone symptoms disappear without having to resort to injections, patches or pellets.
If you see no change in your symptoms, you may need to visit the Doctor to get your hormone levels checked. Both men and women, especially those in their 40’s and 50’s, may find that free testosterone levels need an extra boost.References: 1. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno. 2. Benders’ Dictionary of Nutrition and Food Technology. 3. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. 4. Ponnampalam EN, Mann NJ, Sinclair AJ. Effect of feeding systems on omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid and trans fatty acids in Australian beef cuts: potential impact on human health. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2006;15(1):21-9. PMID: 16500874. 5. Li D, Siriamornpun S, Wahlqvist ML, Mann NJ, Sinclair AJ. Lean meat and heart health. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2005;14(2):113-9. PMID: 15927927. 6. Dietary lean red meat and human evolution. Eur J Nutr. 2000 Apr;39(2):71-9. PMID: 10918988. 7. Fung TT, Schulze M, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Dietary patterns, meat intake, and the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Nov 8;164(20):2235-40. PMID: 15534160. 8. Harris WS, Sands SA, Windsor SL, Ali HA, Stevens TL, Magalski A, Porter CB, Borkon AM. Omega-3 fatty acids in cardiac biopsies from heart transplantation patients: correlation with erythrocytes and response to supplementation. Circulation. 2004 Sep 21;110(12):1645-9. Epub 2004 Sep 7. PMID: 15353491. 9. Jiang R, Ma J, Ascherio A, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Hu FB. Dietary iron intake and blood donations in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in men: a prospective cohort study. PMID: 14684399. 10. Longcope C, Feldman HA, McKinlay JB, Araujo AB. Diet and sex hormone-binding globulin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Jan;85(1):293-6. PMID: 10634401. 11. Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008 May-Jun;14(5-6):353-7. PMID: 18385818. 12. Image by yongfook. 13. http://www.elements4health.com/grass-fed-beef-can-boost-testosterone-and-lower-cholesterol.html