Every human body, male and female, produces testosterone (a type of hormone). While both women and men have testosterone, and it plays an essential role in health for everyone, it's mainly important for guys.
That's because testosterone is a type of androgen, or male hormone.
While testosterone does have a significant role to play in men's sexual health and function, it's not just about sex. Low levels of testosterone can inhibit a man's normal body functions and lead to poor health.
In this guide, I'll provide actionable steps you can take to increase your testosterone levels naturally.
A bit about testosterone levels, why they fluctuate, and why it matters
A man's testosterone levels don't stay constant throughout his life. Levels of the hormone start to increase during puberty, but then begin to fall again around the age of 30.
Along with a natural decrease in testosterone levels, some external factors can also cause it to fall:
Even though declining testosterone levels is a natural part of the aging process, the loss can still cause some health problems for men.
Let's take a look at a few of the more common reasons why boosting your testosterone level can improve your overall health and well being.
More testosterone means more muscle
During puberty, the increase in testosterone levels leads to an increase in muscle mass in young men. Having more muscle can help a guy be healthier all around. Pound for pound, more muscle usually means less fat.
Testosterone and muscle mass have always been intimately related. So much so that in older men a drop in strength and muscle mass is sometimes directly attributed to a drop is testosterone levels.
Increased testosterone levels can save your libido
Here's an essential piece of news for you: getting older doesn't have to mean losing interest in sex. Many guys mistake a loss of libido as being part of the natural aging process when really, it's thanks to a drop in testosterone.
While some men naturally have a lower sex drive than others, and low testosterone levels aren't the only cause of low libido, studies have shown a connection. One such study found that about 28 percent of men with a diminished sex drive also had low levels of testosterone.
Although boosting your T levels might boost your libido, if you're dealing with other sexual issues, such as erectile dysfunction, testosterone may not be to blame. Often, erectile problems are due to a problem with the arteries, usually caused by conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
Testosterone also affects your mental state
It's not only women whose moods are affected by their hormones. If you're dealing with low levels of testosterone, you might notice that you feel more down and depressed than before. Having lower levels of the hormone can also make you feel irritable.
Improving your T levels can help to boost your mood, which can in turn improve your overall quality of life. When you're feeling down and out or angry at the world all the time, it can be difficult to see the good things in life or to enjoy your life. Boosting your T and your mood will help improve your life all around.
Low T can negatively impact cognitive function
Everyone feels detached from time to time, but if you feel as if you can no longer concentrate or focus as well as you could before, it might be due to a decline in your T levels. Studies have shown a connection between testosterone levels and a man's mathematical abilities or spatial abilities.
Increasing your testosterone levels can also help you avoid certain illnesses that cause a decline in cognitive function, such as Alzheimer's.
Keep your bones strong and healthy
Men are also likely to experience a reduction in bone density with age. Bone density also tends to be low in men with hypogonadism, or low T levels.
One study found that increasing serum testosterone levels in men with low bone density and low T levels helped to improve the density of the bones.
The Million Dollar Question: How much testosterone do you really need?
Your testosterone levels don't stay the same through your life. Think of it like a pyramid -- the amount of T you have increased during childhood, up until it hit a peak.
After that, it inevitably starts to decline again.
What health professionals consider “normal”
What's considered a normal amount of T depends on your age. For the average adult male, a typical range is considered to be anywhere from 270 to 1,070 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl). A nanogram, by the way, is one billionth of a gram, while a deciliter is one tenth of a liter.
Although 270 to 1,070 is considered normal, that's not the optimum range. Some suggest that the healthiest range is between 400 and 600 ng/dl.
Meanwhile, the average T level is 679 ng/dL. Some argue that any levels under 300 ng/dl are low.
Testosterone levels naturally drop – But, when and by how much?
It's undeniable that testosterone start to decline with age (some argue that it peaks at age 20, others say age 30). So if you're worried about low T, it's important to compare your levels to those of people in your age group.
For example, the range of T level for a 17 to 18-year-old male is between 300 and 1,200 ng/dl. After age 20, the normal ranges by age group look like this:
Usually, you can expect testosterone levels to fall by a rate of about 1 percent per year, starting after age 30.
Can you notice the difference between optimal and average T levels?
Obviously, if you're looking to boost your testosterone levels, it's better to shoot for the optimal range, rather than for the average.
That's because some men do experience symptoms of low T when their levels are "average". These same men experience an improvement in those symptoms if they can raise them to an optimal level.
Since there is an acceptable range when it comes to T levels, it's a good idea to work with your doctor to first determine your current T level. Then, you can take steps to adjust your levels and see where and when you notice the best improvement in your symptoms.
Increasing your testosterone levels naturally and effectively IS possible
Some might tout testosterone replacement therapy as the best way to increase your testosterone levels. And if you're willing to pay the costs and risk the side effects, it is likely the most effective treatment.
However, there are ways to increase the level of testosterone in your system naturally, with resorting to expensive medical treatments.
Start by trimming-down that waistline
One simple and straightforward way to boost testosterone is to whip yourself into shape. Clinical trials have shown that losing weight can help previously overweight men increase their T levels.
One study even found that men who changed their eating habits and exercise habits for a year had a 50 percent increase in their testosterone levels! The men in that study lost an average of only 17 pounds each.
High-intensity interval exercise can give you an edge
High-Intensity Interval Training, aka HIIT, is a recent fitness trend that has proven effective in various studies. HIIT is training technique that involves performing specific exercises at 100 percent, for a short period, followed by a brief recovery period.
HIIT has several benefits, ranging from an increase in metabolism to the fact that you can do it pretty much anywhere (and don't need a lot of or any equipment). If you've got low testosterone, HIIT may be more effective at improving T levels than other common forms of exercise.
One study found that HIIT increases levels of free testosterone more than steady endurance exercise.
Intermittent Fasting is more than just a fad diet
Intermittent fasting involves limiting what you eat and drink for periods of 16 to 24-hours. During a fast, you're limited to drinking water, coffee or tea, (and nothing else unless it contains zero calories). When you deny yourself food for a short period, you're able to jump start testosterone production in a few ways.
In non-obese men in particular, a short-term fast has been shown to increase T levels by as much as as much as 180 percent. That study suggested that fasting affects the pituitary-testicular axis, a collection of glands that controls body development, reproduction, and aging.
Another study showed that men who fasted were able to burn fat more efficiently. Body fat often converts testosterone into estrogen, so being able to burn it quickly will help you avoid a reduction in T levels.
Pump some iron can boost your T levels
Another form of exercise that can help to improve your testosterone levels is strength training. Strength training focuses on using resistance to increase strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.
According to WebMD, there are a few techniques can help you get the most out of your strength-based training exercises. For example, you're likely to get a better boost if you use heavier weights, rather than lifting less for more repetititions.
Also, training in the evening, rather than first thing in the morning, seems to raise testosterone levels even higher.
Vitamin D is important – Go catch some rays
One study found that a decrease in vitamin D was connected to a reduction in T levels in otherwise healthy men. You have a few options when it comes to increasing the amount of vitamin D you consume.
One method is to eat more foods that contain vitamin D. Another is to simply pop a vitamin D supplement regularly. Another not-so-obvious way to increase your intake is to get more sun.
Of course, you don't want to spend too much time under the sun's rays (to avoid skin cancer). However, spending about 10 minutes a day in the sun should be enough to give your vitamin D levels a boost and avoid unwanted testosterone drops.
Zinc does more than reduce the duration of colds
Zinc, which your mom likely recommends you take for a cold, can also help increase your testosterone levels naturally. Here are some of the more popular zinc-heavy foods that increase testosterone:
Separate healthy fats from unhealthy fats
Not all fats are the same -- some are good for you when consumed in moderation. According to Dr. Mercola, men whose diets include less than 40 percent of energy from fat are more likely to see a dip in their T levels.
Who knew you could eat lots of healthy fats and improve your T-levels? Here are five tasty, fatty foods that can increase testosterone when part of a balanced diet:
Preserve your T levels by avoiding sugar
While fat's been redeemed as actually being healthy for you, sugar has few (if any) redeeming qualities. Studies have shown that men who eat sugar experience a dramatic drop in their testosterone levels.
Keep sugar out of your house and opt for natural sweeteners like Stevia instead. You'll avoid T level dips and will stave-off those extra pounds at the same time.
Consume BCAA from foods like whey protein
Branch chain amino acids or BCAAs are a specific type of amino acid that play essential roles in the production of protein. Research has shown that BCAAs also help to increase T levels.
But when it comes to BCAAs, they're not all created equal. Specific forms, such as BCAAs found in food, work better than others.
Testosterone boosting supplements can work if you choose wisely
Along with making dietary changes, you may try taking supplements to increase testosterone. Not all supplements work in the same way, so it's important to do your research and understand your options.
For example, Tribulus Terrestris is often marketed as a T booster, since it's thought to increase libido. While it might boost your sex drive, it's not going to raise T levels.
The more useful supplements for increasing testosterone include ZMA formula (which contains zinc and magnesium), Maca (which works over time), and Fenugreek.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep
Not getting enough sleep or having a sleep disorder (such as sleep apnea) can negatively affect your testosterone levels. One study found that men who slept for just five hours a night for a week had a 10 to 15 percent reduction in their hormone levels.
So don't feel guilty about sleeping in . Your testosterone levels depend on it!
Be the "master of your domain"
Does masturbation increase testosterone? Not really, but ejaculating frequently can interfere with your body's ability to use androgen hormones.
But this cloud does have a silver lining. Having sex with another person does seem to help increase T levels.
So how does testosterone know the difference between your hand and a real person? It could be the feeling of dominance you get after a sexual encounter. Female pheromones may also play a role.
Learn meditation or find ways to relax each day
When you're stressed out, you're likely to experience similar symptoms to a man who's dealing with low testosterone levels. But that's not the only connection between stress and testosterone.
When you're stressed, you produce higher levels of cortisol, which is often connected to lower levels of testosterone.
Working to reduce your stress levels, such as by cutting back at work, learning yoga and medidation, or just finding a way to work some peace into your life, can help boost your overall quality of life and perhaps also your T levels.
Opioids can be harmful to your health and testosterone levels
Here's another reason to avoid or limit opioid painkillers: opioid-induced androgen deficiency. One study found that men taking opioids for pain were five times more likely to have low T levels.
Creating an action plan to raise your testosterone levels
Many of the tips we've covered for boosting testosterone naturally are also just healthy life choices. Even if T levels aren't a concern for you, things like losing weight or maintaining a balanced diet will improve your quality of life.
But if you're serious about increasing your testosterone levels, you'll need to track your T levels to know if you're making progress. The first step toward tracking your testosterone production is to know your current T levels.
Once you set this baseline, tracking your progress is as easy as taking and recording regular readings of your testosterone levels.
How to determine your T levels
There are several ways to measure your T levels. Some are more accurate than others.
Get the most accurate T level reading from your doctor
Your primary care doctor can take a sample of your blood and test for low T. But first, you'll most likely need to convince them that you are a legitimate candidate for testing.
To do that, make a list of all the symptoms you're experiencing. The number and severity of your symptoms will determine whether your physician will order T level tests for you.
If your doctor does run a test and the results come back normal, he or she likely won't do anything further. If your levels are lower than average for your age group, they could schedule a test for your free testosterone levels- which can provide a better measurement.
Monitoring testosterone levels on your own
If the idea of having blood drawn makes you squeamish, or your doctor just won't test your levels, there are a few ways for you to gauge your T levels at home.
Any method of measuring testosterone that isn't done by a medical professional is going to be met with skepticism. And as you'll see, some of these methods are more reliable than others.
Saliva-based testosterone testing kits are popular
One way to measure your testosterone levels is to purchase a home testing kit. Instead of sending in a sample of blood, these kits measure the amount of testosterone in your saliva.
Again, they test might not be quite as accurate as a blood-based test at your doctor's office. But they are likely accurate enough for you to track your progress as you try to boost your T levels naturally.