Testosterone levels are affected by a myriad of factors such as age, stress, training, diet, sleep and much more. However, there are two things that have a large impact on this hormone that are in your control: intake of dietary fat and the amount of body fat you carry.
It has long been known that higher levels of testosterone are correlated with increases in lean body mass and decreases in body fat. The inverse is true as well, and many studies show that increased amounts of body fat lead to lower testosterone levels.(1,2) This is because adipose tissue contains the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen.
This can start a vicious cycle where an increase in body fat leads to lower testosterone and increases in estrogen. This causes more body fat containing the aromatase enzyme to be stored, causing testosterone levels to plummet. The hypogonadal-obesity cycle is the reason obese individuals generally have low levels of testosterone. This can also lead to insulin resistance, visceral fat storage, hypertension and an assortment of health problems.
As you age, testosterone levels drop, lean muscle decreases, and body fat increases. However these factors are independent of each other, and if you can increase muscle mass or lose body fat, then you can slow down the natural decrease associated with age.
Resistance training is an absolute necessity to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat, but it’s important to train in a way that prevents cortisol levels from becoming too high since that stunts testosterone levels. Often, someone may be so eager to make changes they overtrain. So get adequate recovery time between workout days and keep training sessions to around an hour.
If you need to lose a large amount of body fat, try including some cardio as well. Opt for short bursts of output (like HIIT) versus long sessions of steady cardio for the same reasons listed above. You don’t want to overtrain and increase cortisol levels too high. Additionally HIIT has a favorable impact on free testosterone levels when compared to longer steady-state cardio.(3)
Try the popular supplement, Sheer Strength Thermogenic if you want to speed up your metabolism and help get rid of the belly fat that is killing your testosterone levels. This helps you mobilize fat for fuel through the green tea catechins and other ingredients that help speed up metabolism and boost energy.
In addition to working out, you must also be in a caloric deficit to burn body fat. But if you cut the calories and go too low on dietary fats, your testosterone production will suffer even if you are losing weight.
Fats were once vilified by almost everyone, and while the general public is slowly starting to accept their role in a healthy diet, many people still believe fat is bad. Especially saturated fats. Dietary fats play a crucial role in many functions in our body. Saturated fats, in particular, are important to consume because they contain more cholesterol, which is an important precursor to the testosterone hormone.
There are many studies comparing vegan/vegetarian diets to ones that include meat and animal products. Vegan and vegetarian diets tend to result in more consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and less of saturated fatty acids (SFA). Those following these diets also tend to have much lower testosterone levels than people who eat meat and saturated fats more frequently. (4,5) This isn’t to say you should avoid PUFA’s, but don’t substitute them for SFA’s.
Several studies have also compared higher fat diets to low-fat ones, and the higher fat diets result in more free testosterone.(6,7,8) You may be thinking “Hey but what about all that cholesterol?” It has been known for years that our bodies internally regulate our production of cholesterol to what is needed, and dietary cholesterol has no direct long-term effect on blood cholesterol levels.(9) When you consume more cholesterol, your body produces less, and vice versa. But don’t let this love fest with saturated fats and cholesterol fool you into thinking all fats are good for you so you can eat them with reckless abandon. It’s important to understand the different kinds of saturated fats and their purposes.
The short chain – consists of butyric and caproic acids, which are found in grass-fed dairy products. These play an important role in gut health and inflammation levels. It also promotes growth of healthy colonic epithelium and protects against colon cancer(10).
The medium chain – caprylic, capric and lauric acids make up medium chain fatty acids. These are found in coconut and palm oil. Lauric acid is a big immune system booster while multiple studies show that caprylic, and capric aid in fat loss (11,12).
The long chain – myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. Myristic acid raises LDL cholesterol levels(13). While palmitic is more neutral, it too can contribute to an increase in LDL-c. These are the only two fatty acids that have been specifically linked to an increase in LDL. Stearic is shown to lower LDL-c (14). The main contributors of long chain fatty acids that should be avoided are industrial meats and heavily processed food. Grass-fed meat is found to have a more favorable balance of stearic acid to the LDL raising myristic and palmitic.(15)
Remember, too much of a good thing is usually bad. While healthy fats are important, they are calorically dense. If you overeat them, you will store more body fat, offsetting the anabolic nature of a high-fat diet. Also, don’t lift weights until absolute failure and, make sure to take plenty of rest days.
Chronic cardio will increase cortisol levels and should be limited to short, intense sessions. Even if, through all this effort, you do decrease your body fat to single digits, then you can still run into the problem of not having enough fat for optimal hormonal function. There’s a reason competitors are only at 5-6% body fat for short periods of time. It’s not healthy long term and testosterone levels, as well as other hormones, will suffer.
So let’s say you’re an average middle-aged man with some bodyfat to lose. Start by working out with weights three times a week. Focus on doing a full body strength program that is centered around compound movements. Keep the reps between 5-12 and the workout time under an hour. Another two days a week, perform any mode of HIIT you like for 15-20 minutes. This type of resistance training and cardio will not only burn fat, but they will also elicit favorable hormonal responses leading to higher production of testosterone.
Consume at least 30-40% of your calories from fat, getting a minimum of 10% calories from saturated fat. Ideal sources of fat are from wild fish, raw nuts, grass-fed beef, whole eggs, coconut oil and olive oil. Make sure to avoid highly processed foods that contain artificial trans fatty acids and industrial beef or chicken.
If you’re looking for additional help boosting your testosterone levels, trying Sheer Strength Labs Testosterone would be a great idea! Their formula with natural ingredients is proven to boost testosterone and increase libido. Once everything else is in place, this can be the icing on the cake that helps maintain the highest testosterone levels for the longest time possible.
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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