So, you want to get ‘jacked’, have the sexual stamina you had when you were 18 and overall feel better day in and day out?
If I still have your attention, then I’ll assume the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’
For most trainees, maintaining healthy testosterone levels is a legitimate concern. Walk into your local supplement store and you’ll see Test Boosters are a dime a dozen. All promising shirt splitting, cell swelling gains. Sadly, these supplements are often either over hyped, of questionable quality or are little more than a placebo.
But all is not lost. What I propose in this article, is optimising testosterone production from a functional medicine perspective. We accomplish this the Clean Health Fitness way, though modulating diet, lifestyle and supplementation protocols based upon correcting micro-nutrient deficiencies. Our personal trainers in our Sydney CBD and Chatswood gym’s focus on building our clients from the inside out… Literally!
No marketing hype. No BS. Just results.
TESTOSTERONE & ANABOLISM
Firstly, It is important to understand that the human body is an incredibly complex organism. Every second, it is undergoing cell death and repair at the hands of a multitude of biochemical processes. Manufacturing testosterone is but one of these.
In a nutshell (pardon the pun), testosterone is a steroid hormone essential for the well being of males and females alike, and is made in the gonads – the testes in males, and ovaries in females. Testosterone is well known as responsible for the development of male sexual characteristics including increases in muscle and bone mass, development of body hair and healthy libido. High test is also linked to mood and cognitive behaviour associated with masculinity such as aggression, where studies have shown testosterone levels peak in youth who demonstrate abnormally violent and antisocial behaviour.
Testosterone production begins with the stimulation of the leydig cells in the gonads. This process is regulated synchronistically by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain. The hypothalamus secretes gonadotrophin releasing hormone, which stimulates the release of Lutenizing hormone from the pituitary gland, which then travels through the bloodstream to stimulate testosterone production in the testes. It is this feedback loop that upscales test production when low, and down-regulates it if rises too high. This is why when administering testosterone artificially by injection, such as the case of anabolic steroids, shrinking of the testes can occur as a direct result of the downscaling of the bodies natural testosterone production via this feedback mechanism in the brain.
What is important to understand, is that there is a cascade of hormonal process that occur in the testosterone production pathway. If your testosterone production is compromised, it could be for a number of reasons and injecting testosterone directly may not be the best course of action. As an example, if you are converting testosterone to estradiol via an aromatase enzyme, an increase in testosterone will also mean an increase in estrogens as well by this conversion. In men particuarly, if aromatase is indicated in a client’s BioPrint hormonal profiling we typically see this result in increased fat storage on the pectorals. Basically giving them man boobs. Commonly found in men who consume high amounts of alcohol or spend the best part of their days at home in yoga pants watching daytime television.
So if your test levels are lagging then remember – where there is smoke there is fire. Diagnosing the cause is better than applying bandaid solutions. This is where functional medicine can help..
SYMPTOMS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE
Symptomology of low test can manifest as erectile dysfunction or low libido, depression, sleep disturbances, fatigue, brain fog, muscle loss and increases in body fat. Populations at higher risk categories for low testosterone are vegetarian/vegans mainly due to micronutrient deficiencies in their diet.
To have you hormonal health screened, I would recommend looking at the sex hormones and checking to see that they are all within functional reference ranges. As a guide I would check Free testosterone, Total Testosterone, Lutenizing Hormone, Follicle stimulating hormone, Sex hormone binding globulin, Progesterone, Estradiol and DHEA-S. Ideally, you want ALL of these in balance, not just your testosterone. This list is not exhaustive, however if a problem is present these tests will help you initially spot any cause for concern.
For further information into how these markers impact your health, I strongly recommend attending one of Clean Health Education’s Seminars titled ‘Lab Analysis for PT’s.’ With an extensive knowledge and understanding of functional medicine and blood chemistry, Clean Health Fitness Institute Director Daine McDonald goes into great detail demonstrating the relationship these sex hormones and other critical blood markers have with supporting health, athletic performance and optimal body composition. This is also something covered in detail in our iNutrition Pro Certification Program for personal trainers.
As a disclaimer, if you suspect that you may have clinically low testosterone levels (or hypogonadism) then I strongly urge you to consult with a functional medicine practitioner for a formal assessment of your condition.
The nutritional maxim I share with my clients is, ‘Supplementation is only necessary when the diet is inadequate.’ Although most people living on a western diet could potentially fall into this category, before we look at enhancing testosterone levels via supplementation, let’s get the nutritional basics straight first.
- EAT A MEAT & NUTS BREAKFAST: I highly recommend starting each day with the ‘Poliquin Meat & Nuts breakfast.’ Research shows a direct correlation between men on low fat diets and low testosterone. This is because cholesterol is the building blocks of all steroid hormones. Therefore insufficient fat intake means insufficient hormone production. Eating a high protein & high fat breakfast each day improves insulin sensitivity, mood whilst providing necessary nutrients to kickstart hormone production, muscle growth, detoxification, thyroid and immune function. Include plenty of other sources of dietary fat to in your diet throughout the day such as omega 3 fats from seafood and omega 3 enriched eggs, avocados, grass fed dairy (unless you are intolerant), raw nuts/oil/butter, olives and coconut. To read more about the Meat & Nuts Breakfast, I would advise you to read the original article by Charles Poliquin by clicking here.
- ABSTAIN FROM ALCOHOL: Drinking alcohol is the fastest way to drop T levels and increase conversion of test to estrogen via an aromatase In terms of body composition, an aromatase issue will see increases in fat storage on the pectorals and in serious cases can lead to gynocomastia in men. Which is puffy nipples, and an enlargement of the pectoral tissue that can permanently give the appearance of breasts.
- AVOID SOY PRODUCTS: Although there are many reasons why I would encourage you to avoid Soy like the plague, Soy contains a bounty of phytoestrogens that can wreak havoc on the body as they mimic estrogen contributing to estrogen dominance. Even for vegetarians/vegans, I still do not recommend Soy products as a protein source.
If herbal enhancements worked as well as their marketing claims, gyms around the world would be brimming with sexually charged alpha males packing basketball sized biceps and awkward boners. But this isn’t the case.
That being said, there are nutritional deficiencies that are detrimental to testosterone production. When addressed, you can expect overall increases in performance, recovery, mood and sexual health, particularly in men.
NOTE: As per usual, I strongly recommend having your levels checked by a qualified medical practitioner prior to beginning any course of supplementation.
- VITAMIN D3: The further you are from the equator and the longer hours you spend indoors, the higher the likelihood of Vitamin D3 deficiency. By boosting D3 levels, you are setting yourself up for success in the gym with increases in insulin sensitivity, immune function and testosterone levels. This means greater recovery, strength and increases in muscle mass.
- ZINC: For myself to see a client with sufficient Zinc in their bloodwork, is about as rare as a nun in a bikini. This is one of the most underrated micronutrients out there for men. It assists detoxification, skin health, mens sexual function and provides the ‘fuel’ for test production. It is also one of the most effective anti aromatase agents.
- MAGNESIUM: Natures great muscle relaxant. Required for over 300 processes within the human body, this is one nutrient you do not want to deplete. One of the best supplements for recovery, restful sleep whilst also helping to increase insulin sensitivity, lowering cortisol and inflammation all contributing to its reputation for increasing testosterone.
- CREATINE: One interesting study credited Creatine supplementation with the up regulation of conversion of free T to DHT via the alpha 5 reductase enzyme. DHT is often referred to as the father of the androgens and is quoted as the most heavily anabolic. Unfortunately high DHT levels are also the cause for hair loss in men with high T.
- GRAPESEED EXTRACT: Along with Zinc, one of the most potent anti aromatase agents available that also contains antioxidant properties and is great for maintaining healthy circulation.
Herbal testosterone boosters have a long history of use in about every culture as aphrodisiacs that boost libido and increase fertility. However a lot of the benefits of these natural remedies are purely anecdotal, and have little scientific research to back them. Here are some lesser known herbal compounds that may be worth experimenting with, that have demonstrated some curious results.
- SHILAJIT: A blackish, yellow mineral substance found in the mountains of Tibet that holds antioxidant properties and is said to reduce levels of oxidative stress. A study from 2010 found out of 28 patients given Shilajit, their overall sperm count increased along with an average elevation in Serum Testosterone levels of 23.5% and Follicle Stimulating Hormone by 9.4%.
- ASHWAGHANDA: A potent adaptogen with a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwaghanda is especially effective in the management of cortisol vs. DHEA ratio in stressed individuals. An Indian study, found a 40% average increase in testosterone in male test subjects after supplementation of 5 grams daily over a 90 day period.
Nutrition may lay the foundations, but the importance of exercise cannot be overlooked. It should be no surprise that strength training elicits a favourable hormonal response, boosting levels of testosterone and growth hormone. These take-home tips are sure to tweak your training to achieve optimal testosterone synthesis, resulting in greater training drive, muscle and strength gains.
- GET LEAN: The fatter you are, the higher your degree of estrogen dominance. Fat cells are endocrine organs that produce estrogens and inflammatory cytokines. Stay lean to reduce estrogen levels and improve anabolism by increased insulin sensitivity.
- LIFT HEAVY: Befriend strength training protocols of high weight, low reps in order to elicit a hormonal response favourable to increased T production.
- FAVOUR COMPOUND MOVEMENTS: Centre your workouts around the core lifts. Focus on movements like the squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press etc.
- PERIODISE YOUR WORKOUTS: Cycle your training loads and volume to prevent entering an overtrained state. Nothing will make you want to kill yourself or plummet testosterone quicker than being overtrained. Ask anyone who’s ever done super accumulation training. They will testify that you best be ready to forget about your penis entirely for the course of the program.
Absorption of hormone disrupting chemicals, is the leading cause of estrogen dominance in the world today. Referred to as xenoestrogens, chemicals such as Bisphenol-A, parabens and pthalates bind to the hormone receptor cells in your body mimicing estrogen. They can be found in everything from plastics, households cleaning agents, cosmetics, perfumes and even receipt paper. Every day we are swimming in a sea of estrogens with the potential to wreak havoc on our hormones, unless we proactively seek to minimise exposure.
- AVOID CHEMICAL EXPOSURE: Live by the rule, ‘If it does not exist in nature, it doesn’t belong in your body.’ Limit contact with plastics, fumes, sprays or other type of chemical. Go organic when choosing cosmetics, cleaning products and avoid heating food or beverages in plastic – choose glass instead.
- EAT ORGANIC: The safest way to lower your toxic load and support farmers is to buy local, organic produce where possible. If price sensitive, then prioritise leafy and cruciferous greens as well as thin skinned fruits and vegetables such as capsicum, grapes and apples. Otherwise, soak produce in a solution of water and L-Glycine to cleanse of harmful chemicals.
- SUPPORT ESTROGEN DETOX: Excess estrogens detoxify through the liver. Although detoxification can be a complex subject, there are basic measures we can take to assist our liver with estrogen metabolism. First of all, up your daily fibre intake and eat plenty of cruciferous leafy greens. For a more vigorous approach, take Poly-Resveratrol, DIM and Calcium D-Glucarate
STRESS, SLEEP & SEX
Cortisol and testosterone levels are inversely related. Whilst cortisol is high then testosterone will be supressed. Pregnenelone is the mother hormone required to synthesise both cortisol and testosterone by branching down separate pathways. However if the stress pathway is chronically activated by the body’s stress response, raw materials the body requires for test production will be rapidly depleted by the body’s demand for cortisol. So stress less.
- MEDITATE: Meditation for stress management need not be made complicated. Many benefits as a result of even 10 minutes per day spent calming the mind and slowing the breathing. It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and increases feelings of relaxation and wellbeing.
- GET MORE SLEEP: Sleep is where the brain regenerates. If sleep is poor then the brain and body is under stress which can dramatically put the brakes on your testosterone production. Most clients I see average 4-5 hours of quality sleep each evening. If this sounds like you,
- SLEEP NAKED: Sleeping naked to stay cool lowers cortisol levels and stimulates the production of melatonin, helping regulate your sleep cycle. For men, sleeping naked allows the testes to breathe. Wearing underwear can constrict blood flow and increase temperature in the groin which isn’t an ideal environment for your little swimmers.
Discussing the topic of hormones is no light task, but you needn’t a degree in biochemistry to grasp the basics of how to care for your own hormonal makeup. Sometimes the simplest solution is often the most effective and smart changes in lifestyle and supplementation can effect radical positive change.
Now go forth and increase thou testosterone… Naturally!
The Clean Health Fitness Institute
Editors note: If you are interested in having one of our experienced personal trainers help optimise your testosterone levels online or through our Chatswood and Sydney CBD gym’s CONTACT US today!
- James Lavalle, Your Blood Never Lies
- James Lavalle, Cracking The Metabolic Code
- Charles Poliquin, The Meat & Nuts Breakfast. Retrieved from: http://www.strengthsensei.com/the-meat-and-nut-breakfast/
- Clin J Sport Med. 2009 Sep;19(5):399-404. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181b8b52f. Three weeks of creatine monohydrate supplementation affects dihydrotestosterone to testosterone ratio in college-aged rugby players. van der Merwe J1, Brooks NE, Myburgh KH.
- Cancer Res. 2006 Jun 1;66(11):5960-7. Grape seed extract is an aromatase inhibitor and a suppressor of aromatase expression. Kijima I1, Phung S, Hur G, Kwok SL, Chen S. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16740737
- 2010 Feb;42(1):48-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2009.00956.x. Clinical evaluation of spermatogenic activity of processed Shilajit in oligospermia. Biswas TK1, Pandit S, Mondal S, Biswas SK, Jana U, Ghosh T, Tripathi PC, Debnath PK, Auddy RG, Auddy B. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20078516
- Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Mohammad Kaleem Ahmad, M.Sc., Abbas Ali Mahdi, M.A., M.S., Ph.D., Kamla Kant Shukla, M.Sc., Najmul Islam, Ph.D., Singh Rajender, Ph.D., Dama Madhukar, M.V.Sc., Satya Narain Shankhwar, M.Ch., Sohail Ahmad, M.D. June 08, 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(09)01014-0/pdf
- Video Documentary: ‘The Disappearing Male’