Testosterone As you age, your body ramps down its testosterone production. This is a natural process, but fortunately, there are also many natural ways to combat this decline. The benefits of maintaining robust testosterone levels are numerous, because testosterone is a hormone that plays key roles in so many of your body’s functions, from strength to memory to agility.
Here are ten ways that you can beef up your testosterone levels without resorting to injections or patches.
1. Sleep - Absolutely Critical
The first thing you can do to boost your testosterone levels is to routinely get a good night’s sleep. It is well known that T levels vary throughout the day, and for many, they are the highest in the early morning. But sleep is also important to maintain higher T levels over the long term, in part because your body performs many anabolic activities while you are asleep, including some hormone synthesis. Sleep duration has been shown to play a pivotal role in maintaining male serum testosterone levels. A recent analysis of the sleep patterns of 252 men concluded that total sleep deprivation (i.e., going without sleep for 24 hours) caused a significant decline in serum testosterone levels, and this was three times more of a decline that was seen in men who only had partial sleep deprivation . Another study of cadets going through military boot camp where sleep was scarce revealed a 36% drop in T after nine days of training, but that these levels could be restored to normal after four days of good sleep after camp was over .
2. Weight Training
When most people think of how they can pump up their testosterone levels they think of pumping iron. And to a large extent, they are correct. In men, testosterone biosynthesis occurs almost exclusively in mature Leydig cells in the gonads. These cells get stimulated by other hormones and signals generated during intense muscle activity. When you work with weights, your body triggers the endocrine pathway, which drives the production of testosterone from cholesterol-like molecules such as DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). A 2020 Canadian study of both men and women showed that weight training not only increases muscle mass and thickness, as expected, but T levels as well . Interestingly enough, this study showed that the boost to T levels was much greater when using free weights that when using weight machines.
3. Stress Reduction
It is true that good sleep and working with weights can help increase testosterone levels, but what these two things also do is reduce your levels of another hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released in response to stress, and generally suppresses many bodily functions, including T production. What scientists often measure when they are looking to see if your T levels are changing is the testosterone/cortisol ration (or T:C), which represents the balance between building up (anabolism) and tearing down (catabolism). For example, in the sleep and weight training studies that we discussed above, the T:C ratios generally increased with routine good sleep and workouts with free weights. But cortisol levels can increase in response to any type of stress, so if you are keen to drive up your T levels, it is a good idea to engage in activities that reduce your stress, such as meditation, yoga (see below), cardiovascular exercise, and spending time in peaceful environments. Of course, any stress reduction is going to be great for you in all aspects of your life.
4. Vitamin D + Zinc
Vitamin D is a very interesting molecule. Although it is referred to as a vitamin (something essential that the body needs to aid the biosynthesis of other key molecules), in many respects it is more like a hormone. Once made in the body from nutrients you get from your diet and sunlight, it circulates in the blood to regulate many physiological functions. One of these functions seems to be testosterone synthesis. In 2010 a large clinical trial compared two groups of men, one that received vitamin D supplements, and one that only received a placebo. The treatment group experienced a highly significant increase (of about 30%) in testosterone after 6–12 months of vitamin D supplementation . Moreover, recently there appears to be evidence that vitamin D taken in conjunction with zinc offers additional benefits. There have been many studies that indicate the combination of vitamin D and zinc can confer some resistance to COVID-19 infection, and it is conceivable that the same partnership could spur testosterone production. Yet more research is needed on this issue. 5. Ashwagandha Root. This is herb that contains many beneficial chemical compounds. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small, woody shrub that can be found growing in many parts of India, Africa, and the Mediterranean. Extracts from the root of this plant have been used for centuries as a traditional healing substance. Today we would describe the effects of Ashwagandha as adaptogenic, meaning that it is non-toxic while assisting the body’s ability to handle stress and to restore homeostasis. The extract from this plant actually contains many phytochemical components, including alkaloids, that have demonstrable effects on the body. In a clinical trial performed in India, 300 mg of Ashwagandha root extract taken twice per day was found to induce more than a five- fold increase in the testosterone levels of healthy young men after eight weeks of consumption along with resistance training, compared to the placebo group . One of the best sources of Ashwagandha is KSM-66®, a company dedicated to making an extract from this root that can be taken as a supplement.
6. Eat Fenugreek
A lot has been written about fenugreek. Like Ashwagandha, it is an herb from Europe and Asia that has many phytochemicals within it. Many people claim that Fenugreek stimulates insulin production in the bloodstream, that it heightens free testosterone levels, and boosts libido. In a double-blind clinical trial, scientists found that one particular formulation of fenugreek called Testofen® did raise T levels and improved male sexual function . In this 2015 trial, participants (120 healthy men between 43 and 70) took seed extracts at 600 mg per day over a 12-week period, and their benefits in these respects were found to be statistically significant compared to the placebo group. Other positive outcomes of fenugreek supplementation have been claimed, such as a treatment for diabetes, high cholesterol, menstrual cramps, and obesity, but the scientific evidence for these benefits is not yet adequately established.
Eurycoma longifolia (jack, or longjack, also called tongkat ali) is a popular traditional herbal medicine, and is a flowering plant of the family Simaroubaceae, native to southeast Asia, including Indonesia. Various preparations of longjack have been historically used as a treatment for myriad health issues, ranging from malaria, diabetes, cancer, and sexual dysfunction. There is little doubt that this plant is rich in phytochemical potential, because it is known to contain many alkaloids, terpenes, steroids, and lactones, all of which are classes of molecules that have pharmaceutical properties in general. It appears to be fairly non-toxic; the LD50 of alcoholic extracts may be more than 3g/kg, meaning that long-term consumption should have no adverse effects . Conversely, its benefits may be wide ranging...we just don’t know for sure yet. Longjack is known as a “power tonic.” The energy boost that one gets after taking longjack could be a result of a number of different chemical effects, and a testosterone boost certainly could be among these.
8. Healthy Diet
It may seem obvious but heating healthfully could be another direct way to get your testosterone up to where you want it to be. We are what we eat. So in some sense, one cannot imagine getting more T circulating in our blood unless we provide an ultimate source for it in our food. The foods that have been linked to higher T levels are the ones that you might expect, considering their general healthfulness in all respect. These include dark, leafy green such as spinach, collard greens, and kale. These all are known to have antioxidant properties, which in turn have been shown to help with anabolism and beneficial hormonal action. In that regard, a recent study performed in Taiwan on more than 3000 men confirmed that a diet of dark, leafy vegetables was significantly associated with higher testosterone levels . Other T-boosting foods that often receive attention are cocoa, walnuts, salmon, and many berries such as blueberries. Again though, the health benefits of most of these foods are so strong that the direct link to testosterone is unclear. Nevertheless, evidence is mounting that your hormonal health can definitely get a lift if you eat right, and it may be a matter of time before the ultimate T-boosting foods are singled out by science.
We mentioned above that an increase in the stress hormone cortisol is bad for T production. Yoga, other stretching exercises, and meditation definitely can reduce stress, and thus the route from these activities and testosterone maintenance is apparent. One of the many benefits of yoga per se is its influence on activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This side of your overall nerve network (as opposed to the sympathetic nervous system) is responsible for certain calming actions, including slowing your heartbeat. But it also drives the physiological action of many other organs, and the reproductive organs are on this list. Men get their testosterone production mainly from testicular action, of course, so we can draw a fairly straight line from yoga, to the nervous system, to T production and maintenance. A great review of the physiological benefits of yoga can be found in an article published ten years ago .
10. Sex 😈
Is sex good for sex? Survey says “yes!” It stands to reason that there may be a positive feedback loop involving testosterone production and testosterone “use.” While this relationship is somewhat tricky to prove––because the two are so interdependent it is hard to tease apart cause and effect––studies do exist that seem to show that having sex is as good for testosterone production as the would be the reverse. In a 2015 presentation of data from a large Australian study, a scientist from the University of Sydney examined the habits and physiology of more than 1000 men that were between 50 and 70 years old . It was found that a small (< 10 %) drop in testosterone levels could be traced to lowered sexual activity. The implication of this study, and those like it, is that sex could drive T production, which in turn could be spurring more sex. Clearly more research is needed in this regard, but in truth there may be no more natural way to boost your testosterone than to use it!
- Su L, et al. (2021). Effect of partial and total sleep deprivation on serum testosterone levels in healthy males: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine 88: 1–6.
- Tait JL, et al. (2022). Impact of military training stress on hormone response and recovery. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0265121.
- Schwanbeck SR, et al. (2020). Effects of training with free weights versus machines on muscle mass, free testosterone, and free cortisol levels. Journal of Strength Conditioning Research 34(7): 1851–1859.
- Pilz S, et al. (2011). Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Hormone and Metabolism Research 43: 223–225.
- Wankhede S, et al. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12: 43.
- Rao A, et al. (2016). Testofen, a specialised Trigonella foenum – graecum seed extract reduced age-related symptioms of androgen decrease, increases testosterone levels and improves sexual function in healthy aging males in a double-blind randomised clinical study. Aging Male, 19(2): 134–142.
- Rehman S, Choe K, & Yoo H-H (2016). Review on a traditional herbal medicine, Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali): its traditional uses, chemistry, evidence-based pharmacology and toxicology. Molecules 21(3): 331.
- Kurniawan A-L, et al. (2021). Association of testosterone-related dietary pattern with testicular function among adult men: a cross-sectional health screening study in Taiwan. Nutrients 13(1): 259.
- Sengupta P, Chaudhiri P, & Bhattacharya K (2013). Male reproductive health and yoga. International Journal of Yoga 6(2): 87–95.
- David Handelsman, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; Brad Anawalt, M.D., endocrinologist, professor of medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; March 7, 2015, presentation, Endocrine Society annual meeting, San Diego, CA.