When it comes to the differences between men and women, some are arguably cultural and some are biological. And the ones that are biological all pretty much have one thing in common: testosterone.
It was testosterone that helped form your penis and scrotum when you were just a fetus and put those first awesome hairs on your chest as a teenager. You may not have thought about testosterone much since your voice cracked while reciting Shakespeare in Mrs. Tonnelson’s ninth grade English class. But you should, a lot actually. Why, you ask? Well, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you feel like your libido has been ebbing away?
- Has erectile dysfunction caused you embarrassment?
- Have you been carrying some extra pounds that won’t go away?
- Do you often feel physically and mentally tired?
- Do you feel depressed and unhappy?
- Do you feel shiftless and lack drive?
- Do you wish you felt more like a man?
Testosterone is not the cure for all of life’s ills. But it can go a long way in addressing these ailments and contributing to your overall health and well-being.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is part of the androgen group and is the primary male sex hormone. The majority of your T is produced by your trusty testes. Women have T too, but men have 40-60 times greater amounts in their bodies. Testosterone is what gave you bigger muscles and organs than women. And it’s what gave you a “male brain,” which is larger than the female brain (although we should strongly point out that size has nothing to do with intelligence) but which has a decreased connection between the hemispheres. Perhaps most importantly, T is what enables you to rock an awesome beard or mustache. Testosterone maintains your manly characteristics throughout your whole life and regulates several systems in your body.
So T is pretty damn important to a man. It’s what makes you feel like a man, man. So if you haven’t been feeling too manly lately, or maybe ever, perhaps it’s time for you to throw yourself a T party.
The Benefits of Testosterone
Testosterone has been scientifically proven to:
- Improve your mental and physical energy
- Increase your competitive drive ((http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WGC-4KPP4H5-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=375ea0b05acf6eb2afabf305fe055bbd))
- Increase your muscle size and strength
- Increase your metabolism
- Help prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia ((http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jan2004/nia-26.htm))
- Increase libido and erectile function
Every man is born with different levels of testosterone, and T secretion naturally falls as a man ages. And overdosing on testosterone (read: steroids) can have negative health effects. But modern environmental, cultural, and dietary changes are artificially decreasing men’s normal T levels, and at a younger and younger age. According to a recent study:
“Researchers in the US are finding testosterone levels to be substantially lower — by about 15 to 20% — than they were fifteen years ago. Scandinavian studies show similar declines, and in younger men too; a man born in 1970, for example, had about 20 percent less testosterone at 35 than a man of his father’s generation at the same age.” ((http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1048357/testosterone_levels_declining_in_men_at_younger_ages_zrt_laboratory/index.html))
So what’s sapping our T? Here’s a few of the factors at play:
Stress. Stress increases our level of cortisol and decreases our testosterone.
Lack of sleep. Testosterone rises while you sleep, particularly during the REM phases. Today, men are often skimping on their shut eye, which in turn is sapping their testosterone. ((http://www.sono.org.br/pdf/2008_Andersen_Sleep_Med_Rev.pdf))
Soy intake. Soy is supposed to be so good for you, right? Wrong! Soy increases your estrogen and decreases your T. ((http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10798211)) It will also lower your sperm count. ((http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/617728.html?chan=top+news_top+news+index_lifestyle))
Eating a low fat diet. Low fat diets have been widely debunked these days. ((http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-news/low-fat/)) But in case you needed yet another reason to put down the Snackwell’s, it has also been proven to decease your T. ((http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/42/1/127))
Smoking. The nicotine and cotinine in cigarettes inhibits and reduces T production. ((http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2154652?dopt=Abstract))
The Day 4 Challenge: Increase Your Testosterone!
So your task for today is to do three things from the following list that will help increase your testosterone. Obviously, doing more than 3 is great, and I would encourage you to commit to them for the whole 30 days and beyond.
1. Get at least 8 hours of sleep tonight.
2. Do not smoke at all today. (If you don’t smoke right now, you can’t count this one as one of your 3)
3. Do no eat anything with soy in it. You’re going to have to read labels. It will blow your mind how many things contain soy these days.
4. Meditate for at least 10 minutes. This will help you de-stress.
5. Do resistance training. Lift some weights and do compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, dips, rows, and pull-ups. They’ll boost your T more than bicep curls. You also need to use heavy weights and short sets. If you’re looking to maximize your T, I highly recommend the Strong Lifts 5X5 program.
6. Eat a serving of good fat. As you fat intake goes up, so do your T levels. Aim to get at least 30% of your calories from fat today and spread your consumption of it throughout the day. Monosaturated fats-the kind found in nuts, fish, olives, olive oil, seeds, and avocados-are particularly beneficial to your testosterone level (and your health). ((http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/abstract/82/1/49)) Also, don’t be afraid of saturated fat; that whole business about it raising your cholesterol and causing heart disease is a bunch of rubbish. ((http://www.menshealth.com/cda/article.do?site=MensHealth&channel=health&category=heart.disease&conitem=a03ddd2eaab85110VgnVCM10000013281eac____))
7. Eat a serving of animal protein. Vegetarian diets have been proven to lower your T levels. ((http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/159772)) So go ahead and have that steak. (This might be the easiest day of the challenge yet!) There’s no need to overdo it though; a diet with a carb to protein ratio of 2:1 is ideal for testosterone production.
8. Eat a serving of cruciferous vegetables. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, cabbage and brussel sprouts contain Diindolylmethane which helps balance your estrogen and testosterone levels and increases the amount of free circulating T in your body.
9. Have morning sex (if you partner is willing, of course). Just having an erection increases your testosterone. And you already get a surge of T when you wake up, so this will bump it up even further.
Which 3 did you pick? Share your Day 4 results with us in the Community.
Last updated: October 19, 2010