Testosterone is the legendary hormone for growing muscle, losing fat, improving energy and optimizing nearly every other aspect of health/fitness imaginable.
Sadly the average level of testosterone is dropping due to contemporary levels of poor fitness and inactive lifestyles. As we age, testosterone naturally declines, leaving many people aged 40+ at dangerously low levels.
Additionally, testosterone levels can plummet if you follow a strict diet or have a very intense training plan. As you can see, we must take precautions to avoid the low testosterone plague that can lead to ill health, reduced quality of life and a poor physique (i.e. fat gain and muscle loss).
Rather than opting for pharmaceutical drugs like many do these days, there are a few natural methods you can use on training, nutrition, and supplementation that may help improve your testosterone health and boost low levels.
In this article, I will discuss 10 of the best, research-proven methods for increasing testosterone both naturally and safely for males and females.
1. Reduce Cortisol To Increase Testosterone
Cortisol is the famous fight or flight hormone.
The body has many different hormones which all work in synergy and have interactions (both positive and negative) with each other. Of this, testosterone and levels of cortisol seem to have an inverse relationship with one another, meaning that as one increases chronically, the other decreases.
In fact, a recent study indicated exactly that. As circulating cortisol levels were increased, there was a significant decrease in circulating testosterone levels (1).
During short-term periods of stress, cortisol is a necessary hormone to help cope with that stress. Unfortunately, in today’s society, many people have chronically elevated levels of cortisol over prolonged time periods, which can in part lead to chronically lowered levels of testosterone.
While simply relaxing in which ever way you choose may help reduce cortisol elevations, and thus increase testosterone, some studies have indicated that mindfulness and meditation is an efficient and effective way to reduce cortisol.
2. Exercise to Increase Testosterone
While stress and diet can affect your testosterone levels, exercise can also have a positive effect. Interestingly, the types of exercise you do can even increase testosterone levels.
Multiple studies have revealed that lifting weights can have a positive impact on testosterone levels (2).
Additionally, some studies have indicated that mixing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) with resistance training may provide increased benefit regarding increasing testosterone levels and optimizing your hormones (3).
While cardio is by no means bad as some people like to state, excessive levels of running or cardio can cause an increase in cortisol, especially if you are becoming over trained. In contrast, if you do not currently exercise at all, small amounts of any exercise, including cardio will likely be beneficial.
3. Eat More Fat To Boost Testosterone
While once considered to be a major no-no in the health and body composition world, increasing dietary fat intake is now a popular diet with lots of health benefits.
As it turns out, levels of testosterone are primarily regulated by the foods we eat. Fat and cholesterol play an immense role in not only testosterone levels but also other key hormone productions and functions.
One study showed that increasing different types of fat such as monounsaturated and saturated in one’s diet results in greater levels of testosterone (2). Other researchers have suggested you need to eat as high as 40% fat to optimize testosterone levels. Although you may not be able to go this high if you are on a higher carb diet, you should keep at least 20% of your total intake as healthy fats.
Examples of these types of fats would be as follows:
Monounsaturated: Olive oil, avocados
Saturated: Butter, coconut oil, meat and egg yolks
Remember, fat is very high in calories so don’t go overboard and gain weight and body fat due to fat consumption, as that may actually be worse for your testosterone. Instead, focus on healthy fats in sensible moderation, tailored to your body’s energy/calorie requirements.
4. Focus On Free Weights For More Testosterone
While lifting heavy alone can provide an increase in testosterone, research suggests that just using free weights as opposed to machines will even increase testosterone levels.
In fact, one study suggests this is actually the case. Researchers had subjects perform different movements for certain body parts such as the barbell squat (free-weight) and leg press (machine) to determine if there was any different hormonal response.
It demonstrated that the free weight group had a significant increase in testosterone levels compared to the subjects using a machine (4).
Taking exercise sets close to muscular failure (i.e. you cannot get any more reps out) is a prime way to increase testosterone. Interestingly, this increase in testosterone is also correlated with the amount of muscle being used.
For example, if you are performing a free weight barbell squat, doing so requires much more muscle to be activated, such as your back, arms, and core, compared to the muscle that is needed to perform a leg press.
Although smaller machines or isolation exercises are still ok, you should combine a mix of free weights and machines to maximize muscle growth and your testosterone levels.
5. Use Zinc And Ashwagandha For Optimized Testosterone
Zinc is a mineral and micronutrient with over 200 chemical processes and can be consumed in supplement form to help you optimize testosterone levels.
If you happen to be deficient in zinc, using it in supplement form may help to increase testosterone up into a healthy range. In fact, multiple studies have revealed that subjects with originally low testosterone levels who supplemented with zinc reliably witnessed an increase in their testosterone (5, 6, 7).
Interestingly, zinc supplementation has also been shown to increase levels of free testosterone. Normally, hormones like testosterone are bound to proteins for transport, which means that the hormone cannot act on tissue (8).
Free testosterone, on the other hand, can freely interact with receptors on different tissues of the body. In doing so, it can exert its unique health and physique promoting properties.
Ashwagandha is another natural supplement that has been shown to improve testosterone levels and also reduce cortisol levels (which as we discussed above, can also lower testosterone).
In fact, one study showed that regular supplementation of Ashwagandha increased testosterone in subjects by upwards of 13% making it a strong candidate for the treatment of low testosterone (9).
You can learn more about Ashwagandha here.
6 – 10 Other Ways To Increase Testosterone
Along with the key points discussed above, here are a few more bonus methods and strategies you can use to either boost testosterone or stop the levels from declining so fast.
6. Take 5000IU of Vitamin D3 every day.
7. Avoid regular or excessive alcohol consumption.
8. Get regular 7-9 hours of deep, high-quality sleep per night.
9. Avoid excessive exposure to xenoestrogens from toxins such as plastic bottles, paints, industry supplies, cosmetics, etc.
10. Eat more protein, add more muscle mass and optimize recovery from exercise!
Wrapping things up
Increasing testosterone is one of the best ways to increase muscle mass, energy and improve your overall physique. However, doing so via natural methods is of the utmost importance and best for your health.
Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use, such as more exercise, lifting heavy weights and eating more healthy fats. Additionally, research has proven supplements such as zinc and ashwagandha may have a positive effect on testosterone when added to a sound nutrition and training plan!
As we age, testosterone levels naturally drop. They also drop during a diet or intensive training regimes; therefore, optimizing and doing what you can now is a smart move rather than waiting until you become deficient!
1. Mehta, P. H., & Josephs, R. A. (2010). Testosterone and cortisol jointly regulate dominance: Evidence for a dual-hormone hypothesis. Hormones and behavior, 58(5), 898-906.
2. Volek, J. S., Kraemer, W. J., Bush, J. A., Incledon, T., & Boetes, M. (1997). Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 82(1), 49-54.
3. Di Blasio, A., Izzicupo, P., Tacconi, L., Di Santo, S., Leogrande, M., Bucci, I., … & Napolitano, G. (2016). Acute and delayed effects of high intensity interval resistance training organization on cortisol and testosterone production. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 56(3), 192-199.
4. Shaner, A. A., Vingren, J. L., Hatfield, D. L., Budnar Jr, R. G., Duplanty, A. A., & Hill, D. W. (2014). The acute hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 28(4), 1032-1040.
5. Kilic, M., Baltaci, A. K., Gunay, M., Gökbel, H., Okudan, N., & Cicioglu, I. (2005). The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuro endocrinology letters, 27(1-2), 247-252.
6. Kilic, M. (2007). Effect of fatiguing bicycle exercise on thyroid hormone and testosterone levels in sedentary males supplemented with oral zinc. Neuro endocrinology letters, 28(5), 681-685.
7. Jalali, G. R., Roozbeh, J., Mohammadzadeh, A., Sharifian, M., Sagheb, M. M., Jahromi, A. H., … & Afshariani, R. (2010). Impact of oral zinc therapy on the level of sex hormones in male patients on hemodialysis. Renal failure, 32(4), 417-419.
8. Kilic, M. (2007). Effect of fatiguing bicycle exercise on thyroid hormone and testosterone levels in sedentary males supplemented with oral zinc. Neuro endocrinology letters, 28(5), 681-685.
9. Mahdi, A. A., Shukla, K. K., Ahmad, M. K., Rajender, S., Shankhwar, S. N., Singh, V., & Dalela, D. (2011). Withania somnifera improves semen quality in stress-related male fertility. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011.