Testosterone is one of the most common hormones associated with men. It is a long established buzz word in the health and fitness arena, as it is known to improve endurance, increase muscle, promote fat loss, regulate sex drive, promote better mood and memory. There is also a growing interest around foods that are said to kill testosterone.
This week LetsGetChecked talk you through what’s true and false when it comes to testosterone, what is known to kill testosterone vs. what actually does, how to test your testosterone and ways you can naturally boost your levels.
LetsGetChecked is joined by Dr. Rob Mordkin, Chief of Urology and Director Of Robotic Surgery in Virginia Hospital Center, to tell you how differentiate between the real and sensationalized information out there.
- What Is Testosterone?
- Foods That Kill Testosterone: Do They Actually Exist?
- Foods That Kill Testosterone: True And False
- How Can You Test Your Testosterone Levels?
- Ways To Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels
What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is produced in the testes in men, the ovaries in women and the adrenal cortex in both genders. Testosterone is a key male sex hormone that affects all aspect of male development and function.
Testosterone naturally declines as men age. Andropause isn’t as well known as the menopause in women. It can begin for men as young as 30 years of age. Andropause is marked by a decrease in the male hormone testosterone, also known as Low T. Andropause differs to menopause as it is a gradual process with testosterone declining over time. The impact of the signs and symptoms are not immediate and do not occur out of the blue.
Physically, testosterone affects the body by:
- Stimulating the growth of male reproductive organs
- Activating the enlargement of the Adam’s apple and deepening of the voice
- Regulating the development of muscle mass and strength
- Stimulating the growth of facial and bodily hair
- Maintaining a healthy immune system
- Producing red blood cells
- Preventing osteoporosis and maintaining bone density
- Maintaining a healthy heart
- Stimulating erections
- Regulating fertility and sperm quality
Emotionally, testosterone affects the mind by:
- Improving short and long term memory
- Balancing emotional responses and improving overall mood
- Improving motivation and drive
- Regulating sexual drive or libido
- Maintaining energy levels
From the age of thirty years, testosterone levels begin to decline by 1% each year. The rate of testosterone decline may be influenced by lifestyle factors such as being overweight, living a sedentary lifestyle, drinking, smoking, taking recreational drugs, significant stressors in your day to day life and emotional illness.
(Source: Research Gate)
The Endocrine Society states that “There is a trend of declining testosterone in men and a rise in related health conditions, including reduced semen quality in men and genital malformations in newborn boys.”
Foods That Kill Testosterone?: Do They Actually Exist?
A number of factors can stimulate or hinder the production of testosterone. Dr. Mordkin says:
“There is no single food that has been linked definitively to affecting testosterone levels, either up or down.”
Before deciding whether foods have the ability to kill testosterone it’s important to understand how testosterone operates in your body and how they may impact testosterone levels that occur naturally in the body. The pituitary gland, which is located at the bottom the brain, stimulates the production of testosterone by sending signals to the testes. When testosterone levels are too high, or too low in the blood, the brain sends signals to the pituitary gland which sends signals back to the testes to either increase or reduce testosterone production, in a feedback loop.
Factors that impact the maintenance of healthy testosterone levels in the blood include diet, exercise, stress, age and family history. Health conditions including type 1 & 2 diabetes, Klinefelter syndrome, hemochromatosis, pituitary gland disorders, thyroid, kidney, liver issues, overtraining and eating disorders also impact your testosterone levels.
There are known foods that “kill testosterone” on the market, and a question mark remains regarding the validity of such claims. Do foods on the market kill testosterone or is the market attempting to harness a widespread fear that is associated with testosterone and globally declining testosterone?
Global studies report that sperm counts in America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have dropped by 60% in the last forty years.
"Declining sperm counts and the increasing average age of first-time parents spell trouble for human fertility, especially when set against the backdrop of ageing populations."
Foods That Kill Testosterone: True And False
If you type “Foods That Kill Testosterone” into any search engine, you will be met with dramatic titles to articles such as “Foods That Kill Your Sex Drive” and “Foods That Destroy Your Testosterone.”
A multitude of online articles promote a world where food has the ability to “Kill”, “Destroy” and “Ruin” your hormonal health, with the angle that your sex life could suffer if you eat certain foods. The irony attached to this form of marketing is that alongside these articles that proclaim white bread may kill, destroy and ruin your testosterone, there are advertisements proudly placed in the sidebars promoting testosterone supplements. It is not accurate to place full blame on certain food groups or products to determine what may or may not kill testosterone. Instead a 360 degree approach should be taken to overall health and wellness to maintain hormonal balance.
While it is positive to take an interest in particular aspects of your health, you should strive to be aware of fear mongering that often exists on certain portals, as many of these articles and findings are attached to supplements, protein powders and unrealistic lifestyle and self-help programs.
Joined with Dr. Mordkin to shine a light on the reasoning behind certain campaigns against food groups, LetsGetChecked explain why these particular foods are said to kill testosterone.
Foods That Kill Testosterone: True Or False
1.Refined Carbohydrates & Sugars
True, however this is related to body weight as opposed to sugar spikes and sugar "crashes".
Reasoning: White bread, pasta, rice along with pastries and cakes are known as refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates are those that are quickly digested by the body leading to a quick release of sugar, known as insulin. Refined carbohydrates are processed by the body in a way that causes a domino effect for testosterone. Hormones generally operate systematically. When the body gets a quick fix of refined carbohydrates, they will experience a quick release of sugars, spiking insulin and leading to a steady decline of testosterone levels in the body.
"Refined carbs and sugars often lead to poor weight control. Obesity is the number one culprit in leading to low testosterone. Many weight management physicians and cardiologists espouse keto low carb diets for rapid and maintained weight loss and a positive side effect will typically be a rebound in testosterone levels."
True, however this is attached to overall diet.
Reasoning: Vegetable oil refers to oil made from olives, rapeseed, palm, peanut or soybeans that are liquid at room temperature. In one study, men were given a questionnaire on their dietary intake. 69 men aged between 43 and 88 were accessed. It was concluded that there was a relationship between the consumption of polyunsaturated fats, estradiol and testosterone. This study has a low sample group, and the data collected is of a qualitative nature. A high fat diet may induce weight gain and high cholesterol. Weight gain can impact testosterone levels but there are no definitive findings that highlight a connection between vegetable oil and low testosterone.
3.Low Quality Meat/Processed Foods
True - however this is attached to nutrition on the whole.
Reasoning: Low quality meat that is believed to have been sprayed with hormone treatments and antibiotics for preservation purposes is said to trigger hormonal imbalances. Processed meats and ready meals are said to be equally damaging to your hormones as they are high in sodium, calories, sugar and, trans-fats, which offers a similar explanation as vegetable oil.
One study suggests that men who consume a high level of processed or low quality meats had a 15% lower volume of testosterone as well as a 37% decrease in sperm count.
True - however studies have only been conducted on animals in small sample groups.
Reasoning: Soy products such as soy milk and yogurts, soya meat replacement products, tofu, miso soup and edamame are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring sources of estrogen found in certain food products. Eating lots of soy products on a regular basis can lead to an increase in estrogen in women, which may develop to estrogen dominance. In men, eating products that are high in phytoestrogens is said to cause a decline in testosterone levels. While deeper study is required with human samples, a study found that rats who consumed phytoestrogens experienced decreased testosterone levels.
"A large proportion of studies use animals with low sample number groups, which indicates that further study is required. Having some soy milk in your morning coffee is not an issue however, until there is further investigation into dairy replacements, moderation is key."
True - however frequent alcohol consumption is said to negatively impact on overall health.
Reasoning: Alcohol consumption is linked to a myriad of negative health implications. Some studies claim that alcohol can wreak havoc on testosterone production. When we consume alcohol, it is absorbed by the lining of the stomach and into the bloodstream. The liver metabolizes 90% of the alcohol you drink. Biologically inactive protein is bound to a protein called albumin which is produced in the liver. This logic is used as a claim that alcohol can cause a decline in testosterone production. While drinking alcohol frequently isn’t beneficial for overall health, it is not the sole cause of declining testosterone.
"This is factually correct. In addition, other recreational practices such as smoking marijuana and taking opioids, even in moderate consumption have also been demonstrated to depress testosterone production."
How Can You Test Your Testosterone Levels?
Testosterone levels are measured by examining the blood for levels of testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). The free androgen index (FAI) is used to determine the volume of bio-available testosterone by differentiating between bio-available testosterone and SHBG.
SHBG is a glycoprotein that binds itself to testosterone and transports inactive testosterone molecules around the body.
LetsGetChecked offer a number of male hormone tests, ranging from simply measuring your testosterone levels to the Male Hormone Advanced Test which includes hormones prolactin and oestradiol, that are typically associated with women to attain a full comprehensive view of your hormonal health.
Testosterone levels can be examined by a small blood sample, with online results available within a few days. You should consider taking a Male Hormone Advanced Test if you are training competitively, you are undergoing cancer treatment, you suffer from diabetes type 1 or 2, you are overweight, have a family history or suffer from kidney or liver damage.
Dr. Mordkin says:
“If testing shows low levels of testosterone, you should take steps to improve your overall health, followed by retesting in a few months to monitor for improvements. If low levels persist, more thorough evaluation of the hormonal axis should be considered under the guidance of an endocrinologist.”
Testosterone levels may vary on an on-going basis depending on environmental or lifestyle changes. If you are experiencing low levels of testosterone, it is recommended that you test your levels every three months to monitor, track and ultimately improve your current levels.
Ways To Naturally Increase Your Testosterone Levels
We ask Dr. Mordkin for the best advice he can offer when it comes to naturally increasing your testosterone levels. He says:
“The best recommendation would be balance in your diet, limiting processed foods, particularly refined carbohydrates like sugar and get adequate sleep.”
Here are six steps to naturally increasing your testosterone levels by LetsGetChecked:
1.Follow A Balanced Diet
Attempt to maintain a balanced diet that doesn’t promote spike in blood sugar. A key method for doing this is avoided refined sugars (such as high sugar cereals, biscuits and certain coffees) and carbohydrates (such as white bread and pasta, pastries and cakes). Following low carb, high fat diets and restricting your calorie intake may also lead to a drop in testosterone. These methods are often used in the lead up to bodybuilding competitions. In one study, male subjects performed three intense workouts three days in a week with varying post gym nutrition.
The post gym meal was either low or high in carbohydrates, testosterone was then measured. It was found that those who ate a lower ratio of carbohydrates saw a decrease in testosterone and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol, while those who ate an average intake of carbohydrates experienced no change in their testosterone-to-cortisol ratio.
2.Get Enough Sleep
Testosterone is mainly secreted and circulated throughout the male body during sleep. Disrupted or inadequate sleep negatively affects your overall health including your hormonal balances. In one study, testosterone levels were measured in a sample group that experienced one week of 8 hour sleep duration, 11 nights of 10 hour sleep duration and 8 nights of 5 hour sleep duration. Testosterone levels were measured systematically throughout the experiment. The study concluded that testosterone levels continuously declined in the with daily sleep restrictions. It is recommended that adults attempt to sleep for 7-9 hours each night to maintain overall health.
3.Exercise On A Regular Basis
Regular exercise is an effective way to maintain healthy testosterone levels and can be incorporated into your every day routine. Numerous studies have shown that exercise involving endurance is the most effective way to stimulate the production of testosterone regardless of age. Resistance and weight training are viewed as the most effective way to stimulate the production of testosterone, with 45-60 minutes being the optimal amount of time to spend on an exercise session.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health, some studies suggest that physiological proportions are a potentially modifiable factor that can dictate if it is possible to maintain healthy testosterone levels. A study entitled Andropause: Current Concepts states:
“Among obesity parameters, waist circumference is one potentially modifiable risk factor for low testosterone and symptomatic androgen deficiency.”
Men should eat 2,500 calories a day to maintain their weight and 2,000 calories a day to lose one pound of weight each week. It is recommended that men exercise for at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate level or 75 minutes per week doing a high intensity work-out.
4. Know The Vitamins That Work
Another natural way to boost your testosterone levels is through mineral rich supplements. While performance-enhancing drugs and certain protein shakes are known to lower testosterone, and trigger mood changes, there are supplements that are proven to boost your sex hormone. Some of the best testosterone boosters on the market include Vitamin D, D-Aspartic acid and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplements.
Other herb-based supplements include ginger, zinc, tribulus and fenugreek.
5.Balance Your Stress Hormone Cortisol
In cases of training competitively and/or dramatically reducing your calories, a decrease in testosterone and an increase in the stress hormone cortisol may be observed on a physiological level. Further studies suggest that an increase in the stress hormone cortisol will hinder the production and secretion of testosterone. Balancing your hormones begins with balancing your mind. Taking time out to focus on your own goals, listening to your body and being mindful of how you feel is an important part of boosting or maintaining healthy testosterone levels.
6.Test Your Testosterone
The only way to know your testosterone levels is to test them. To track, monitor, improve and maintain your levels should they be low. You need to make your health a priority. LetsGetChecked offer simple testosterone checks to full male hormone work-ups offering insight into your hormonal health.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director Dr. Dominic Rowley