It should come as no surprise that optimal physical and psychological health is determined largely by our hormones. Unlike women, who tend to experience sudden drops in estrogen, virility in the men over 40s can be lower down, since testosterone production in men tends to begin declining at the rate of 1% per year stating at the age of 30.
How Bad Can Lower Testosterone Be?
Testosterone is the essence of masculinity. It is responsible for libido, sex drive, lean muscle mass, bone density, strength, energy, mood, ambition. Men have evolved to be providers and protectors and testosterone is the one major hormone responsible for producing those traits.
Unfortunately, environment, sedentary lifestyles, diet and exposure to certain chemicals can hinder testosterone production, causing men to lose virility faster than ever before.
Because testosterone plays such an important role in male biology, the negative side effects of not keeping it at healthy levels aren’t pretty.
Results of Low Testosterone
- Weight gain around the abdomen
- Difficulty in keeping or gaining lean muscle mass
- Low sex drive
- Mood swings
If this list doesn’t frighten you a bit, then ponder this: low testosterone can also cause degenerative diseases: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and hypertension to name just a few.
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (prostate enlargement) is caused by elevated levels of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a metabolite of testosterone. This condition by itself can cause mayhem in your body, with hair loss at one end of the scale and urinary tract infections at the scarier end.
Furthermore, research shows that men with prostate cancer often have relatively low levels of testosterone.
More bad news (sorry): Declining testosterone levels is also accompanied by a rise in Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), which means that more testosterone binds to proteins leaving less for normal functions.
As we reach middle age, more testosterone is converted to estrogen and men start having estrogen-like effects, e.g. we may be more emotional, physically softer and weaker!
Losing hair, muscle, and libido and strength is not exactly an exciting prospect for a man to wrestle with. Fortunately there is more research being done on this subject and it turns out there are steps you can take to slow down or even reverse the process in some cases.
What Can You Do To Maintain Healthy Hormone Levels?
The first thing is to get a hormone saliva or blood test for the following hormones: Testosterone, SHBG, estrogen, Cortisol, DHEA. A basic test will look at the levels of these hormones but you can request a complete hormone test.
Keep in mind that health insurance in most countries won’t cover these tests unless your specialist sees a medical need for it.
If your levels on these tests are low or lower than normal, then with the supervision of your doctor you can supplement testosterone with weekly injections or a daily transdermal (gel). It is recommended that you take transdermal as it is more convenient while keeping the hormone at a stable level. You might first want to see if diet and exercise can help raise your testosterone naturally.
If you do go down the testosterone therapy route, then you will need to keep levels in a safe range (the higher end of the normal range). The goal is to have levels like you had in your 30s not your 20s!
Testosterone is what tends to make men aggressive so keep it within a safe range and remember that the goal is to bring back strength, confidence and sex drive. Too much is just as unhealthy as too little.
Men don’t have to go through their 40s, 50s and beyond feeling they are losing control of what makes them men.
What You Should Change In Your Lifestyle and Diet
Get enough sleep: Testosterone rises while we sleep, 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep should do the trick.
Lower your stress level: Stress raises your Cortisol levels and lowers your Testosterone level.
Avoid Soy: Soy increases Estrogen and decreases your Testosterone. It also lowers your sperm count!
Avoid plastics: The chemicals you find in most plastics (BPA) are full of chemical estrogen. Avoid all drinks from plastic bottles unless there is a specification that it is BPA Free and do not reheat food or drinks in plastic containers.
Avoid diets that are too low in fat: Carbs and trans-fats are the real enemies here. The testes convert cholesterol into testosterone so other fats can be safely consumed. 2010 health guidelines recommend diets comprised of: 43% monounsaturated, 33% polyunsaturated, 24% saturated fats.
Good sources of beneficial fats include: olives, olive oil, coconuts, coconut oil, organic butter, raw nuts, organic eggs (yolks), avocados, grass fed meats, palm oil, cold pressed organic nut oil.
Stop smoking: Nicotine and cotinine inhibit and reduce testosterone production.
Lose weight: Reduce your carb intake drastically and focus on protein, healthy fats including saturated fats and lots of vegetables.
Weight training: Intense weight training sessions are proven to increase testosterone levels, focus on compound exercises like squats and deadlifts per example. Depending on how intensively you train, 30 to 45 minutes should suffice.
Increase your Zinc intake: Eat foods high in zinc, like seafood (oysters), beef, chicken, nuts, seeds (pumpkin), spinach, beans, cocoa and mushrooms. If you decide to supplement with zinc, the maximum daily dosage for adults is 40mg a day. Keep in mind that too much can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb other minerals and cause nausea. Start with 10-20mg a day.
Increase your vitamin D intake: Vitamin D is a steroid hormone essential for the healthy development of the nucleus of the sperm cell and helps to keep semen quality and sperm count. It can also increase testosterone and may even improve libido. The best way to get vitamin D is by exposing a large amount of skin to sunlight until it gets to a light pink. Just don’t get burnt! If this is not an option then you can supplement with vitamin D3, the recommended dosage for adults is about 8000 IUs per day.
Increase your intake of Branch Chain Amino Acids: BCAAs taken in conjunction with strength training can increase testosterone levels. Whey protein, dairy products and meats are good natural sources of BCAA’s.