Men’s testosterone levels have plummeted by 25% over the last two decades.
Since then, I’ve seen headlines from, “You’re Not The Man Your Father Was” to ,” You’re ¾ of the man your father was.”
Statically speaking, in the case of testosterone levels, that appears to at least be plausible.
In modern society we’re bombarded with low quality food, stressful lifestyles, a media machine that preys on our fears, and environmental toxins that appear to do everything from shrink our genitals to cause cancer.
In Countdown, a book by Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, finds that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973.
A 2021 study on men in Northern Italy (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30403786/) examined a group of 212 men who live in areas with high or intermediate PFAS exposure and have high levels of these chemicals in their bodies, had an average penis length of 8.6cm, about 10% lower than the average of a group of 171 men from an area without exposure (9.7cm).
When we couple the plethora of issues mentioned above with less physical activity and competition than ever before, it’s no surprise many men are struggle.
Low testosterone levels can lead to less…
– Lean muscle
– Bone density
– Cognitive function
I don’t know about you, but low testosterone sounds like a shit deal, and I plan on doing everything I can to avoid it.
Many of the men I work with feel the same way–because they’re sick of feeling like how hard they train, they’re actually going backward–not having more energy, muscle, and strength.
Instead, they’re getting more stressed, fatter,and having LESS sex drive and dwindling motivation.
If this sounds familiar, you and I know that something is missing–and in many cases, that “something” is testosterone.
Below, I’m going to cover eight core strategies to help you optimize your lifestyle to support healthy “T” levels.
1. Cholesterol, Fat, & Calories To Support Testosterone Levels
2. Lose Fat To Support Testosterone Levels
3. Optimize Sleep to Boost Testosterone Levels
4. Improve Stress Regulation & Breathing to Support Testosterone
5. Daily Light Exposure to Enhance Testosterone Production
6. Compete To Boost Testosterone
7. How To Exercise To Boost Testosterone
8. Sex, Libido, and Testosterone levels
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is the undisputed heavyweight champion hormone of male sexual function and physique optimization–helping you boost strength, muscle size, and stay leaner. Equally important to your physique, testosterone is closely linked to your bodies feel good hormone dopamine, motivation, mental health, cognitive function, and heart health.
Your body makes testosterone in your gonads and to a lesser extent, your adrenal glands.
Cholesterol is crucial for the production of hormones from cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, to testosterone.
Once testosterone is synthesized there are three potential fates:
1. Testosterone gets bound by albumin and sex hormone-binding globulin, SHGB.
2. Testosterone gets converted into estrogen by aromatase.
3. Testosterone stays in your blood as free testosterone to help you get jacked and have world-class boners.
Our goal is to maximize free testosterone.
So, what’s the problem with Testosterone levels today?
According to research from Travison et al, 2007 testosterone levels have dropped by 1% per year since the 1980’s. Men today may have testosterone levels 20% lower compared to men at the same age a generation ago.
We’re weaker, fatter, less muscular, less motivated, limp-dicked less fertile, and living a shorter health span than generations before us.
I’m not a doctor and this does not convey medical advice. The best way to gauge your testosterone levels is to get tested by a doctor and consult with an endocrinologist.
I recommend my clients get their testosterone levels checked at 25 (or as close to it as possible) for a baseline, then annually going forward.
Once you have your baseline numbers, you have the information to make informed decisions on your health. Here are 8 considerations to optimizing testosterone levels.
Eat Enough Cholesterol, Fat, & Calories To Support Testosterone Levels
Cholesterol is the building block for your hormones. If you don’t eat enough cholesterol and dietary fat, your test levels can take a kick to the gonads. As a general rule, I never go below 20% fat intake for my clients, and this is a ke reason.
Research by Ouladsahebmadarek et al 2014 and Lida et al 2017 showed eating around 0.8-1g of fat per kilogram of body weight is adequate for optimal hormone production.
Omega-3 fatty acids aid in the stabilization of hormones, rebuilding of cells, and sexual hormone function. Omega-6 hormones and trans-fats have negative impacts on testosterone and hormone function–and most highly processed foods are chock-full of omega 6’s. This is why a core tenant of our coaching is to eat “mostly foods that came from the ground or had a face.”
I focus on three key factors for a testosterone supporting diet:
First, food quality matters. Avoid most refined fatty foods and as many trans-fats as possible.
Second, eat fish and/or supplement with high-quality fish oil like flameout to improve Omega 3:6 ratios.
Third, aim to get at least 20% of your calories each day from fat to provide ample fuel for your hormones.
Lose Fat To Support Testosterone Levels
Losing body fat should improve hormone levels over the long haul. Men should aim to get to 12-15% body fat to support healthy testosterone levels.
For most men, this will result in having partially visible abs and good overall health.
There is a fine line, though. Periods of intense dieting and calorie restriction can reduce testosterone levels.
Personally speaking, I saw my testosterone levels go from the mid 800’s to the mid 400’s after one particularly grueling “cut” for a photoshoot.
As with most things, there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to losing body fat.
Optimize Sleep to Boost Testosterone Levels
The majority of testosterone release occurs at night. If your sleep is trash, your testosterone levels will follow suit. This is the biggest lever for 90% of guys to improve overall health and not just testosterone levels.
You have to make sleep a huge priority in your life, or it’s safe to say low testosterone is likely going to be an issue for you.
When it comes to how you feel, proper sleep reduces inflammation and cortisol. When cortisol gets too high, it negatively impacts testosterone levels.
Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHGB), which binds up testosterone in your blood, also decreases with adequate sleep.
So, how much sleep do you need?
Take a peek at the 2011 Chicago sleep study. 28 students slept 8 hours per night at home for one week. The following week participants spent 11 days in the laboratory for 3 nights of 10-hour bedtimes from 10 PM to 8 AM in a fully rested condition.
In the third and final week participants had 8 nights of 5-hour bedtimes (from 12:30 AM to 5:30 AM).
In one-week testosterone levels plummeted by 10-15% of sleeping five hours per night.
Put in perspective, testosterone levels have been shown to decrease by 1-2% every year after 30 years old.
By sleeping 5 hours per night, you’re giving yourself testosterone levels of someone 10-15 years your elder.
You should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Cancel Netflix if you need to–getting better sleep is the biggest area for improvement if you want to look, feel, and perform your best.
Sleep Apnea: Hidden T Crusher
Approximately 1/15 of Americans suffer from some form of sleep apnea. 80% of cases are undiagnosed and levels are arising across all populations.
Sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It’s correlated with early death and higher occurrences of heart attack and stroke.
One of the culprits of sleep apnea?
Poor breathing habits like shallow chest breathing.
The more that you breathe, the more nasal resistance (congestion), thus, more problems with sleep apnea.
If you are a shallow mouth breather at night you’ll struggle to reach the deep-sleep states needed for optimal recovery and testosterone production. Personally, I use breathing right strips or nasal openers at night to improve breathing at night.
To optimize sleep, stick to consistent sleeping and rising times.
Reduce blue light exposure before and during sleep hours–I turn off my phone at 8 am and avoid watching tv close to bedtime on most days. Excess blue light exposure can prevent deep sleep and disrupt melatonin levels.
Improve Stress Regulation & Breathing to Support Testosterone
Stress undermines your health and testosterone levels. If you’re not actively reducing stress it’s probably causing issues in your life from lower testosterone levels to stress-eating or drinking.
One of the best ways to mitigate stress is optimizing breathing patterns.
Ineffective breathing patterns keep your body in a chronic low-stress state. Poor breathing impacts everything from your mood and sleep to exercise performance.
How should you be breathing?
Through your nose both doing non-exercise and exercise activities except for all-out efforts.
Nasal breathing during exercise releases nitric oxide which increases carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, which, in turn, is what releases oxygen.
As you become accustomed to nasal breathing your cells get more oxygen with nasal breathing. You’ll reduce fatigue and stress so you can train harder.
After training, diaphragmatic breathing can increase antioxidant defense and decrease cortisol levels to jumpstart recovery.
Taking five minutes to perform diaphragmatic breathing like box breathing can help reduce stress.
Box breathing uses a 4 second inhale, 4-second hold, 4 seconds exhale, and another 4-second hold. Effective breathing can improve performance and reduce stress, thereby supporting healthy testosterone levels.
I’ll use box breathing when sitting in the sauna at the gym, or when I finish “work mode” and go into “dad mode.”
Daily Light Exposure to Enhance Testosterone Production
Light exposure early in the day is crucial in setting your circadian rhymes, optimizing sleep, and boosting levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine. For this reason, we have ALL of our clients go for a 15 minute walk in the morning to get direct sunlight.
Dopamine isn’t just a feel-good neurotransmitter. Dopamine interacts with testosterone and other hormones.
Dopamine influences the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) from the hypothalamus to the pituitary gland.
This gives a direct signal to the testes to produce more testosterone. This is likely the reason why having higher dopamine results in enhanced libido.
This is one way dopamine and testosterone interact where having adequate dopamine levels plays a role in increasing testosterone.
Natural sunlight will also boost vitamin D levels. Vitamin D levels and vitamin D supplementation supports lean muscle, strength, immune function, and decreased body fat levels.
According to research performed by Wentz et al, men with the lowest levels of vitamin D quintile had lower testosterone concentrations compared with men in the highest quintile.
Furthermore, research from Pilz et al has shown significant increases in testosterone levels in men who received vitamin d3.
Get out in natural sunlight to improve sleep, dopamine levels, and vitamin D. As a nutritional insurance supplement with a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement.
Compete To Boost Testosterone
Men are made to compete and build. One of the best things you can do is complete, whether it’s in business, or an athletic event. Not only will this build your motivation, it’ll build your testosterone levels.
According to research by Booth et al, winners of a competition have higher testosterone levels in their next match.
Losers in competition experience falling testosterone immediately after competition and in their next match.
Competing increases testosterone and winning boosts Test even more while losing decreases testosterone.
Bottom Line? Find a way to compete. It’ll bring out your best effort and may enhance testosterone production to boot.
How To Exercise To Boost Testosterone
In the shocker of the century, resistance training improves testosterone levels.
Optimizing testosterone with training isn’t as simple as throwing on some plates, your favorite heavy metal or rap playlist, and hammering away.
The best results for improving testosterone levels come from heavy resistance training (70-90% 1RM) but not training to failure.
I recommend training 3-4x per week for about an hour. A push-pull-lower-vanity split, also known as our Minimalist Muscle Training Split is best.
Increases in cortisol levels and decreases in testosterone have been shown in multiple studies when training goes longer than an hour.
You don’t need to limit your workouts to 60 minutes. But there is a point of diminishing returns with longer, high volume, and to-the-point of failure workouts.
During training, testosterone levels rise followed by an increase in cortisol post-workout.
Beyond leveraging post-workout insulin sensitivity to refill glycogen stores and increase muscle growth, consuming carbs post workout can mitigate the cortisol response and jump-start recovery.
Over time, research by Hakkinen et al indicates consistent intensive strength training in elite athletes can influence the pituitary and possibly hypothalamic levels, leading to increased serum levels of testosterone. The caveat here is elite athletes do a much better job of emphasizing recovery and eating enough to support nutrition.
What does this mean for the average gym goer who benches 3x per week with plenty of interval training and chronic dieting?
If you want to train hard and optimize your testosterone levels your sleep and nutrition have to follow suit.
Sex, Libido, and Testosterone levels
Sex boosts testosterone levels. Higher testosterone levels may lead to more sex. So what comes first (ayo) the chicken or the egg? We don’t have a clear answer.
Research by Escada et al studied men visiting sex clubs. I’m not sure how you get into these studies, but good for them.
Anyway, men who visited sex clubs had a 36% increase in testosterone.
Those who were actively participating had a magnitude of testosterone 72% greater than observers irrespective of age.
This study shows participating in sex provides a greater boost than simply rubbing one out to pornhub in your bathroom between Zoom meetings.
Further research by Puts et al found negative feedback between men’s testosterone levels, socio-sexual psychology, and sexual partner number.
More specifically, they determine seeking more sexual partners may lower testosterone levels while hypothesizing that testosterone drives “sexual hunting” in men, but is inhibited when the desires are fulfilled.
Thus, testosterone promotes sexual intercourse success, which in turn down-regulates testosterone production.
In other words, having sex is great, but trying to bang everything that moves won’t support optimal testosterone levels.
Micronutrients and Supplementation
Proper supplementation can aid in supporting healthy testosterone levels in men.
Boron may be helpful in increasing free testosterone levels in as little as one week. In addition, boron helps with bone development and regeneration, wound healing, the production and metabolism of sex steroids and vitamin D, and the absorption and use of calcium and magnesium.
Studies show that tongkat ali may boost testosterone levels and help treat infertility in men, relieve stress, and possibly increase muscle mass. Personally, I take 400 mg per day.
Fadogia Agrestis: has been shown to be a strong aphrodisiac and may support healthy testosterone levels. Personally, I’ve noticed a big uptick in libido since taking 300mg/day each morning.
Is a supplement composed of magnesium, zinc, and vitamin b6 designed to attack common nutrient deficiencies, promoting optimal sleep, recovery, and hormone levels.
Magnesium deficiency is the second most-common dietary deficiency in the western world behind vitamin D. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 chemical reactions inside the body, including many revolving around sleep, recovery, and stress management, all of which play crucial roles in optimizing testosterone.
Zinc is involved with optimizing testicular function and reproductive health as well as brain and immune function.
Due to decreasing mineral content in most foods today and heavy exercise, many people are low in both magnesium and zinc, making supplementation a no-brainer.
In addition to natural sunlight, vitamin-d supplementation is recommended to improve immune function, mood, and testosterone levels. Vitamin D functions more like a hormone than a vitamin, and the majority of people suffer from alarmingly low vitamin D-levels.
Creatine: Evidence is mixed as to whether creatine directly improves testosterone levels.
That said, it’s been proven testosterone helps you build and preserve strength, muscle, optimize cognitive function and boost mitochondrial function. People with low testosterone struggle with all the maladies I just described, so adding 5g of creatine per day will improve gym performance and health, particularly in those with low testosterone.
Putting A Plan of Action Together
The first step in improving your testosterone levels is getting your levels tested with a qualified endocrinologist.
If you’re in your 20’s, get a full blood panel and consider testing your levels annually.
It’s impossible to gauge improvement or whether it’s actually needed without blood work as a baseline.
Address the lifestyle factors like drinking alcohol, drug/opioid use, stress, and sleep that may have tanked your testosterone in the first place.
Then, work to optimize your training, nutrition, get adequate sunlight, sex life, and lifestyle to optimize t-levels.
Research and Citations
Travison, Thomas. “A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men.” PubMed, 2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17062768.
“Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy MenFREE.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 June 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4445839.
Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón et al. 2017.“Fatty Acid Intake in Relation to Reproductive Hormones and Testicular Volume among Young Healthy Men.” PubMed Central (PMC), 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312216.
Ouladsahebmadarek et al. 2014.“Hormonal and Metabolic Effects of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid (Omega-3) on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Induced Rats under Diet.” PubMed Central (PMC), 1 Feb. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3976750.
Wentz, About, et al. “Vitamin D Correlation with Testosterone Concentration in Male US Soldiers and Veterans.” Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, 2016, jmvh.org/article/vitamin-d-correlation-with-testosterone-concentration-in-male-us-soldiers-and-veterans.
Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Hormone and Metabolic Research. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5.
Booth, A. “Testosterone, and Winning and Losing in Human Competition.” PubMed, 1989, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2606468.
Seung Hoon Lee, MD; Ji Ho Choi, MD; Chol Shin, MD; Heung Man Lee, MD; Soon Young Kwon, MD; Sang Hag Lee, MD. The Laryngoscope. 2007 Vol. 117. Issue 6.
C D Hunt, P E Johnson, J Herbel, L K Mullen, “Effects of dietary zinc depletion on seminal volume and zinc loss, serum testosterone concentrations, and sperm morphology in young men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 56, Issue 1, July 1992, Pages 148–157.
Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R, “Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion,” Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011 Apr;140(1):18-23.
Puts, D.A., et al., Fulfilling desire: evidence for negative feedback between men’s testosterone, sociosexual psychology, and sexual partner number. Horm Behav, 2015. 70: p. 14-21.
Escasa, M.J., J.F. Casey, and P.B. Gray, Salivary testosterone levels in men at a U.S. sex club. Arch Sex Behav, 2011. 40(5): p. 921-6.
Hakkinen, K., et al. “Neuromuscular and Hormonal Adaptations in Athletes to Strength Training in Two Years.” Hakkinen, 1988, journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/jappl.1918.104.22.1686.
1. Heavy Strength Training 3-5x/Week
Keep workouts to about an hour or less.
Use a total body, upper-lower, or push-pull-lower-vanity training split.
Focus on compound exercises (squats, bench, deadlift, etc) with weights 70-90% one rep max.
2. Eat a balanced diet.
At least 20% of calories need to be from fat.
Hormones are synthesized from cholesterol.
Eat carbs to support activity.
Specifically, get carbs pre-post workout to support muscle growth and lower cortisol–your stress hormone that increases as a result of training.
Eat about 1g/protein per 1/lb of body weight to support lean muscle growth & fat loss.
3. Get Lean. Stay Lean.
Excess body fat acts like an additional endocrine organ, releasing additional hormones that increase insulin resistance, inflammation, raise blood pressure, and appetite regulation.
Men and women should aim for 12-18% and 29-28% body fat, respectively.
Chronic dieting is a stressor on your body and can decrease testosterone.
If you’re going to diet, go ALL in and get it done–then maintain it.
4. Get 7+ Hours of sleep.
Sleep deprivation causes significant decreases in testosterone. When you combine the natural decline of testosterone with age, a busier schedule, and more distractions (ahem, Netflix) to keep you from sleeping, this is the biggest lever.
Sleep improves every physiological function in your body. Sleep more and you’ll be smarter, “younger”, more attractive, healthier, more productive, and you’ll live longer.
Whatever sacrifices you need to make are worth it.
5. Proactively reduce stress.
If you don’t take active measures to reduce stress, stress is going to impact how you look, feel, and perform negatively.
Modern society floods our system with low-grade stress that, without preventative measures, sabotages your health.
– Get enough sleep.
– Plan screen free days.
– Plan your schedule ahead of time.
– Stop worrying about shit you can’t control.
6. Morning sunlight exposure.
A 15-20 minute walk in the morning is a game changer. Sunlight increases vitamin D & dopamine while decreasing cortisol–all of which support healthy hormone levels.
A morning walk in the sun optimizes your circadian rhythm, improving sleep quality.
7. Avoid Excess THC, Booze, & Caffeine.
Least fun for last, right?
Alcohol directly lowers testosterone, growth hormone, & insulin sensitivity.
Caffeine negatively impacts sleep, increases cortisol (hence, the awake feeling) and is used as a “masking” agent for a lack of rest.
8. Helpful Supplements.
– Vitamin D
– Tongkat Ali
– Fadogia Agrestis
Supplements should supplement all the tips above, not precede them.