Simple Dietary Changes to Battle Low-T
Modern-Day Society is Stealing Your Testosterone
Fact: Higher testosterone levels mean more muscle mass, lower body fat, and stronger bones. Additionally, optimum T levels indicate healthy libidos, improved cognitive abilities, and (naturally) higher levels of sports performance.
Fact: your natural testosterone production is under attack. Here’s a brief list of things that can negatively affect T levels, ranging from dietary/lifestyle choices to environmental factors:
- Extreme low-calorie diets. Very low-calorie diets used to melt fat or followed by athletes desperate to make weight.
- Tobacco smoke, both direct and second-hand. Cigarette smoke contains a toxic substance called cadmium, an environmental pollutant with no distinct taste or smell that’s been shown to lower testosterone levels.
- Alcohol. The body breaks alcohol into acetaldehyde, which may adversely affect the Leydig cells of the testicles to reduce testosterone production.
- Environmental pollutants, such as those that are common in industrial areas where metal welding, lead, or copper smoke are present.
Four Foods to the Rescue
Luckily, you can improve your testosterone profile through the consumption of some natural nutrients and chemical compounds. Studies have shown that minor nutritional interventions can boost testosterone levels in as little as four weeks. Like the cavalry to the rescue, foods rich in garlic, magnesium, vitamin K2, organ meats, shellfish, leafy vegetables and zinc will boost your testosterone naturally. Also, consider taking a zinc/magnesium supplement. Here are 4 “must-add” foods…
1. Garlic. Studies have shown that both acute and chronic ingestion of garlic can have proliferative and restorative effects on serum testosterone levels. It’s thought that this is due to a chemical in garlic known as diallyl sulfide.
In one study involving rats on a high protein diet, garlic was shown to increase testosterone levels while lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol is commonly referred to as “the stress hormone.” Garlic increased levels of the luteinizing hormone in the plasma, which in turn coaxed the testes into producing more testosterone.
Suggested Intake: 900 mg daily, preferably split into multiple dosages throughout the day.
2. Magnesium. Numerous studies on men have shown magnesium to boost total testosterone. Unfortunately, deficiencies in magnesium are common because people don’t get enough of it from dietary sources.
What magnesium does is increase the bioavailability of testosterone. As a natural process of aging — or as a consequence of low protein diets — sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) concentrations increase, and these globulins bind with testosterone. The result? It becomes unavailable to the body.
However, one study showed that testosterone preferred binding to magnesium rather than SHBG, thus preserving free levels of testosterone, and hence its anabolic (building) effects, too. In another study, 30 males, aged 18-22 (both sedentary and active), received 10mg/kg of magnesium for four weeks and it elevated their free and total testosterone values.
Interestingly, those individuals participating in intense exercise activities were observed to have even higher increases in testosterone levels in conjunction with magnesium supplementation.
Suggested Intake: If you were to copy the amounts used in the above study, you’d take 10 mg of magnesium per kg body weight, so a 100 kg person (about 220 pounds) would take one gram daily. That may be excessive to many individuals, especially those just beginning to take a magnesium supplement. Better to use more standard doses. The RDA is about 420 mg a day for an adult male, so to enhance testosterone production, experiment with 750 mg a day for a few weeks and see how you feel.
The Best Food Sources of Magnesium:
- Dark green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, kale, collard greens, swiss chard)
- Fish (halibut, salmon, mackerel, tuna)
- Nuts (cashews, peanuts, almonds, brazil nuts)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, and flax seeds)
- Legumes (black beans, edamame, kidney beans)
3. Vitamin K2. In addition to serving as a “traffic cop” for your bones by directing calcium to your bones and prevent it from going where it can do damage: your organs, joints, and arteries. Vitamin K2 also increases the activity level of testosterone-synthesizing enzymes. The chemical menaquinone-4 (a synonym for vitamin K2, the primary storage form of the vitamin in animals) has been shown to stimulate testosterone production through the activation of protein kinase while also being involved in steroidogenesis in the testes.
Suggested Intake: To duplicate the amount used in one critical study with rats, you’d have to use 12 mg per pound of body weight, which is a considerable amount. Still, there’s good reason to believe that much smaller doses, around 30 to 50 mg per day (which is still a lot), might also raise testosterone levels.
Dietary Sources of Vitamin K2:
- Hard and soft cheeses
- Egg yolks
- Animal organs (chicken and cow liver)
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, natto, miso, kimchi)
4. Zinc. Low testosterone is linked to zinc deficiencies as androgen receptors are often altered in zinc-deficient individuals. Adding zinc to the diet has been shown in various studies to increase levels of luteinizing hormone, a pituitary hormone that stimulates testosterone production. Studies have also shown zinc to be an active aromatase inhibitor, which can block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen.
Suggested Intake: 40 mg daily
Dietary Sources of Zinc:
- Shellfish (oysters, crabs, lobster, shrimp)
- Dairy products (Swiss cheese, yogurt, milk, cheddar cheese)
- Legumes (baked beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, white beans)
- Nuts (cashews, almonds, pistachios, pecans, walnuts)
- Seeds (pumpkin, squash, pine nuts, flax seeds)
To make sure your levels of testosterone are at the high levels you need, make sure you consume an adequate amount of calories for your activity levels with an emphasis on the foods listed above, and the use of a zinc/magnesium supplement like ZMA.
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