Testosterone. The "male" sex hormone (but the thing is, women have it too.)
Lately, testosterone has received a lot of bad press. Not because testosterone is bad, but because many young men are finding out they have "low T". This has resulted in swarms of people going to the doctor in hopes they'll come out with a reason why they don't have the testosterone levels of a 17-year-old teenager. Just like many other ailments in the US, they were prepared with medication. And lately, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has skyrocketed which has just brought even more press.
So we had to ask, what's going on?
Are we really in a testosterone epidemic?
We dived in and found a few interesting studies to shed a little light on this subject and hopefully by the end of this, you'll see what is the best next step for you.
How does testosterone work?
Testosterone is an androgen, which is a group of steroids that have growth effects on the body. Testosterone is the most important as it regulates libido, energy, immune function, muscle development and bone health.
Testosterone is regulated based on the feedback it receives. If the body thinks there’s too much of it, our body reduces the output. So, if our body isn't utilizing the testosterone within the body, it won't produce as much the next time.
Let's talk through an example. Strength training can stimulate a short-term testosterone release which may amplify muscle growth. That's great! The muscles call for additional energy, the hormones rightly respond. All good.
But extended bouts of endurance exercise seem to suppress testosterone. So, if we work out for too long our body then goes into conservation mode and then suppresses the testosterone. Then too many of these extended bouts of exercise will result in the body producing less hormones since they aren't required. Even in bodybuilders, who we'd assume have high levels of testosterone since they have huge muscles, find their testosterone dips once they get closer and closer to a competition and they incorporate more and more low-intensity cardio.
So what's happening?
What contributes to low testosterone?
There are many ways testosterone could start reducing its output. As we stated, not getting enough nutrients is one and extended external stress is another.
Other ways testosterone is negatively impacted are:
Low-calorie intake >20% below needs
Low nutrient intake and vitamin/mineral deficiency
Low fat intake
Stress and anxiety
As we review this list, we start to see some real concerns. We also see a lot of similarities that are very common in our society today. As the years have gone by, the obesity rates have continued to rise, nutrient quality has continued to fall and stress/anxiety has gone through the roof causing our sleep quality to become even worse.
So we now have to ask, is the problem really low testosterone, or is that the result of a much bigger problem?
What's the solution?
You actually have a few choices.
You can go the medical route or the natural route.
The medical route consists of TRT treatments. Many people who start TRT, have to be on it for the rest of their life if they want that level of testosterone. This is largely due to the treatment masking the underlying issues mentioned previously.
In addition to having to stay on TRT for long periods of time, the body reacts in other ways to TRT:
Acne and oiler skin
Agressive mood changes
Increased cardiovascular disease risk
Increased blood pressure
After seeing this list, it definitely gives you some things to consider.
The natural route comes with positives and negatives as well. The positive being an overall healthier body. The negative being it's sometimes hard to implement these strategies into your life.
01: First, check your sleep. Sleep apnea is one of the biggest factors which lead to low testosterone. If you're not getting enough sleep, you're not recovering properly. Sleeping 7-9 hours is optimal for nearly everyone and waking up in the middle of the night often is also a red flag.
02: Second, get enough nutrients. This means quality food in the right proportions to match your energy needs. Some of the best foods to boost your testosterone are healthy fats, good quality protein, and complex carbohydrates as well as ginger, ashwagandha, zinc and magnesium foods. Try to get some of these items daily and a healthy fat and protein at each meal.
03: Third, lift weights. Long bouts of cardio are great every once in a while but lift heavy things. This signals to your body to produce more testosterone and will start that great feedback loop. A great exercise week consists of at least 2-3 days of heavy lifting.
04: Have a stress-relieving practice. Four and probably one of the most important for life. Have a stress and anxiety relieving practice. Maybe it's meditation or journaling or even taking a dopamine detox. We live in a stressful world that's asking a lot of you. Having a practice to clear your head will help give clarity to the things you really need for your life.
I do want to conclude by saying that in no way do I think TRT is a bad route to go. It's a necessary step for many individuals to get their levels to the optimum range. The purpose behind this was to shed light on the contributing actions which may be a factor. Without ruling out the possible contributing factors, it's very hard to get an accurate diagnosis.
In the end, you'll never be worse off if you take the four pieces of advice above.
For more information about how to incorporate these four pieces of advice into your life, check out our course here.