As men get older, testosterone levels decrease. From about age 40, testosterone levels decrease about 0.3% to 1% per year. Low testosterone levels result in decreased energy, depressed mood (more sad or grumpy), increased body fat, reduced muscle mass, decreased bone strength and a reduction in sex drive or function.
The best way to maintain healthy testosterone levels naturally is through a combination of nutrition, exercise, stress management and supplementation.
Since muscle helps maintain higher testosterone levels, it’s important to exercise on a regular basis. Whole body exercises like squats, deadlifts and bent rows are particularly good at stimulating testosterone and growth hormone release.
Get plenty of sleep and reduce stress to suppress the muscle-destroying stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a big testosterone killer.
Supplementation can also help support your body’s production of testosterone. Let’s take a look at some of the supplements available on the market that may help restore youthful levels.
DHEA supports natural testosterone production because it’s a precursor to testosterone, which the body can convert into testosterone through several steps. Your body produces DHEA naturally, but DHEA levels decline with age. Typically used by older adults, supplemental DHEA can often help bring low testosterone levels into the normal range. The typical dosage for DHEA is 25-50 mg per day.
Also known as puncture vine, tribulus terrestris has been researched for its ability to support testosterone naturally. Studies indicate that tribulus can increase luteinizing hormone by as much as 70% and thereby elevate testosterone production by 40%.
In a study on 40 individuals, data shows tribulus increased endurance by 75% and sexual performance by 80%. The data also shows that by increasing testosterone production, tribulus may increase muscular development and strength, although more research is needed in this area. The typical dosage for tribulus is about 400-500 mg with a 40% protodioscin content or 800-1,000 mg with a 20% protodioscin content per day. Lower priced and less effective products simply contain saponins or sapogenins.
ZMA is a combination of zinc monomethionine aspartate, magnesium aspartate and vitamin B6. Supported by two studies, the data on this product shows total and free testosterone increases of up to 33% in athletes taking ZMA. There were also corresponding increases in strength and power measurements.
Zinc and magnesium play a role in over 500 metabolic reactions in the body while vitamin B6 is very important for muscle protein synthesis. The normal dosage for ZMA is 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium, and 10.5 mg of B6 taken at night. Another study showed magnesium alone at 10 mg per kg of bodyweight had significant effects on free testosterone, with or without exercise.
If you have low vitamin D blood levels, you’re almost assured of having lower levels of testosterone. A cross-sectional study of 2,299 men showed a significant association between vitamin D levels and testosterone levels.
In March, at the end of winter, both vitamin D and testosterone levels were at their lowest. Then, both levels peaked in August at the end of summer. The study also found that those with normal blood levels of vitamin D (greater than 30 ng/ml) had significantly higher testosterone levels when compared to those with insufficient or low vitamin D levels. Recent studies indicate many Americans have insufficient or low vitamin D levels. Depending on the time of year and how much sun exposure you get, supplement with 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D daily to maximize testosterone levels.
D-Aspartic Acid (DAA) is a naturally occurring amino acid found in the neuroendocrine system of humans and other animals. A recent study looked at the effect of 23 men taking about 3 grams of DAA every morning for 12 days compared to a placebo. The researchers analyzed the effect of DAA on blood levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone (T), as well as the effect of DAA on the synthesis of LH and T in the pituitary and testes.
Results showed that serum levels of LH and T increased by 33% and 42% respectively in 87% of those taking DAA. The conclusions indicate that DAA enhances the release of LH and T respectively in the pituitary and testes and raises serum LH and T levels. Take at least 3g of DAA every morning for maximum LH and T support.
Avena Sativa (oats)
Avena sativa is the scientific name for common oats. Avenocosides are the active compound and are similar to saponins found in tribulus terrestris. The saponins in avena appear to stimulate testosterone levels through luteinizing hormone. The normal dosage is 100-250 mg of a 10:1 avena sativa extract taken 1-2 times per day.
Horny Goat Weed
Horny goat weed is grown in Asia and the Mediterranean region. Traditional use of horny goat weed is for treating fatigue and boosting sex drive. It’s thought to work via modulation of cortisol levels (the primary stress hormone).
Under conditions of high stress, testosterone levels decrease and cortisol levels increase, causing fatigue and a depressed sex drive. Horny goat weed may assist in bringing cortisol levels back into normal range, and thereby testosterone levels as well. It’s also thought to help restore normal metabolism and energy levels. Typical dosage levels are 250-1,000 mg per day in divided doses standardized for 10% icariin.
Omega-3s (EPA and DHA)
The essential omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (found in fish oil) are extremely valuable for hormone production including testosterone. Without adequate fat in your diet, your body will not be able to produce testosterone and many other hormones. Omega-3s also have anti-inflammatory effects so you might be able to recover quicker after weight training. Take 1-3g of actual EPA and DHA per day.
Testosterone production is affected by many variables such as diet, exercise, stress and supplements. Here are the take-home messages:
• Eat a medium to high protein, healthy-fat diet.
• Weight train, focusing on whole body exercises that require large muscle stimulation.
• Reduce stress, drink adequate water and get plenty of sleep.
• Consider supplements to naturally support the body’s ability to produce more testosterone.
Doing these four things can help restore healthy testosterone levels so you can reap all its benefits.