The holy grail of hormones
Testosterone is the holy grain of hormones for men. It’s what makes us men (although women have some, too). T is a male sex hormone responsible for muscle mass, strength, bone density, fat distribution, red blood cell production, energy, sexual drive and performance. Behavior attributed to men such as self-confidence and aggression depend on your T levels.
In short testosterone is key to our well-being as men. Unfortunately aging, as well as unhealthily lifestyle, and certain medical conditions reduce our testosterone levels. Your body’s at its peak T at age 20, and then it slowly declines, reducing by 1% each year starting at around mid-30’s.
Exercise increase testosterone
Luckily, there are natural ways to boost your testosterone besides taking potentially dangerous drugs or getting a prescription to inject testosterone to build up low T levels.
You CAN increase testosterone with workout. Lifting weights and eating the right foods will help you naturally increase and maintain your T at healthy levels. Research shows that lifting works wonders on T levels because of two simple reasons:
- – It builds muscle: the more muscle you have, the higher your testosterone
- – it lowers your body fat: less body fat = more testosterone
I am a big fan of workout as a solution to naturally boosting your T as it has humongous effects on your entire body. Although the post-workout super testosterone spikes are temporary (30-60 minutes after the workout), there are several long-term effects you will experience hours and days after the workout.
Probably the biggest benefit of weight workout is you will feel and look better, stronger, and carry yourself in a more confident manner. Workout will also boost your immune system which will make you get sick less.
How to exercise
A bit of science – our body produces testosterone as a response to resistance training, as it helps repair damaged muscle proteins and drives the growth of new muscle tissue.
Heavy resistance training for the larger muscle groups (legs and back) elevates the amount of T immediately after exercise. However, our body requires that you repeat the training over a longer period to grow. Consistency is key.
The best T building exercises are compound exercises that utilize the body’s largest muscle groups. They are so efficient because they engage a significant amount of muscle mass, and the amount of muscle mass used during an exercise has been shown to be an important factor in the release of testosterone.
For best results keep the rest periods short and the overall workout duration at 45 minutes or less. Avoid slow or excessive cardio slogs, such as everlasting jogging sessions. They have a negative effect on your testosterone levels.
The Royal 5
Not surprisingly the oldest and most traditional bodybuilding exercises ever invented are the ones engaging your total body that maximize testosterone production. The beauty of these 5 key exercises is that they are simple and didn’t change over time. Yes, if you are new to weight lifting they may look a little intimidating but trust me once you practice with lower (or no) weight you will realize they are easy.
The exercises are basic and mimic natural body movements. You will notice that daily activities like lifting or storing heavier objects will become easier.
Adjust the difficulty by increasing weights and number of repetitions, however if you are just starting off, hire a personal trainer for at least one session to show you the ropes so you don’t get injured.
Ideally, you should do a total-body workout three days per week on nonconsecutive days. It will allow your weekends to be rest days.
1. Bench Press
Rest: 2 min
How to perform:
- Grasp the bar just outside shoulder width and arch your back so there’s space between your lower back and the bench.
- Pull the bar out of the rack and lower it to your sternum, tucking your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides.
- When the bar touches your body, drive your feet hard into the floor and press the bar back up.
2. Back Squat (king of all exercises)
Rest: 5 min
How to perform:
- Set a barbell on a power rack at about shoulder height. Stand in front of the bar and grasp it with hands at shoulder width and raise your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Take the bar out of the rack and let it rest on your upper back—as long as your elbows stay up, you’ll be able to balance the bar. Step back and set your feet at shoulder width with toes turned out slightly.
- Squat as low as you can without losing the arch in your lower back.
Rest: 5 min
How to perform:
- Stand with your feet hip width. Bend your hips back to reach down and grasp the bar, hands just outside your knees.
- Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, drive your heels into the floor and pull the bar up along your shins until you’re standing with hips fully extended and the bar is in front of your thighs.
Overhead Press (known also as military press)
Rest: 2 min
How to perform:
- Stand with the bar on your front shoulders. Narrow grip, straight wrists, vertical forearms. Lock your knees and hips.
- Raise your chest towards the ceiling by arching your upper back. Try to touch your chin with your upper chest.
- Take a big breath, hold it and press the bar in a vertical line. Press it over your head.
- Stay close to the bar while you press the weight up. Shift your torso forward once the bar has passed your forehead
- Hold the bar over your shoulders and mid-foot for proper balance. Lock your elbows.
Sets: picture: bodybuilding.com
Rest: 2 min
How to perform:
- Place your hands on the floor at shoulder width, keeping your abs braced and your body in a straight line, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Lower your body until your chest is an inch above the floor.
Is Cardio Harmful to Testosterone?
Chronic endurance exercise — such as cycling or running for hours — has been shown to decrease testosterone. Just look at a typical marathon runner and a cross-fitter or a weight lifter. You will see dramatic differences in their body composition. High-endurance athletes tend to have higher levels of cortisol, which has the opposite effect of testosterone.
Endurance training isn’t necessarily bad for you, but cortisol can have an impact on your muscle mass, sleep and mood. Also, the more endurance exercise you do, the more likely you are to break down muscle tissue.
At the same time, moderate cardio exercise (30 minutes, five days a week) will protect your heart health and won’t trigger excess cortisol production.
If want cardio exercises to feel better or burn even more fat, consider high-intensity interval training called HIIT (I will cover it in a separate post). It’s a great calories burner and has shown to raise testosterone levels.
If you lift weights 30 to 45 minutes two to three times per week on your day off do cardiovascular exercise or HIIT. This combination will not only enhance testosterone, it will also promote good heart health.
Get Enough Rest & Relax
Often the most overlooked variable of any exercise program is the post-workout recovery period. The actual workout is only part of the equation responsible for muscle growth. Adequate recovery is important to allow T to repair and rebuild muscles used during the workout. For best results, make sure you do your heavy workouts on days when you can get a full night’s sleep because the body produces T during the REM cycles of sleep.
Elite athletes and amateurs who over train can see a drop their testosterone level which shows they are hurting their bodies. Some signs you are pushing too hard:
• excessive soreness
• trouble recovering from workouts
• trouble sleeping
• losses in performance and strength
One of the great killers of testosterone is stress — both mental and physical. Try to take it easy, meditate or try natural supplementation. My favorite herbal supplement for reducing stress is Ashwagandha. In the article about natural supplements I dedicated Ashwagandha a lot attention. Research shows that Ashwagandha not only supports muscle growth and reduced body fat, but also increases your energy, stamina, and sexual performance. You can quickly and easily order it here.
Diet – Key To Success
To maintain high testosterone levels eat foods high in magnesium, zinc, and vitamin K, like dark leafy greens for magnesium, shellfish to get a healthy dose of zinc, and plenty of egg yolks for vitamin K.
Diet high in protein is key for testosterone production. Protein feeds your muscles, helping them recover and grow. But it also helps boost your natural levels of testosterone.
For best results make sure you consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight every day. You can also get in considerably more to support muscle growth and testosterone production.
If you have difficulties reaching this level (most people I know including myself do no matter how healthy they eat) use some good and tested protein supplements. My favorite is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard. Just mix it with water or milk and drink during the day or after workout. You can easily order it here.
Make sure you include healthy fats (especially Omega-3) in your diet as they support health, muscle building, and yes, testosterone production. Choose Omega-3 rich fatty fish (salmon, sardines, etc.), avocados, and healthy oils such as olive and nut oils.
Limit your intake of low-quality fast-digesting carbs, especially processed ones such as refined sugar and bleached flour. They fuel boost insulin, encourage fat storage, and undermine health, and yes, reduce testosterone production. Rely on slow-digesting carbs such as yams, brown rice, and oatmeal for better growth. Also emphasize vegetables, especially cruciferous ones (cabbage, broccoli, kale).
I kept the potentially the toughest one for the end – keep alcohol in check. Consuming large quantities of alcohol causes an inflammatory response that undermines testosterone production and muscle growth. If you’re going to drink, keep it very limited. End of the story.
Putting All Together
Testosterone is critical for your proper functioning as a man fortunately you can naturally increase testosterone with workout no matter your age. Also, you will quickly see positive impact in the way you feel and look. You will be surprised how quickly your colleagues and friends will start commenting on change in your body posture.
Key factors to keep in mind for maximizing testosterone through workout:
- 1) Train large muscle groups, train compound movements – no isolation exercises
- 2) Lift heavy
- 3) Keep trainings short and intense. Train with a 6-8 repetition maximum for 4-6 sets. Use short rest periods between sets (1-2 min).
Pay attention to sleep, stress, and keep your diet in check. Remember it’s all about consistency. Once you establish a positive momentum there will be no way back from becoming a better version of yourself.
If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences using workout to improve your testosterone levels, please post a comment below and I will get back you ASAP.
All the best,