As a male looking to get big and jacked, no hormone in the human body will be more interesting to you than testosterone. We know how much of a struggle it is to build muscle and/or burn fat simultaneously, and that’s assuming that your testosterone levels are normal. If they’re low, you’ll find the entire process a lot harder. This highly anabolic hormone plays a key role in a wide variety of physiological processes within the human body, yet can you honestly say that you know everything there is to know about this hormone? Chances are you don’t, and that’s perfectly fine because neither do even the most seasoned of nutritionists and personal trainers. Testosterone is a very complex hormone, and it certainly does much more than simply help to build muscle and regulate your libido. To get the most out of your training, you need to ensure you know as much about testosterone as possible, which is why we’ve compiled this handy guide. So, grab yourself a protein shake, get the BCAAs on ice, and let’s delve deeper into the weird and wonderful world of testosterone.
What is testosterone?
We know that testosterone is an anabolic hormone that plays a key role in muscle growth, and in determining just how horny we are, but what else does testosterone do? Well, as it turns out, testosterone does a heck of a lot more. In terms of importance for the endocrine system, well, without testosterone the rest of the hormones in our bodies, and trust us, there are heaps more, would basically be all over the place. In terms of hormone regulation, testosterone is the star of the show. Testosterone is the key sexual hormone in the male body, though women also naturally have low levels of this hormone. In men, testosterone is primarily produced in the testes, although the adrenal glands also synthesize small amounts. In women, the ovaries produce testosterone in small amounts. Experts consider testosterone an androgenic hormone, as it helps to stimulate male characteristics such as a deep voice, excess hair growth, increased muscle mass and strength, high libido, and so on. Testosterone also promotes optimal health and well-being and helps to keep the bones big and strong. The problem with testosterone in bodybuilding circles, is the fact that there is a lot of ‘Bro Science’ surrounding it, which we are going to attempt to clear up once and for all. For example, watching porn before you lift weights is not going to get you big and jacked. Sure, it may create a slight increase in T-levels as you become aroused, but this increase will be marginal at best, and certainly not sufficiently high enough to mimic the effects of anabolic steroids. As we grow older our T levels will naturally decline, though for many, this is perfectly normal and is nothing to worry about. There are however, numerous benefits associated with higher than average testosterone levels.
Why is testosterone so important?
As we now know, testosterone plays a vital role in a myriad of physiological processes within the human body, and it is certainly not to be ignored. Without testosterone, all men would be walking around, fresh-faced, youthful-looking, and decidedly hair-free. When males go through puberty, this is down to testosterone, and it is why we often become larger in size, have a deeper voice, and it is why our testicles drop. Testosterone levels spike, typically between the ages of 15 and 22, though these numbers are all different for different individuals. Once we reach our late 20s to early 30s however, testosterone levels have peaked and begin to gradually decline. So why exactly do we need testosterone? Well, there are a number of reasons for this, including the following:
For a man, sexual health is a topic that is often ignored. When it comes to testosterone however, we simply cannot overlook the importance of testosterone. Testosterone helps to regulate a man’s libido. A supressed libido can result in poor sex drive and it can therefore lead to all kinds of other related issues, including depression, and strain being placed upon a relationship. Very low testosterone levels can result in erectile dysfunction. Again, this can cause mental health issues and can put a strain on intimate relationships, which is why it is so important to address low testosterone levels sooner, rather than later.
As well as playing a pivotal role in a man’s sexual health, testosterone also plays a vital role in general health and well-being as well. To begin with, testosterone has been found to play an important role in a person’s psychological health and well-being. Testosterone appears to work in synergy with neurotransmitters in the brain that help to control your emotional health and responses. In basic terms, this means that testosterone helps to work with parts of your brain that help make you feel happy and content, so again, avoiding low T levels is certainly beneficial. It also helps to regulate hormones in the body and strengthens the immune system. To ensure everything continues to tick over nicely, controlling your testosterone levels and keeping them healthy is very beneficial.
As you know, a lot of bodybuilders tend to obsess over increasing their testosterone levels, but why is that? Well, testosterone is highly anabolic, which means that it plays a very important part in the growth and repair of muscle tissue in the body. Testosterone helps to keep your bones big and strong, which in itself is important in terms of mass and body density. However, in terms of muscle growth, numerous studies have found that testosterone can stimulate protein synthesis, basically speeding up protein synthesis rates. This means that more muscle proteins are produced, so we recover faster and more effectively after a workout, and we build more muscle as a result.
How can we tell if our testosterone levels are low?
After we hit 30, generally we find that testosterone production begins to go down, as opposed to up, and that can be a real problem. We know why low testosterone is generally considered a bad thing, but what are the warning signs to watch out for? Contrary to what some “Bro Scientists” may have you believe, once your T levels begin to drop, you won’t suddenly lose all of that beautiful muscle that you worked so hard to build. There will however, be some tell-tale signs to watch out for, so be wary. To begin with, if you suddenly find yourself losing an interest in sex, or suffering from a supressed libido and sex drive, this could be a warning. Erectile dysfunction is yet another sign. If you were one of those guys that would wake up with ‘Morning Wood’ most mornings, then suddenly you find that you’re waking up as limp as a wet rag, you may wish to get your levels checked. First off, don’t panic if this happens only a handful of times, as that is normal. If however, you’ve been waking up in this manner for some time, it may be worth exploring further. As well as this, other signs include things such as: fatigue, low motivational levels, mood swings, fat gain, loss of strength and muscle mass, and in extreme cases, hair loss or suppressed hair growth.
Natural ways of boosting testosterone levels
Though testosterone levels quickly begin to decline as we grow older, the good news is that there are a series of proven strategies for increasing testosterone in the body. If you have abnormally low levels of testosterone, your doctor may suggest TRT, or Testosterone Replacement Therapy. If however, your T levels could just use a bit of an increase, try the following:
Clean up your diet
First and foremost, if your testosterone levels aren’t where you want them to be, start with your diet. Ditch the processed, chemical-laden junk packed full of trans fats, and instead eat healthy, natural, balanced foods instead. Micronutrients are very important, so get plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables inside of you. Protein-rich foods full of amino acids are also very effective. Shellfish such as Oysters are also great because they are full of minerals, including zinc and magnesium.
Lift more weights
It is a proven fact that the more muscle mass you have, the more testosterone you will likely produce. Resistance training with free weights is therefore very effective when it comes to boosting testosterone levels naturally. Try to focus more on heavy compound lifts and movements rather than isolation exercises, as these recruit more muscles, and therefore, more muscle fibres.
Lose excess fat
Unless you’re at a healthy weight, chances are that too much body fat could be supressing your testosterone production. Lose that fat with a combination of healthy eating and exercise and you should notice a slight improvement in your overall testosterone levels.
Get more sleep and relax more
Studies have found that stress, as well as a lack of sleep, could also be supressing your testosterone levels. A lack of sleep coupled with stress, results in the production of a stress hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol blocks the natural synthesis and secretion of testosterone in the body, so getting your sleep and stress levels under control is certainly highly recommended.
Finally, another very effective way of getting your testosterone levels where you want them to be, is to use the right supplements. Supplements such as fish oil, zinc, magnesium, vitamin c, and iron, have all been found to help boost testosterone production. Perhaps the most effective natural supplement however, is one known as Tribulus Terrestris. Tribulus is a natural herb that has been subjected to years of research in regards to testosterone boosting. While it won’t mimic the effects of anabolic steroids like some supplement companies would have you believe, it has been found to help increase the amount of testosterone that your body produces, making it a very useful herbal ingredient.