In the past few weeks in my weekly column I have talked about superfoods and all the health benefits and goodness they bring. The critical importance of nutrition within the whole fitness and training cycle. As well as the importance of performing exercises correctly, using the right form and technique.
This week developing the themed approach, I want to expand upon the knowledge base and talk about testosterone.
As many of you may already know, there is nothing more important for building and maintaining muscle mass than your testosterone levels. If you want to lift heavier, run faster, or even just look better naked: getting your testosterone levels up is always the first place you should start.
But did you know that having high testosterone could also save your life?
That's right: numerous studies have shown low testosterone levels to correlate directly with insulin resistance, type 2 diabeties, higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and a higher risk of overall mortality.
And, in a 2008 study conducted by Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald, Germany, testosterone replacement therapy was shown to reduce the risk of death from all causes in men who had been diagnosed with low testosterone.
The good news is, you don't need to be pumped full of artificial hormones every day to keep your testosterone levels high. Here are 7 ways to send your testosterone levels through the roof, starting today!
#1 - Sleep
Prioritise deep sleep above all else, aiming for a minimum of 8 hours each night. Sleep is when our body produces testosterone, so if you're not giving yourself sufficient production time, don't be surprised when your T levels plummet. Testosterone production is at it's highest during deep stages of REM sleep; to maximise this, keep your room at a cool temperature and use blackout curtains to block out any source of light.
#2 - Lift
Big, compound lifts such as deadlifts, squats and bench press are the biggest 'bang for your buck' exercises when it comes to increasing your testosterone levels. However, performing them too often will frazzle your central nervous system and end up inhibiting testosterone production. Believe it or not, the average male lifter has approximately 15% lower testosterone levels than the average non-lifter, something that experts believe largely due to overtraining.
For optimal testosterone production, lift 3 - 4 days each week and keep your sessions to 40 minutes. Increasing the volume any higher is likely to have adverse effects on your T levels.
#3 - Eat your meat
We're not talking about lean chicken breasts here. For maximum testosterone production, opt for cholesterol rich red meat and eggs, which help in the conversion of testosterone. Red meat is also rich in zinc, which assists in testosterone production, and CLA, which helps to keep body fat low and thus testosterone levels high. See point 4 for more information on this.
#4 - Keep body fat low
Body fat contains an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into oestrogen. Consequently, having low testosterone levels actually promotes fat storage, which creates a pretty vicious circle for those looking to get lean. If you're storing more body fat than you should be (read: you can't see your abs), start programming at least one sprint session into your training each week. And stop going back for seconds.
#5 - Have sex
Need another reason to have more sex? A study in the American Archives of Sexual Behaviour showed that testosterone levels increase by as much as 35% after having sex, and can stay elevated for up to 12 hours afterwards. How's that for some healthy extra benefits?
#6 - Avoid plastic
This is huge, but far too often overlooked. BPA, a chemical found in hard plastics, is a known endocrine disrupter that has been shown to inhibit testosterone production and accelerate oestrogen production. Ditch your plastic water bottle for a glass one to avoid unwanted exposure to this testosterone disrupting chemical.
#7 - Chill out
Last but not least, cut the testosterone inhibiting stressors from your life as much as you can. Meditate, read, take long walks outside, or do whatever else it takes to stay chilled. Worrying over every little thing will just cause your testosterone levels to plummet faster than you can say 'muscle loss.'