If you’re feeling less than motivated to hit the gym or knock boots, it could be that your testosterone levels are low. For men, the steroid hormone testosterone serves numerous functions, from producing red blood cells to regulating muscle mass, fat distribution, and libido. A blood test by your doctor can determine if you're running low, but in the meantime, here are a few best practices to help you increase—and maintain—your testosterone levels.
1. Get more Vitamin D
Vitamin D, which is known to improve optimism, can also boost testosterone—and thus increase your libido. To that same tune, it will improve sperm cell development and increase sperm count and quality. The best way to get it? Go outside! You can absorb Vitamin D directly from the sun’s rays. If not, try a Vitamin D3 supplement.
2. Eat (good) fatty foods
We’re not green-lighting potato chips here. Instead, indulge in healthy fats: avocados, raw nuts like almonds and pecans, olives and olive oil, coconuts and coconut oil, pastured egg yolks, grass-fed meats, and more. A diet that draws less than 40% of its energy from these fats can lead to a decrease in testosterone levels.
3. Limit sugar and carbohydrate consumption
This one is simple: High insulin levels—usually a result of eating sugary foods or carbs—will lower testosterone. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that facilitates the absorption of sugar for energy. However, when the body has absorbed all the sugar it needs, it will store the excess as fat, and that fat will absorb testosterone that would otherwise be circulating in the blood. To prevent this, try to avoid processed foods. Certain carbohydrates will have a lesser negative effect: think fruit, whole grains, oatmeal, beans, peas, soy, and milk.
4. Up your zinc intake
Zinc is very important to testosterone production—it can even help recover hormones lost through testosterone-lowering behaviors. The mineral can be found in many dairy products made from raw milk, as well as most meats. However, overcooking meat or fish will decrease its zinc levels. If you take a supplement (which many vegetarians and vegans should consider), try a lower dose: less than 40mg a day to avoid nausea and to prevent the zinc from blocking the absorption of other minerals.
5. Reduce stress
When you get stressed, your body’s adrenaline glands produce the hormone cortisol, which inhibits testosterone’s effectiveness. This will lower libido and your overall competitive nature. You want to tip the balance in the other direction: high testosterone and low cortisol, making you more physically, mentally, and sexually confident. Of course, you can't avoid conflict altogether, but you should push to eliminate and unnecessary sources of stress.
6. Get more sleep
There’s a reason you feel better in the morning than you did the night before: While you sleep, your body—across all systems—recovers from a day of labor while regenerating for the following day. This is also when your body produces testosterone (and lowers cortisol) at its highest rate. That means that cutting back on sleep means skipping precious hours where your body can increase these levels.
7. Incorporate high-intensive sprinting and recovery into your fitness routine
Aerobics and longer, subdued runs are shown to have negative or no impact on testosterone levels. Instead, try interval sprints: Follow a short warm-up with an intense, 30-second sprint, until you feel like you’re at your limit. Then, recover for 90 seconds at a slower pace, while rebuilding your stamina to do another 30-second haul. Repeat this exercise 5-7 times (depending on how fit you are), and you should clock your testosterone-enhancing workout in under 20 minutes.
8. Limit your drinking
This one really hurts: Yes, alcohol can harm your healthy testosterone levels. The biggest culprit? Beer. Hops are estrogenic, meaning they increase your levels of estrogen. That may be an invitation for more women to order IPAs at the bar, but men can experience a decreased sex drive from the same behavior. If you don’t want to give up alcohol (we understand), stick with vodka in moderation, and your testosterone levels should be just fine.
9. Watch sports and think about sex
It’s not hard to understand: Thinking about sex increases your testosterone (the hormone is, after all, produces in the testes). The same goes for watching sports: When you’re rooting for your favorite team, your body’s competitive nature is heightened (not to be confused with the stress-induced cortisol in tip #5), and testosterone levels increase accordingly. It’s a bit clichéd to say “think about sex and competitive sports” in order to “feel more manly,” but it's kind of matter of fact: In both cases, the brain will trigger the testes to produce more testosterone.
For more life and grooming tips, check the Birchbox Man Guide.