by Vince Del Monte Iron Magazine
I’ve always stressed the importance of optimal hormone levels when it comes to maximizing your muscle gains and fat loss. Those hormones include insulin, human growth hormone, cortisol and testosterone, just to name the major hormonal concerns. But I get a lot of questions about testosterone, like: What constitutes a good testosterone level? How do I increase my testosterone? Should I be taking these expensive supplements to boost testosterone?
So in the next two posts, I’m going to cover these questions and a lot more. In order to ensure maximum gains from your workouts, it’s important to understand the different types of testosterone (there are actually three), how testosterone is measured, what your ideal testosterone range is and how to boost it naturally.
In this post, Part One, we’ll go over the types of testosterone, how much testosterone you should have and what kind and how to get your testosterone measured accurately. I’ll also share with you one of the best ways to boost your testosterone level with a natural, safe supplement.
The Three Different Types of Testosterone
There are three types of testosterone in the human body. They are SHBG-bound testosterone, albumin-bound testosterone and free testosterone. They are not interchangeable and you need to know the difference in order to understand your testosterone level and what you can do about it.
training-6-musclesRoughly half of your total testosterone level is SHBG-bound testosterone. SHBG stands for sex hormone-binding globulin, which is produced in your liver. It binds to free testosterone in your system and has a lot to do with regulating your libido. The problem with SHBG-bound testosterone, as far as bodybuilding goes, is that it’s biologically inactive. It can’t be used for building muscle. It’s also possible for SHBG to bind to too much of your free testosterone, which is why you might have a decent result from a testosterone test, but still have trouble adding muscle mass. There is evidence that you can correct that through diet and some good lifestyle choices and we’re going to take a look at that in Part Two of this post.
Albumin is a protein naturally produced by the liver and is also binds to testosterone to help regulate fluid volumes outside of your cells. Like SHBG-bound testosterone, albumin-bound testosterone is biologically inactive. But while SHGB has a strong bond with testosterone, albumin doesn’t. Its bond to testosterone is easily broken, so that your body can break it and create more free testosterone as needed. Because of this, some testosterone tests lump albumin-bound testosterone in with free testosterone, which can create a misleading result. In effect, that test is telling you how much free and/or “could become free” testosterone is in your blood.
Free testosterone is exactly what you might assume. It’s testosterone that is not bound to either albumin or SHBG. It only makes up about 2-4% of your total testosterone level. Because nothing has attached itself to it, it’s free to activate cell receptors and boost your mood, your energy level, your strength and your ability to add muscle tissue. Obviously, from a bodybuilding standpoint, this is the testosterone that we want to increase the most.
Finding Out What Your Testosterone Levels Are
There are a few different tests you can take to determine your testosterone levels, but like testosterone, they’re not all the same and they don’t all do the same thing, either.
Right now, there is no standardized method for testing testosterone levels. Different labs use different tests and those tests and their results don’t measure the same types of testosterone.
iStock_000006210105XSmallThere are a few ways to get your testosterone levels tested. One of the simplest is to go to your regular doctor or an endocrinologist and request one. The plus side of this is that it might be fully or at least partially covered by your insurance, but you need to check with your carrier to find out.
You can also go through an online service that will act as sort of a testing reservation service for you. You contact them online, tell them what you need and they find a lab in your area that conducts testosterone tests and book an appointment for you.
The cheapest way to get your testosterone test is through one of the mail-in kits you can buy on places like Amazon for $20-30, but I don’t recommend them. These are saliva tests (you mail the saliva sample in to them) and saliva tests are very inaccurate.
The important thing to know is how the results are calculated, whether you’re going through your doctor or a commercial lab. Tests fall into two groups: those that measure your free testosterone and those that measure your total testosterone, which is going to be your SHBG-bound, albumin-bound and free testosterone all together. Testosterone is measured in nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl).
In general, the tests that measure just free testosterone can be more costly. But if you opt for total testosterone results, you can fairly accurately figure out your free testosterone on your own by multiplying total testosterone by 3%.
Testosterone Ranges and What They Really Mean
Another thing you need to understand about testosterone tests is that the ranges can be huge. For instance, LabCorp, one of the biggest commercial labs, considers anything from about 350ng/dl on up to 1200ng/dl as normal for males as a whole. But “normal” ranges vary depending on your age, your endocrine health, your fitness level and your overall health.
You can check out the references I’ll add at the end of this post to read up on the literature, but just as an example, in one study, average total testosterone was 617 and free testosterone was 12.3 for guys between the ages of 25-34. Guys aged 35-44 averaged more total testosterone at 668, but less free testosterone at just over 10.
So How Do You Raise Testosterone Naturally?
As I said earlier, in my next post I’ll be sharing some diet, exercise and lifestyle steps you can take to raise your free testosterone levels. However, you can also raise them with the right testosterone-boosting supplement.
I’m going to clarify right here that a testosterone boosting supplement is NOT the same thing as taking steroids. I won’t get into a lecture and I’m sure regular readers understand that I don’t condone steroids in any way. They’re dangerous and they’re unnecessary. I’ve made a career out of showing other skinny guys like me how to grow naturally, without steroids and drugs.
Having said that, there are testosterone-boosting supplements available, but use caution when reading about them or purchasing them. Many of them are garbage. Of all of the active ingredients in testosterone supplements, only Testofen has enough peer-reviewed research showing its effectiveness.
Testofen is a compound made from fenugreek extract and some studies indicate that it can increase free testosterone by almost 99%. Researchers believe that it stimulates an increase in luteinizing hormone (LH), which increases testosterone production. One study also showed that the dioscin and saponin in Testofen boost GH (growth hormone) levels, too, which aids in muscle gain.
Because there has been some very good research done on Testofen and with good results, there is a lot of supplement manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, many of these supplements use low-quality ingredients or don’t contain enough Testofen to get the results you’re looking for. One supplement that I can recommend personally is Status from Blue Star Nutraceuticals. If you are struggling to add muscle, you may have low testosterone. Click here to learn how to Double Your Testosterone.
Now I want to share with you ten things you can do completely on your own to boost your testosterone level, naturally, easily and (with some steps) very quickly. I do recommend that you take a Testofen supplement as well, and at the end of the post I’ll let you know which one and where to get it. But, you should also be doing everything you can to increase your testosterone levels. There are steps to take regarding your diet, exercise and lifestyle that have been proven to raise testosterone levels.
Here are ten of the most well-researched and effective steps, in no particular order.
1. Eat more saturated and other healthy fats.
I thought I’d start with one that would make you happy. Studies have shown that healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats help your body to create more testosterone and also help control the hormones that work counter to testosterone. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting plenty of plant-based fats such as avocado, olives and olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds. But you also want to get enough animal-based, saturated fats, as these are actually more beneficial to testosterone levels.
Although you may normally try to keep your fat intake to 10-20-30% of your daily caloric intake, studies have shown that a diet of less than 40% fat will actually lead to a drop in testosterone. So IF you’re low, you may want to consider raising your total intake to 40% for at least a short time.
2. Eat less sugar.
Research has shown that testosterone levels drop almost immediately after sugar intake. This is mainly due to the fact that eating sugar prompts the release of insulin, which is one of those anti-testosterone hormones I just mentioned. If you really need to bring up your testosterone, skip refined sugar and starchy foods and limit your fruits and vegetables to mainly very low-glycemic choices.
3. Watch your stress levels.
Stress stimulates an almost immediate and stead release of cortisol, which produces an almost equal drop in testosterone. These two hormones are like a seesaw; one of them is always dominant. Testosterone tells your body to use calories as energy and to build muscle, cortisol tells your body to do the opposite and store it as fat. Do whatever you need to do to reduce your stressors, both large and small. It’s not just the big things that will prompt a cortisol increase – running late to work or school can do it just as much.
4. Get regular, restful sleep.
Aside from the fact that lack of sleep will also stimulate the release of cortisol, your body produces and synthesizes testosterone during sleep, particularly during the first few hours. Commit to getting to bed early enough to get eight hours sleep and do what you can to go to bed in a restful state, ready to sleep. Don’t watch TV in bed and put all electronics away, which means no social media. Get in bed and sleep!
5. Get enough Vitamin D.
Many people don’t realize that Vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone. It increases the amount and viability of sperm cells and it also increases testosterone. Unfortunately, we’re wearing a lot of sunblock these days and many of us are also limiting or excluding dairy. Since these are our two best resources for Vitamin D, many of us have a deficiency and don’t even realize it.
Fortunately, there are plenty of non-dairy sources of Vitamin D as well. Cod liver oil, fish, oysters, mushrooms and eggs are all excellent ways to get some Vitamin D. Taking a daily dose of a Vitamin D3 supplement if you know your level is low will help improve your testosterone level as well.
6. Get enough zinc.
This mineral is absolutely essential for testosterone production. Research has shown that increasing zinc for as few as six weeks can result in a dramatic increase in testosterone. At the same time, numerous studies prove that a zinc deficiency will result in a dramatic decrease of testosterone levels.
Experts agree that diet is better than supplementation when it comes to zinc. You can get it from raw dairy such as raw milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir, but if you don’t eat dairy you can also get plenty of zinc by eating lots of legumes.
7. Incorporate HIIT into your exercise program.
I’m a huge advocate of high-intensity interval training, as most of you know. It’s an extremely effective means of boosting metabolism and fat loss and training your alactic energy system. But high intensity interval training can also do an awful lot to boost testosterone. There’s plenty of research that shows short, intense bursts of exercise boost testosterone, while long, moderate-to-high intensity work actually boosts cortisol.
8. Eat early and eat often.
Hunger not only stimulates the release of more cortisol, it also messes with your insulin, leptin and ghrelin levels, causing more problems with testosterone release. Eat breakfast or juice some veggies and fruits as early as possible after getting up and then eat frequent, balanced snacks and meals throughout the day.
9. Go for intensity in your training.
Just as with HIIT, high-intensity lifting sessions stimulate more testosterone. However, high volume training, when done for too long a duration, will raise cortisol.
10. Time your caffeine properly.
Too much coffee is known to decrease testosterone levels. However, a recent study found that consuming a moderate (like one cup) amount of coffee right before your workout can actually increase testosterone temporarily.
These are just ten of the most effective and easily implemented things you can do to help boost your testosterone naturally. Like I said earlier, these steps can and probably should accompany a supplement of Testofen.
I’m not here to sell anybody supplements, but I do like to recommend a particular supplement now and then when I know it’s good, especially if it’s something that has a lot of ineffective or dangerous imitators (meaning there’s too many other brands imitating a good one and claiming they’re the best). That is definitely not the case with the supplement, Status. If you don’t want to go back to Part One to get the link, the Testofen supplement I recommend is Status from Blue Star Nutraceuticals. I know and trust Blue Star and have used this supplement myself, so it’s one I’m comfortable suggesting.
If you only incorporate one or two of these steps a week, you’ll be well on your way to getting your free testosterone level where it should be for maximum gains and maximum health. Click here to learn how to double your testosterone.