Testosterone, testosterone, testosterone! Start taking anabolic hormones, eat more oysters, and sacrifice a goat to the gods of manliness!
Just kidding…Testosterone has buried itself deep into contemporary culture as the number one determinant of manhood, and while yes, it is an important hormone for male health, let’s not get carried away. Testosterone declines as men age, the level of which is totally dependent on how healthy one’s lifestyle is. Like our previous article on female hormone changes after the age of 40, hormone changes are natural and can be mild to the point of being inconsequential if you treat your body right. First, let’s take a look to what men experience as they pass 40:
Decline in muscle mass
Higher likelihood of depression
Higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis and prostate cancer.
Reduced sexual potency
All of these symptoms can be attributed to lower T levels and proportionately higher cortisol or estrogen levels. However, let’s dispel one of the bigger testosterone myths, and that is unless you’re above the age of 65, aging has little effect on T production. Factors such as obesity, heart disease and glucose intolerance are what really impact testosterone levels negatively, but it’s because men are more likely to experience these diseases later in life that testosterone on average decreases with age. T production is also directly correlated with body weight since extra adipose tissue (fat) can produce estrogen itself.
The rise of so-called “diseases of affluence” like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, etc. in the past few decades has dramatically affected serum testosterone levels across society as a whole. 50 year-old men only a few generations ago had higher testosterone levels than 50 year-old men do today. So what can you do to avoid this fate? Testosterone replacement therapy is valid option, but supplementing with hormones will make your body dependent on them. Should you ever need to stop taking hormones the side-effects can be nightmarish, including depression, insomnia, impotence, gynecomastia, (male breasts) etc.
When you take synthetic testosterone, your body naturally increases estrogen levels to maintain a hormonal balance. When you stop taking synthetic testosterone there is a considerable lapse before your body starts naturally producing it again. If you prefer to avoid all of this together, you can simply
- Protein such as fish, free-range chicken, turkey, and grass-fed beef
- Healthy fats, (avocado, coconut oil, almonds, and grass-fed butter)
- Lots of veggies, particularly cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
- Moderate to easy exercise 4-5 times a week
- High-intensity exercises like sprinting or compound lifting (squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc.) 1-2 times a week.
- Sleep…a lot:
- Testosterone is physically released during REM sleep so if you don’t rest you lose.
- Growth Hormone (GH) is also produced when you sleep and (same with testosterone)can be increased by sleeping in a cold environment. (Around 68 F degrees in your bedroom)
- Vitamin D positively correlates with testosterone in men, meaning more vitamin D in your system = more testosterone.
- Zinc supplementation can also improve testosterone levels but only to a degree. Low zinc typically correlates with low testosterone, however regular supplementation will not necessarily boost your T levels above normal.
Another factor is cortisol levels (the stress hormone). As people age their cortisol levels increase, making it harder to effectively deal with stress. Cortisol is also negatively correlated with testosterone as it reduces and antagonizes free testosterone in the body. Elevated cortisol levels have even been shown to inhibit erections! The easiest ways to avoid excess cortisol is to exercise (but do not over-train), get plenty of sleep, have plenty of sex, and learn how to meditate.
The human body is adaptive, and just because you spent the last 10 years eating cheeseburgers and chugging beers does not mean you’re a lost cause. Aging can be rewarding if you take the time to let it be. Eat, sleep, exercise right, and you won’t have to worry about sexual dysfunction, gynecomastia, or beer-belly syndrome.