I began testing my testosterone levels a couple of months after starting with ketosis (the metabolic state where fat becomes the primary source of energy). It was March 2014 and my levels ~400 ng/dL. That’s average to low for a person my age.
I suspect my pre-ketosis levels were even lower because from what I’ve researched, if well-formulated, a ketogenic diet can improve testosterone levels. In a matter of months, I’ve been able to raise my levels to ~ 850ng/dL and they’ve been mostly constant ever since. See more here.
I wrote about this experiment in detail in my book T-R(x) – The Testosterone Protocol, but I want to re-emphasize the 9 major interventions I made to improve my T levels.
9 Strategies I use to Keep my T Levels High
Sadly, over the last few decades there’s been a declining trend in testosterone levels in men, and this is not due to the aging process. See these resources for a more in-depth view. A more simple way to know what we’re dealing with is to do this: whenever you’re in a public location, try to spot men that do not have bellies. Can you? Abdominal fat has been shown numerous times to be inversely correlated with T levels. I’ve discussed the mechanisms of this in the book.
Well formulated Very-Low-Carb-Low-Calorie-Ketogenic nutrition (without carb-loading)
It should be self-explicative. Ever since I started with ketosis in Sept. 2013, I purposed to maintain this state constantly. The benefits of keto-adaptation have made me become addicted to this ketosis. Carb-loading would kick me out of ketosis. Besides, I don’t need it.
My lifting performance has never been better. However, it took more than 6 months of constant ketosis to recover my pre-ketosis (higher-carb nutrition) performance in the gym and with my kickboxing practice.
Very few folks are willing to do this. More on this in my upcoming course, Ketosis+IF.
Heavy Lifting Protocol + HIIT Protocol
I began doing heavy lifting immediately after starting with ketosis. I was training once a week by following a very high intensity strength training protocol (with slow repetitions). Ketosis allowed me to recover faster between workouts (ketosis + CT, in fact). Then I started training more frequently. Now I go to the gym multiple times per week (higher volume). I keep the intensity and slow movements though.
Some research shows that compound movements (involving multiple joints and bigger muscle groups) are positively correlated with T levels. So, if you lift and you want to have higher T levels, make sure you don’t skip leg days (especially squats and dead-lifts).
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a meal timing strategy where you condense all your meals to a specific time frame (feeding window). IF has two major components: fasting and feeding.
You fast for a number of hours everyday and then you eat during your feeding window. Most folks practicing IF use the 16/8 method – 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.
My personal protocol is a bit more difficult.
I do the 18/6 – I fast for 18 hours everyday and consume all my food in the remaining 6 hours – the feeding window. On one side I find it very convenient because I am never hungry (possibly due to keto-adaptation and its aggressive hunger suppressing effect); secondly it’s most convenient because I don’t think/obsess about food every 2-3 hours. It helps me be more productive.
Cold thermogenesis, cold exposure, or cold therapy is something that most people will not engage in for the long term because if it’s done right, it makes you feel miserable. So, that’s a deal breaker for many…
It requires you to remove yourself from the coziness of your comfort zone. You may really get a good grasp of the boundaries your comfort zone when you deliberately expose yourself to cold – real cold (not face dumps in moderate-temp water, but whole body cold immersion).
For me, as for many, it was really uncomfortable at first. I remember I started with 10 minute cold showers in December 2012. And in December it gets really cold here in Romania. Then I continued with longer ice-cold showers, and then I progressed into taking ice baths. I also experienced with cryo therapy, but that seems child’s play compared to a long ice bath.
For some reason, I pushed myself through CT until I started enjoying it…
The immediate effects I get after a good bout of cold exposure are: the adrenaline rush, hunger suppression, increasing energy levels, better mood, as well as increased alertness. The vagus nerve might have a word or two about this…
Research is somewhat trivial and inconclusive on the connection between CT and T levels, though some folks swear by it. Anyhow, I’ve included this strategy in my T protocol.
I wrote about my supplement stack in a very detailed (and recent) post. The supplements that I think help me with keeping my T levels high are: cod liver oil, Zn, Selenium and a few others that I mentioned in the book. However, supplements are what they are: they should supplement a well formulated diet, and not replace it.
That’s why for my nutrition I focus on consuming sufficient healthy fats to provide for the substrate from which testosterone is made: that is cholesterol. I don’t eat sticks of butter and/or oil enriched coffee though, as it’s widely promoted out there. I don’t find it rational and I think it’s a waste of calories. There’s no metabolic magic attached to oil coffee (from what I know). I may be wrong though…
Fixing the circadian clock
Testosterone (like many other hormones) is released/secreted in a circadian fashion – with peaking levels between 7-10 A.M. and lower levels later in the afternoon.
Having a disturbed light-dark cycle (that is, being constantly exposed to bright light at night – from TV, from your phone, laptop, house lighting, etc) affects the way your hormones are secreted.
First of all, exposure to light when it’s dark outside destroys melatonin production inside your eyes and affects your suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) inside your brain, which is the master circadian regulator.
This is one of the triggers for disturbed hormonal signaling. Growth hormone is no longer secreted as it should be, leptin secretion is affected, testosterone secretion is affected, insulin secretion is affected too…And I could go on and on…
Possible fixes: reduce (eliminate) exposure to light at night. Use blue blocker glasses, software that filters blue light and most especially turning off devices when it’s dark outside, etc…
Lowering exposure to non-native EMF
Studies are just starting to be conducted on this topic. Since electricity has only been with us for a century and a half or so, you may imagine we’re not adapted to being bombarded with this level of radiation. See the insightful research of Nora Volkow of NIDA.
Obviously, keeping your phone in your front pocket will affect your sperm production, fertility, as well as sperm cell motility. There have been folks out there conducting experiments and research studies about this.
There are a few controversial studies showing that jerking off can negatively impact T levels, while making love (and not meaningless sex) can positively affect T levels. I discussed about this correlation in more detail in the book.
You know the saying: the dose makes the poison.
Even though I didn’t find solid research on this, I consider that small (very decent) doses of low-carb alcoholic drinks may have positive effects on your T levels. I think the mechanism is more indirect than direct.
By small doses, I mean: 1-2 glasses of red wine or 1-2 spirit drinks (whisky, vodka, etc.) once or twice a week.
Higher doses may not only negatively affect your T levels, but your overall health and wellbeing. And I’d recommend staying away from mixed/sweetened alcoholic beverages (cocktails) and beer.
Remember: higher belly fat -> lower T levels.
I went into more details than I initially purposed for…
Anyway, I’ve given you a short version (Rx) for what I do to keep my T levels constantly high. In the book, there’s a lot more detail attach to each of these interventions.
From this post, you should not conclude that if you use the same interventions and strategies you will experience the same results. We’re all genetically and epigenetically different. So, you’d better test and see what works for you individually.
If there’s anything I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to send me an email or leave a reply here. I will do my best to help you because, this way, indirectly, I serve for the perpetuation of our species.
If it’s not clear from my bio, I have to remind you that I’m not an MD and I don’t play one on the Internet either. So, anything you read here (and on the blog) if you decide to implement it into your life, please first consult with your physician of choice and try to use some common sense in everything you do.
Here’s the video version (in case you don’t want to read):