Testosterone has long been known to help develop muscle size and strength. It increases neurotransmitters that encourage tissue growth and protein synthesis which in turn helps build muscle. On top of that, testosterone increases levels of growth hormone in the body (which incidentally ALSO encourages muscle growth). It seems like a slam dunk that the stuff is singlehandedly responsible for your ability to grow, or increase the size of your muscles and increase your strength. Except that nature loves a good curve ball, and it turns out that it’s more complex than that.
It turns out that the relationship between testosterone and muscle growth isn’t as straightforward as we used to think it is. In hindsight, it makes sense, since everyone has varying levels of testosterone present in their systems, if muscle size and growth was simply testosterone thing, then the person with the highest levels of testosterone in their body would also have the largest muscles – but that that’s not the case. There are studies that show that a persons sensitivity to testosterone is much more important than the levels of testosterone in their body. This sensitivity is governed by the amount of androgen receptors in their muscles. Testosterone uses the androgen receptors to interact with the muscle, telling it to utilize available proteins to build more mass which increases strength.
Fun Fact: Men produce about 20 times more testosterone than women.
So if this is the case, then why all the buzz about Testosterone?
Well, testosterone DOES still play an important part in muscle growth. As previously mentioned, it’s the messenger that communicates with those androgen receptors and gets things growing. It also undertakes a few other important roles physiologically such as helping increase bone density and telling bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. It also helps metabolize fat. As you age, your body produces less testosterone, which helps account for slowing metabolism and more frail bones associated with age. That also explains why it’s more difficult to gain muscle mass as you age.
Is it possible to raise the amount of testosterone my body produces?
However, we all know age is not a bleak death sentence for testosterone (thanks in part to the “Low T” ads!). There are several ways to increase your testosterone levels naturally to help your body produce this vitally important hormone, including:
- Exercise. Both endurance and resistance training will increase testosterone production, however, lifting heavier weights will increase your production more.
- Have More Sex! If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is?! Research has shown that regular sexual activity will boost testosterone (among a plethora of other health benefits).
- Diet. Studies show that eating certain foods can increase testosterone production as well, including: Ginger, Oysters, Pomegranates, Vitamin D, Spinach, Swiss Chard & Kale, Fatty Fish Like Salmon & Fish Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Onions
- Get your shuteye! Studies have shown that proper rest will – among other things – increase your testosterone levels. For more information on the benefits of sleep, check out the post on the sleep experiment.
- Lose weight and reduce stress. These two are pretty self explanatory, but studies have shown that men who weigh more also have up to 50% less testosterone.
What about “not so natural” ways of raising testosterone?
It’s true, there are ways you can safely raise your testosterone levels via supplements. But anything not in the list above should ONLY be undertaken with the assistance of your doctor (anabolic steroids come to mind). Significantly elevated testosterone levels carry some baggage with it, like aggression, nausea, acne, rashes and possibly some heart issues – the verdict is still out on the heart thing, some reports are good, others bad – talk to your doctor.
If its needed, your doctor may suggest testosterone therapy, but ask about side effects not only while on the therapy, but when you go off of it. When stopping testosterone therapy, you may experience moodiness, sleeping trouble, loss of muscle mass and joint pain, fatigue, headaches, loss of sex drive and possible addictive cravings. It’s always best to have a complete understanding of something before signing on for it.
Hopefully that crash course answers some questions you may have had about the “male hormone” (even though it’s present in you ladies too!) If you know someone who might like this article, please share it with them, or via your social media network, it helps the blog out, and you never know who you might be responsible for motivating to live a healthier lifestyle!