With respect to the gender spectrum, we try avoid using terms like “men” and “women” in an exclusive, binary manner. We will, however, in this article be using biological terms “male(s)” and “female(s)” as they relate to physiology assigned at birth. With that said, this article is written for anyone interested in how to boost testosterone levels.
Why Do We Need Testosterone?
Testosterone is a steroidal sex hormone responsible for many of the secondary sex traits we typically associate with “maleness”. It is, however, also necessary for physiological function in the female body. With that in mind, you may be interested in how to boost testosterone levels regardless of your biological sex or gender.
In males, circulating testosterone levels lead to the normal development of a penis and testes, from fetal development through puberty. During puberty, testosterone is responsible for a deepening voice, and the development of facial, pubic, and body hair. Throughout life, it plays a role in muscle building and bone strength, and the production of sperm.
Testosterone is important for female health too, and not only as it acts as a precursor to estrogen. In females, higher testosterone is associated with a stronger libido, a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, enhanced cognitive performance, and improved musculoskeletal health after menopause .
Testosterone levels matter, as low testosterone (also known as androgen deficiency) is associated with a lower quality of life and higher rates of morbidity and mortality . In men 40 and over, specifically, low testosterone levels are associated with major depressive disorder, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease .
What is “Normal” Testosterone Production?
Natural testosterone production differs between males and females in the normal range of abundance and the tissues that produce it. Normal testosterone levels in an adult female range from 15 to 70 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) and in post-pubescent males from 300 to 1,000 ng/dL . Obviously, the difference is significant.
In males, the testes produce most testosterone, in females the ovaries produce most testosterone. However, adrenal glands can be responsible for abnormal testosterone levels, as they sometimes produce too much of other androgen hormones that are converted to testosterone .
What Do Low Testosterone (Low T) Symptoms Look Like?
You may be interested in how to boost testosterone levels because you are experiencing health concerns that could be hormone related. Symptoms associated with age-related low testosterone include sexual dysfunction, decreases in energy and muscle mass, mood disturbances, changes in bone mineral density, cardiovascular disease, depression, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased volume of ejaculate, and loss of body and facial hair .
Why Might My Testosterone Levels be Low?
Sex hormone levels tend to decrease with age, in both males and females. Males in their mid-30s will likely begin to see a natural decline in testosterone that continues at a rate of 1.6% per year . The incidence of low testosterone in the United States is reported to be approximately 20% in males older than 60, 30% in those older than 70, and 50% in those older than 80 years .
Age-related low T is quite common and natural. However, testosterone production may be abnormally low if you are chronically ill, have a dysfunctional pituitary gland or hypothalamus, have low thyroid function, delayed puberty, have a disease of the testicles (trauma, cancer, infection, immune, iron overload), a benign tumor of the pituitary cells that produce too much of the hormone prolactin, too much body fat (obesity), sleep problems (obstructive sleep apnea), or chronic stress from too much exercise (overtraining syndrome) .
Due to the multitude of possible causes, it is important to consult your physician if you have, or suspect you have, low circulating testosterone levels.
If you would like to know how to boost testosterone levels without drugs, there are a few nutritional options.
One 2020 study reported a link between vitamin D status and testosterone levels . Males with a vitamin D deficiency had lower testosterone levels than those without a deficiency. This study also demonstrated strong evidence for a direct effect of vitamin D on testosterone production in the testes . Together, these findings suggest that boosting vitamin D levels through supplementation may help to boost testosterone levels, especially if one is deficient (link to a vitamin D article/vitamin D product page).
A recent review also reported that vitamin D plays a key role in male sexual function . As people with vitamin D deficiency have a higher risk of erectile dysfunction, supplementation may ameliorate this issue .
When stomach acid breaks down cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts, it creates a compound called diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM can play a role in estrogen balance, which has lead to a great deal of recent research . As you would have to consume a significant portion of cruciferous veggies to see this benefit, for many, DIM supplements are a more efficient option.
One of DIM’s activities is inhibiting the enzyme aromatase. Aromatase is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Slowing this conversion can help to maintain higher levels of testosterone, and balance different levels of estrogens in both males and females .
DIM supports prostate health (in males) , reduce or prevent the effects of estrogen on cells, reduce metabolic toxins, boost antioxidant levels, promote healthy weight maintenance, enhance memory and mood, reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (in females), support cardiovascular health, and promote healthy muscle development .
Ashwagandha is the name of a plant that’s root extract is most famous for its anxiolytic benefits. It may also, however, boost testosterone production .
Of all the “testosterone booster” nutrients on the market, there is more evidence supporting ashwagandha’s use than nearly every other product, reports a 2021 study . In fact, 8 weeks of supplementation with an ashwagandha root extract can result in a significant increase in both muscle strength and testosterone concentrations .
Although the study did not delve into the mechanism of action, researchers hypothesize that ashwagandha’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects may be linked to increased testosterone concentrations, if the underlying cause of low testosterone is inflammation or oxidative stress .
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- Smith, Stephen J., et al. “Examining the effects of herbs on testosterone concentrations in men: a systematic review.” Advances in Nutrition 12.3 (2021): 744-765.
- Mount Sinai. Testosterone Information. Accessed October 11, 2022. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/tests/testosterone#:~:text=Normal%20Results&text=Male%3A%20300%20to%201%2C000%20nanograms,0.5%20to%202.4%20nmol%2FL
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- Killpartrick, Adam, et al. “Clinical Case Study on Orally Administered Whey Protein Microencapsulated DIM in Castrate-resistant Metastatic Prostate.” Nutritional Perspectives: Journal of the Council on Nutrition 44.3 (2021).
- Wankhede, Sachin, et al. “Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12.1 (2015): 1-11.