The hormone testosterone is crucial in the physical growth and development experienced during our formative years, however this hormone continues to play a role in regulating these processes throughout our lives. Understanding the role of testosterone and the factors influencing its production can help to enhance the anabolic effect of this hormone, helping you to achieve more from your training.
Testosterone is one of the hormones most closely associated with the muscles of the body, and measuring its concentration has been proposed by researchers as a means of assessing the anabolic (muscle building) status of the body. Testosterone can act directly and indirectly on muscle tissue; it can affect growth hormone responses and in turn influence protein synthesis. Testosterone can influence the nervous system resulting in adaptations that enhance the force production, enabling you to lift more weight during training. Finally testosterone acts directly on the muscle tissue itself to stimulate changes in size and strength. Increasing testosterone levels therefore, would suggest greater anabolic potential and its associated gains. ZMA
is clinically proven to increase free testosterones, total testosterone and insulin-like growth factor.
Resistance training itself increases testosterone levels because anabolic hormones are involved in the adaptive process that follows training. Not all weight training programmes elicit the same response and so to maximize hormone release you should ensure your training involves large muscle group exercises, heavy resistance (80-90% 1RM), a moderate/high volume of exercise (multiple sets or multiple exercises), and short rest intervals between sets and exercises (30-60secs). Applying these principles to your training should help you harness the body’s anabolic response to exercise, and therefore allow you to make the maximum possible gains.
Increases in testosterone levels have been noted with high-intensity aerobic exercise, however this form of training is more typically associated with a decrease in muscle fibre size and any increases in testosterone levels may reflect an attempt by the body to induce protein synthesis to match protein loss. High-intensity aerobic training, even though resulting in increases in testosterone levels, should therefore be minimised if the overall goal is to increase muscle size and strength.
The body adapts to any stimulus, and each time this stimulus is presented the resultant effects are reduced, ultimately leading to a plateau in training. The same principle applies to hormonal release, if the same exercises and weights are used results will be limited. Varying the exercises , angles used, and loads will mean a greater amount of muscle fibres are stressed throughout the training period, maximising the potential for hormonal release and therefore gains. Testofen
leads to an increase in testosterone production and is ideal for those wanting more strength and power.
Overtraining can blunt the training effect and is often associated with a reduction in performance. During a period of overtraining testosterone levels can decline, increasing the potential for lack of results and a regression of your training-induced gains. Make sure you allow sufficient rest between workouts that involve the same muscle groups, periodically cycle the intensity and volume of training, and allow a recovery week every 6-8 weeks.
The timing of your workout may also influence testosterone levels. In men, levels are usually highest in the morning and drop throughout the day. Since resistance training can acutely increase testosterone levels, a morning workout will obviously further increase this level, however training later in the day may be more effective at increasing overall testosterone levels over the whole day (Baechle & Earle, 2000).
Your lifestyle can also have an impact on testosterone levels. Stress promotes the production of the hormone cortisol which can reduce testosterone levels. Cortisol levels are normally kept in check by an enzyme (11beta-HSD) but in times of stress the amount of cortisol can exceed its suppressing capabilities, causing testosterone levels to fall (Hardy and Ganjam, 1997). Research has shown that the higher the levels of cortisol, the lower the levels of testosterone (Schweiger et al., 1999) which highlights the importance of keeping stress to a minimum. Smoking and alcohol consumption both reduce testosterone concentrations so cutting these out of your lifestyle will help to keep testosterone levels boosted. Periods of sleep deprivation and heavy physical activity have also been shown to reduce testosterone levels, highlighting the importance of getting adequate rest and recovery, particularly during phases of heavy training. During these periods, take a product such as Tribulus Pro
, which can elevate testosterone production and may help boost libido.
Diet is another factor that can influence your testosterone levels. Low carbohydrate intake (less than 5% of total calories) has been shown to reduce testosterone concentrations during periods of training as compared to a diet with equal total calories and higher carb content (Langfort et al., 2001). Ensure your carbohydrate intake is sufficient to support your training; recommendations for those involved in moderate-intensity training are 5-7g per kg of bodyweight, and 7-10g per kg of bodyweight during high-intensity training (Jeukendrup and Gleeson, 2004). Consuming too much protein in relation to carbs can lower testosterone levels (Anderson et al., 1987), so ensure your diet contains roughly a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Additionally, research has shown that a diet that contains insufficient fat may compromise testosterone levels and therefore the anabolic responses to training (Sallinen et al., 2004). Supplement your diet with vital ‘good fats’ like Super Omega 3
, in order to ensure your fat intake is optimal.
Certain vitamins and minerals can play a role in testosterone levels, of which ZMA or Alpha Men
are tried and tested solutions. Being deficient in the mineral selenium during a period of training has been shown to reduce testosterone levels (Fang et al., 1999). Selenium rich foods include cereals, nuts, animal products and legumes. If you feel your diet may be deficient in these foods, then you may consider increasing your intake. Supplements such as Zinc & magnesium are also great because Zinc supplementation has been shown to increase and maintain elevated testosterone levels among athletes and non-athletes during a period of training (Kilic, 2007; 2006). High zinc foods include oysters, shellfish, pine nuts and pecans, and wheat bran. Vitamins A and K (Shirakawa et al., 2006; Zadik, 2004) have also been shown to influence testosterone concentrations, so ensure your diet contains sufficient amount of these vitamins.
In addittion, it is important to always ensure you attain nutrients from natural food sources as well as high quality supplements and do not exceed the recommended doses of any vitamin or mineral.
Anderson, K.E., Rosner, W., Khan, M.S., New, M.I., Pang, S., Wissel, P.S., Kappas, A. (1987). Diet-hormone interactions: Protein/carbohydrate ratio alters reciprocally the plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective binding globulins in man. Life Sciences.
Baechle, T.R., Earle, R.W. (2000). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 2nd Ed. Human Kinetics: Champaign, Illinois
Fang, Z., Feng,W., Yang, Z. (1999). Effects of selenium deficient diet and training on concentration of serum testosterone in male rats. Chinese Journal of Sports Medicine. 18(1):28-30
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Jeukendrup, A., Gleeson, M. (2004). Sport Nutrition. Human Kinetics: Champaign, Illinois
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Kilic, M., Baltaci, A.K., Gunay, M., Gökbel, H., Okudan, N., Cicioglu, I. (2006). The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuro Endocrinology Letters. 27(1-2):247-52
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Sallinen, J., Pakarinen, A., Ahtiainen, J., Kraemer, W.J., Volek, J.S., Häkkinen, K. (2004). Relationship between diet and serum anabolic hormone responses to heavy-resistance exercise in men. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 25(8):627-33
Schweiger, U., Deuschle M., Weber, B., Körner, A., Lammers. CH., Schmider, J., Gotthardt, U., Heuser I. (1999). Testosterone, Gonadotropin, and Cortisol Secretion in Male Patients with Major Depression. Psychosomatic Medicine. 61: 292-296
Shirakawa, H., Ohsaki, Y., Minegishi, Y., Takumi, N., Ohinata, K., Furukawa, Y., Mizutani, T., Komai, M. (2006). Vitamin K deficiency reduces testosterone production in the testis through down-regulation of the Cyp11a a cholesterol side chain cleavage enzyme in rats. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. 1760(10):1482-8
Zadik Z, Sinai T, Zung A, Reifen R. (2004). Vitamin A and iron supplementation is as efficient as hormonal therapy in constitutionally delayed children. Clinical Endocrinology. 60(6):682-7