I see countless people in the gym working their asses off, putting in huge amounts of work, all with the commendable goal of building a lean and muscular physique.
Yet somewhat depressingly, these same people (even despite all their hard work), see very little results. They absolutely smoke themselves in the gym day after day, but can’t seem to lose any substantial amount of fat, or build any appreciable amount of muscle.
Now, for most people I would say that putting in hard work and eating a caloric surplus would be enough to build a strong and muscular physique – and most people would probably agree with me. While programming does indeed play a part (increasingly so as we become a more advanced in our tanning lifetime), often it doesn’t have to be perfect – as long as you work hard you will see results.
But for some people, this does not seem to be the case – and it can often be put down to a single factor: testosterone.
Most people think of testosterone as a sex hormone. They know it can influence our libidos significantly, while also impacting our physical development during puberty. But what most seem to forget is that testosterone also has a host of other important qualities.
Testosterone promotes the breakdown and mobilization of fat from the body’s adipose tissue (fat tissue), which in turn can play an important role in maintaining a lean physique. It also promotes the development and repair of muscle tissue, and as such can have large implications on our capacity to build muscle mass.
It therefore stands to reason that if we do suffer from low testosterone, our ability to build a strong and muscular physique will be severely limited – even if we are training hard.
Signs of Low Testosterone
While testosterone is most well-known for its androgenic and anabolic qualities, it also plays a number of important roles integral to maintaining the health of the human body. As such, there are numerous signs and symptoms of low testosterone – so if you are demonstrating even one of the following qualities, you may actually be suffering from lowered testosterone levels.
As previously mentioned, those suffering low testosterone may presenting with a difficulty losing weight and building muscle. In fact, they may even be putting on fat (most commonly around the stomach and pecs) and losing muscle tissue – even despite regular exercise.
As testosterone does play an important role in maintaining a healthy sex drive, low levels of testosterone demonstrate a direct relationship with a reduced libido, often coupled with difficulty achieving a full erection. Low testosterone can also result in a reduced (or lowered) volume of semen during ejaculation, due to a reduced semen production.
Low testosterone have shown to cause an increased rate of hair loss, and has shown extremely strong associations with fatigue and lowered energy levels. This lack of energy is also shown in conjunction with somewhat erratic mood swings.
While it is important to note that if you are showing one of the aforementioned symptoms, it does not mean that you do undoubtedly have low testosterone – but they are indeed symptoms of lowered testosterone, which could be seriously limiting your capacity to build a lean and strong physique.
Fortunately, while low testosterone does have a host of negative implications, it is by no means a death sentence.
There are a number of changes that can be made to our diet that can maximize testosterone production naturally. These changes can seriously improve the testosterone levels of those suffering low test, while also maximizing both fat loss and muscle growth.
All it takes is a few key changes, and as always, some serious hard work.
Diet and Testosterone
There are a number of factors that can influence our testosterone production, although none more so than our diet.
What we consume can seriously influence how much (and how efficiently) testosterone is produced within our bodies. By eating correctly and maximizing the consumption of the correct foods we can cause large increases in testosterone production, which in turn, can influence our ability to build muscle and lose fat.
Now, the traditional western diet is typically high in carbohydrates, while containing relatively low amounts of protein, and moderate amounts of fat.
If we break it down a little further, the type of carbohydrates consumed are highly processed. These carbohydrates are typically high in GI, and contain very few actual nutrients (meaning they are not very nutrient dense). A high consumption of these carbohydrates have shown to influence our ability to handle the hormone insulin, lead to systemic inflammation (and a subsequent rise in cortisol production), and reduce testosterone production.
Moreover, the fats we consume often come from highly processed vegetable oils (such as vegetable oils, safflower oil, and cottonseed oil), which similarly to highly processed carbohydrates, have shown strong associations with limited testosterone production and increased inflammation.
So ultimately, the typical western diet is death to testosterone.
As a result, we can make some key changes to our diet that can lead to improves testosterone production.
Fat and Testosterone
Firstly, we need to increase our consumption of natural fats, such as monounsaturated fats (think nuts, avocados, and fish) and saturated fats (think red meat, eggs, and dairy). These fats do not cause the systemic inflammation associated with highly processed, polyunsaturated fats, and also contain naturally occurring cholesterol.
Testosterone is known as a steroidal hormone, and Cholesterol is actually used in the production of steroidal hormones. As a result, by limiting our cholesterol intake we can seriously limit our testosterone production.
As a result, 20-30 percent of our daily energy intake should come from fats directly. As previously mentioned, majority of these should be saturated and monounsaturated fats – we should try to limit our intake of highly processed, polyunsaturated fats entirely.
And a quick note: While fats were once thought of as the root cause of all our health related problems (hence the low fat diet craze that once swept the nation) this has since been debunked. In fact, those who consume diets low in fat have since been shown to have greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
This means that there is no need to fear fatty meat or fish, butter, or full fat dairy. In fact, these unprocessed fats are going to have the most positive association with testosterone.
Carbohydrates and Testosterone
Secondly, we need to limit our intake of highly processed carbohydrates. As these have shown to increase fat deposition and reduce testosterone levels directly, the need to go.
The majority of our carbohydrates should come from vegetables, as they are low GI (and as such barely influence insulin levels) and contain a huge amount of vitamins and minerals. These vitamins and minerals can improve cell function and hormone production, which can further increase testosterone production at a cellular level.
It is important to note that we don’t want to avoid carbohydrates completely, as they provide essential energy that is used to fuel our workouts – we just want to avoid highly processed carbohydrates as they influence health negatively.
If we want to look at it simply, if it looks like it grew in the ground then it is good to eat, if it looks as if it was made in a factory, it should be avoided.
Protein and Testosterone
Interestingly, protein consumption has shown to have very little influence on testosterone levels.
Despite this, it is worth mentioning that maintaining a relatively high protein intake (much higher than that recommended by the national guidelines…) is terribly important. Having adequate protein intake is essential to maintaining effective hormone production and the development of new muscle tissue.
Moreover, protein is the most filling of all foods. By consuming adequate protein, we can limit hunger signals and cravings, which in turn will reduce our likelihood of eating highly processed foods.
1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight should be more than enough to ensure healthy hormone production, while also providing a high level of satiety on a day to day basis.
Low testosterone can have some seriously negative implications, two of which are the limited ability to lose fat and the inhibited capacity to build muscle mass. While lowered testosterone levels is a pain in the ass, it is not the end of the world – testosterone production can be improves through smart dietary interventions.
The largest part of this is moving away from the traditional eastern diet (typified by a high consumption of processed foods) to a diet high in natural, unprocessed foods.
This means increasing fat consumption by eating more dairy, meat, buts, eggs, fish, and avocados. These foods are high in monounsaturated and saturated fats (which are also known as healthy fats) and are known to improve health and play an important role in the production of testosterone. It is because of this reason we shouldn’t fear full fat dairy, butter, or fatty meat.
All our carbohydrates should come from natural sources such as vegetables (think, sweet potatoes, legumes, potatoes, pumpkin). These sources are relatively low in GI (and subsequently reduce insulin secretion and fat accumulation), while also containing a huge amount of vitamins and minerals (which are essential for hormone production).
And while protein intake does not directly influence hormone production, having adequate protein is essential to maximizing fat loss and muscle development.
So by making these key dietary changes, we can optimize our body’s testosterone production, vastly improving our capacity to lose fat and build muscle – assuming we are still working hard in the gym.
About The Author
Luke Cafferty. Luke is a fitness junkie, personal trainer, and blogger.
He’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well-rounded physique.
Check out more of his work at StrengthAuthority.com or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
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