Bodybuilding is a battle.
A war to make muscle gains that you think you've earned.
Muscle loss, higher estrogen levels and low energy.
This battle is not for the weak minded.
With so many things to learn…
Exercises you'll need to perform.
Food you need to devour.
Lifestyle tips you need to apply.
But none of that matters if your testosterone levels are dipping lower than where they should be.
Natural bodybuilding is a battle that many are losing to, so before you continue your workouts, you better make sure you're doing everything you can to increase testosterone production.
The good news is that you can apply the guide below and start making changes today.
With how far science and research has come, you have all the information you need to optimize testosterone production.
The research for how vital this hormone is for both females and males proves that we need to ensure we have healthy levels.
Here's exactly what you'll learn…
What Is Testosterone
Let's get one thing straight…
We’re talking about the hormone that’s in your body, not steroids.
We make this point because in many articles you may find, the two differences are not always clearly defined.
It’s important to understand, we want to look at how to get the most out of the natural hormone that’s in your body.
So, what is testosterone?
It is one of the body’s primary anabolic hormones, in fact some call it the most anabolic hormone produced by the body.
It’s considered so powerful it has a nickname: “King Of Hormones”.
Testosterone can be defined as an androgenic (male) sex hormone.
A hormone is a chemical that’s made by the body to control cell and organ activity, like a signal that tells your cells and organs what to do (1).
Hormones are involved in virtually every bodily function, including:
Both men and women produce testosterone, with most men producing about 5-10 mgs a day and most women producing considerably less.
Most of the testosterone made by men is made in the testes, and women in the ovaries.
The adrenal glands are also a minor source of test in men, and the body also makes a small amount of testosterone from DHEA.
Additionally, it’s important to know that cholesterol is a precursor for the synthesis of testosterone.
Also, you need to understand that to get the benefits, you have to do more than just increase production of testosterone.
Most of the testosterone in your blood is bound to plasma proteins such as albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
A small amount of testosterone (about 2-3%) is unbound, or free testosterone because it is not attached.
This is the testosterone that is used by your body (2).
So, if you want to increase test, you have to focus on making the most of that 2-3% free testosterone.
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Benefits of High Testosterone
Ok, so now that we know what testosterone is, what exactly does it do?
Here's what it's important for:
- Muscle development
- Bone strength
- Male libido and sex drive
- Energy and mood
- Lowers fat storage
The bottom line here is that testosterone is considered to be what makes a man, a man.
So, if a man’s natural levels of testosterone are too low, how does that affect its functions?
It’s not pretty:
- Low sex drive
- Fat gain
- Muscle loss
- Sleep problems
- Low energy
It goes without saying, as a man, you want high levels of testosterone – and we haven’t even talked about muscle growth yet.
Many bodybuilders believe that testosterone is a key to stimulating muscle growth – and sure, when taken as a drug, it definitely does.
What about a natural bodybuilder?
Can a natural bodybuilder increase his test levels and will that mean an increase in muscle mass?
The answer is yes, you can increase your natural production, and yes, it will activate muscle growth, which it does by stimulating protein synthesis (3).
Also, increasing test levels naturally can help you stay lean (4).
So we see that increasing your test levels has some serious benefits.
It’s also clear that low levels of test can cause muscle loss as well as fat gain.
It makes sense, therefore, to make the most of your natural levels of testosterone if you want a great looking physique.
Estrogen and Cortisol Explained
One of the keys to achieving high levels of testosterone is to limit cortisol, the destructive catabolic hormone that’s released in response to stress, and estrogen, the female equivalent of testosterone.
Estrogen is the female sex hormone and, like testosterone in men, is responsible for women’s growth and development (5).
In men, excess estrogen can cause several problems, such as decreased sexual desire, erectile difficulties, and breast enlargement (gyno or “bitch tits”).
Here’s how it happens: specific tissues such as fat tissue and the reproductive tract stimulate aromatase which is an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen.
It should also be noted that testosterone converts into DHT, which is considered responsible for most of testosterone’s actions (6).
Understanding how testosterone works can be complicated, we have tried to keep it simple and easy to understand.
So, the bottom line here is that if you are taking or plan to take a test booster – or something stronger – you need to choose one that has an aromatase inhibitor to limit the testosterone to estrogen conversion.
What About Cortisol?
First off, cortisol is a catabolic hormone that the body releases in response to stress.
While cortisol does have positive functions, it also causes the breakdown of proteins (like muscle tissue) (7).
Cortisol also blocks the effects of testosterone in the body (8).
The most important thing to remember about cortisol is that stress stimulates its release.
That includes the physical stress of a tough training session as well as mental/emotional stress.
How To Reduce and Limit High Cortisol
- Do not train in a fasted state, such as doing your cardio first thing in the morning. Cortisol levels are high in the morning, exercising at that time can lead to elevated muscle protein breakdown.
- Get a good night’s sleep – 7-10 hours covers the needs of virtually everybody.
- Eat well timed meals – you may read about the “myth” of eating every 2-3 hours – this is a good reason to ignore that and stick to a well timed meal plan that has you taking in meals/shakes every few hours. What can it possibly hurt – and it will help your body stay in an anabolic state.
- Make sure you have your post workout protein and carbs.
The bottom line here is that while cortisol can be destructive, it can be controlled (9).
Does exercise increase testosterone (and other anabolic hormones)?
The answer is maybe.
You see, it depends on the type of exercise.
So if you want a lean, muscular physique, the type of exercise you choose to do is critical.
As it turns out, heavy work on the big basics (compound exercises) like squats, deadlifts and bench presses are your best shot for stimulating hormone increases (10).
Also, some isolation movements should be included for complete development – but these are supporting movements to be done after you’ve worked the big basics.
In fact, if you’re looking for a great routine that takes into account things like volume, intensity and exercise selection, as well as presenting several split options, our routines are designed for maximum results.
It should be noted that well planned full body routines are also a good choice – by well planned we mean allowing recovery to happen before your next workout – recovery is one of the keys to muscle growth.
By all means, avoid over training, which can bring your progress to a complete standstill.
What about diet?
How should you eat if you want maximum testosterone levels?
Let’s start with protein, the most important macronutrient.
This should in no way change your perception, intake or timing of protein, it goes without saying that protein has a ton of benefits when it comes to stimulating muscle growth.
However, increasing test levels is not one of them.
What About Carbs?
While it’s true that many bodybuilders and people in general tend to see carbs as “the enemy”, in reality nothing could be further than the truth.
The fact is, low carb diets means low levels of testosterone (12).
Low carbs also means increased cortisol levels, which is the last thing any bodybuilder needs.
One way to look at it is, if you do something that raises cortisol, you can bet test levels will drop.
Any type of restricted calorie diet will eventually affect your test levels, but if you’re not on a restricted calorie diet right now, don’t be afraid to follow a higher carb (but low sugar) diet.
It not only helps keep test levels up, it supplies muscular energy and keeps you looking full.
The other thing a higher carb diet can do is help control cortisol, which we’ve already seen, elevates test levels (13).
A higher-carb diet stimulates higher insulin levels. Insulin is also one of the body’s primary anabolic hormones and it has a number of effects, both positive and negative. In this case, one of its positive effects is to lower cortisol levels (14).
The bottom line is don’t be afraid to take in more carbs, especially on your training days.
So that leaves us with fat.
A diet with the right amount of healthy fats is important to testosterone production.
Fat is an essential macronutrient that is involved in a number of functions, including hormone production.
In fact, when fat is 25% or less of daily calorie intake, test levels drop (15).
It’s equally true that a higher fat diet can increase testosterone levels – in one study, test levels rose 13% (16).
This doesn’t mean you should ramp up your fat intake like crazy, but you should not be afraid to eat a higher fat diet consisting of healthy fats such as:
- Vegetable Oils
If you’re cutting, a higher fat intake does not mean you’ll get fat – the key to keeping your weight where you want it is more related to sugar/excess carb intake and activity levels.
A little more fat is not a problem as long as you track your intake and stay with healthy choices.
If you’re bulking, you won’t need to worry, but the same advice applies – track your intake and make healthy choices.
When it comes to cardio, you have to choose the right type of cardio and the right time to perform your cardio if you don't want a drop in testosterone.
In fact, if you want to keep testosterone levels high, it’s a bad idea to include cardio right after you’ve lifted weights as so many people do.
As well, many bodybuilders and athletes choose to do their cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach – another bad idea.
It’s better to do your cardio by itself a little later in the day.
What Kind Of Cardio Is Best?
Studies suggest that interval – style cardio is better for test levels than steady state (17).
Interval cardio lets you get your cardio in quickly – you can do more work in 20 minutes than you can do in an hour of steady state.
The point here is, don’t overdo your cardio if you want to keep test levels high.
We suggest three 20-minutes sessions a week of interval style cardio (18).
There’s no question, getting a good night’s sleep works wonders.
Not only is it important for recovery, it’s also important for hormone balance. (Check out our top 10 sleep aids)
Getting at least 7 hours of sleep is important to overall test levels, not to mention overall good health and your ability to be at your best during the day.
Many people require more – like 8-10 hours.
The point here is to get consistent sleep every night, avoid sleep deprivation and avoid inconsistent sleep times (19).
No supplement category has as much hype as the testosterone booster category.
In fact, it’s all to common hear wild, steroid-like claims of increased size and monster strength.
Here’s the truth…
There are several test boosters that do work, but many are nothing more than hype.
The key is to look past the hype and look at the product seriously.
Is it fully disclosed?
Are the ingredients effectively dosed?
Is there research backing them up?
Test boosters as well as any other supplement you plan to use should meet that criteria (see our Top 10 here).
So what ingredients get the job done?
Let’s discuss it below…
Along with other minerals such as selenium, zinc plays a role in healthy testosterone levels as well as countless other functions which include protein metabolism and immune system health (21).
Zinc, along with most vitamins and minerals, are usually overlooked by many bodybuilders as well as Mr & Mrs Joe Average.
Sad to say, much of the mainstream attitude towards basic good health is dismissive and derogatory, and many bodybuilders and athletes don’t think about vitamins/minerals because they are not flashy enough.
The truth is…
And this goes beyond testosterone, if you want maximum results in the gym, it makes sense that your basic health needs are covered with a good multi-vitamin/mineral formula (see our multivitamin guide).
This mineral has been shown to increase both total and free testosterone in athletes and sedentary people – another case for making sure micronutrient needs are being met (22).
Magnesium is yet one more mineral that many people may be deficient in.
It plays a big role in such things as protein metabolism, nerve transmission and muscle contraction – sound like it might be important for a bodybuilder?
There’s much more to this nutrient than you might think.
It may be classified as a vitamin, but it’s not uncommon for it to be considered more of a natural steroid hormone.
Vitamin D does more than just support bone health, it also supports testosterone production (23).
It’s safe to say that if you want max testosterone levels, you better make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.
The most common form is D3, and unless you spend a lot of time in direct sunlight, it’s a good idea to pick up a bottle.
Shilajit is a resin-type substance that’s found in the rocks of the Himalaya mountains that’s typically used in Ayurvedic medicine.
It’s become a popular addition to many of the newest test boosters on the market because research indicates it can increase both total and free testosterone.
It also improves muscle elasticity (24).
Fulvic acid is the primary active ingredient is shilajit and the compound that’s mainly responsible for its test boosting abilities.
Genius Test doesn’t only have Shilajit, but it also has the other ingredients mentioned here.
Despite the fact that this is a popular testosterone boosting ingredient, the research seems to support longjack’s function as more of an adaptogen, which means it helps the body deal with stress.
As an adaptogen, longjack helps to balance the cortisol/testosterone ratio, improve mood and combat everyday stressors, both physical and mental (25).
With 6 centuries of use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered to be a very effective adaptogen, which, as stated above, means it helps the body deal with physical and mental stress.
But does it increase testosterone?
There are studies that show that ashwagandha can increase test levels, such as the one listed below (26).
An important point about adaptogens such as this popular herb – since it helps the body cope with stress, it has anti-catabolic properties because cortisol is released in response to stress.
It’s also anabolic because it stimulates testosterone release. Exciting stuff.
Most ashwagandha extracts are standardized to 2.5% withanolides while KSM 66 has more than 5% concentration.
This is an herb used in traditional medicines in India, mainly as an aphrodisiac.
Research suggests that safed musli stimulates testosterone production (27).
Spilanthes Acmella – This is a plant that originates in Brazil where it is used traditionally for such things as general healthcare.
In fact, it has a history of use as a antibacterial and anti-fungal remedy.
What does this have to do with testosterone?
Well, one animal study suggests in can increase test levels.
That doesn’t make it the next big thing in test boosters, but it does show potential.
Trigonella Foenum-Graecum (Fenugreek)
The available research on this popular compound is conflicting, with more evidence than not failing to show a significant effect on testosterone levels (28).
Yet despite limited research supporting its use, it’s a very common ingredient found in many test boosters.
If you’re looking for a good natural supplement to increase test levels, don’t waste your time on fenugreek.
It's nice to try it out if you have the money.
DAA (D-Aspartic Acid)
This popular ingredient is an amino acid that has been shown to be involved in the release and synthesis of testosterone and it does have at least one study supporting its use.
The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats.
Though people say that DAA is best used as a PCT (after using a cycle of steroids), when you’re testosterone production has shut down, it has still been shown to work.
However, studies say that while DAA can increase testosterone levels, it’s only for roughly 6-12 days, with levels returning to normal not long after that.
Are there other nutrients that claim to increase test?
Sure – boron, tribulus, to name a couple – but the ones we have listed show the most promise.
If you follow our Top 10 list, you can’t go wrong choosing an effective test booster.
The Bottom Line On Testosterone
There’s no doubt, if you want max gains, you want max levels of testosterone.
It takes some effort on your part, but if you want to gain the max amount of muscle and you want to do it naturally, you have to think a little about your total approach.
You often see “advice” online or in the magazines that goes: “If you want to get big, you have to eat big and lift big – it ain’t rocket science” – well guess what?
It “ain’t” that simple either – not when you’re natural anyway!
The point is, take the time to understand what you’re doing and why, take the time to make the most of your training, your recovery, your nutrition and your supplement choices – and that includes maximizing your body’s natural production of the King of Hormones – Testosterone.
We’ve given you a basic blueprint – follow it and get out there and make those gainz !