Let's get right into it; testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that literally acts as a natural anabolic steroid. Men need it not only for an optimal sexual performance and healthy sperm but also for lean physique, optimal cognitive function, and healthy bones… it's a man-maker all round.
Men with chronically low testosterone are likely to suffer a number of issues including increased body fat, loss of lean muscle, poor sexual performance, fatigue, osteoporosis, low motivation and drive, difficulty concentrating and memory loss just to name few.
There are many lifestyle factors that can lower your testosterone such as chronic stress, lack of physical activity (especially weight training), and exposure to endocrine disruptors from certain foods, chemicals, and environmental contaminants (including canned foods, plastics, insecticides and cosmetics). While these might be difficult to control completely, you can have total control over the three most vicious testosterone slayers: SUGAR, ALCOHOL and LACK OF SLEEP. That’s good news!
Testosterone levels dramatically decrease almost immediately after consumption of large amounts of sugar due to the rapid release of insulin in the body.
A study published in the Clinical Endocrinology Journal in 2013 found that sugar ingestion could cause a man’s testosterone level to drop by up to 25 per cent. It makes sense that men who are overweight, have diabetes, or have insulin resistance are prone to testosterone deficiency, and this population is rapidly raising in the Western world.
The study involved 74 men, of which 42 had normal blood sugar levels, 23 had insulin resistance, and 9 had type 2 diabetes. They were given a glucose solution, which led to lowered testosterone levels by up to 25 per cent in all of the men regardless of whether they were diabetic, pre-diabetic, or had normal blood sugar levels. To get the most accurate testosterone reading, always do your testosterone blood test fasted.
A diet high in sugar also reduces your body’s ability to produce enough Growth Hormone, the so-called fountain of youth. Low testosterone and low growth hormone combo is a double recipe for disaster when it comes to the male health, physique and physical and mental performance.
Avoid high-sugar foods, processed foods, as well as artificial sweeteners not just to keep your testosterone at its best possible levels but also to stay lean and to keep your gut healthy, your immune system and tendons strong and your skin wrinkle-free.
Don’t get fooled by pseudo healthy products! Most trendy ‘health’ and protein bars are full of dates, which really mean that they are full of sugar. One date contains more than one teaspoon of sugar!!! Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols are almost as bad. Don’t be lazy and look at the nutrition labels and ingredients at the back of the packaging. Go for chemical free products that are very low in sugar. Can’t find a sweet tasting bar that’s all natural and very low in sugar? Try the Chief Collagen Bar! It has only 2grams of sugar in the whole bar and tastes like a proper treat.
Yes, that sucks! A study measuring men’s testosterone levels before and after consumption of alcohol found that at the most intoxicated state, testosterone levels had dropped by 25 per cent. When blood alcohol levels were the highest, testosterone was at its lowest. To make things worse, there was a 35 per cent decrease in muscle insulin-like growth factor-I (GF-I), the main hormone responsible for the development of lean muscle mass. And it does not stop here unfortunately. Alcohol has also been shown to cause a quicker aromatization of androgens into estrogens, which explains why heavy male drinkers often get gynecomastia (man boobs) over a period of time.
Besides lowering your testosterone, alcohol contains empty calories, inhibits your fat burning capacity by up to 73 per cent, causes dehydration, slows down protein synthesis, hinders absorption of vitamins and minerals, and affects the quality of sleep. The older you get, the more alcohol affects you due to the significant drop in our body’s natural antioxidative capacity after the age of 30.
Stick to maximum of 2-3 standard drinks per day and avoid binge drinking at any cost, especially if you are not in your 20s anymore.
If you happen to have a big night on the drink, avoid eating junk and sugary foods to cure your hangover. Have lots of veggies and lean beef, eggs, fatty fish or seafood (especially oysters) instead and drink lots of water. It might be a good idea to add some fresh ginger and fenugreek extract.
LACK OF SLEEP
Although you might feel that you can get away with just 4-5 hours of sleep each night, your endocrine system can’t be fooled. Sleeping less than 7 hours is likely to result in a 10 per cent decline in your testosterone levels. Furthermore, the growth hormone is mainly released while you are at the deepest sleep so lack of a good sleep will also rob you of the ‘fountain of youth’.
It’s not only about the length of sleep though. Various sleep disorders including abnormalities of sleep quality (often due to alcohol consumption and stress), circadian rhythm disruption (all those night owls out there), and sleep-disordered breathing may result in a reduction in testosterone levels.
Besides screwing your testosterone and growth hormone production, lack of sleep causes many other nasty issues such as elevated insulin and cortisol (the main culprits in fat storage), increased ghrelin (the hunger hormone), impaired immune function, poor motivation, concentration, willpower and pretty much decline in any other cognitive function.
Sleep at least 7 hours each night and stop being a night owl. Our hormones react to the daylight and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sleeping from 10pm to 5-6am is the healthiest way. Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day totally screws up all your hormones.
Avoid eating too close to the bedtime. Digesting heavy dinner while sleeping will compromise the quality of sleep. The same goes for alcohol and stimulants. Avoid using your phone, laptop and any other blue-light devices before sleep. They affect the levels of melatonin and will either keep you awake or make your sleep very shallow. And finally, have a freezing cold shower before bedtime. It stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest) thus improving the quality of your sleep.