Feeling blah? Testosterone may be to blame. Cortisol often takes the blame for most of our hormonal imbalances, but testosterone is a major player in our entire hormonal cascade. That’s right, ladies, testosterone is not just your boyfriend’s problem anymore. Male and female, we all need testosterone to function and feel our best. The bad news is, our levels start to decline as early as age 30! Even though hormonal decline with age is somewhat natural, excessive hormonal decline can feel terrible. Excessively low testosterone can present as:
- Interrupted sleep
- Depression that wasn’t there before
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Lowered stamina
- Poor concentration
Ouch! Those symptoms are brutal. Don’t worry. There are simple ways to improve your testosterone naturally without exogenous hormones that bring on the lovely side effects including unwanted facial hair, bacne, and mood swings. Try these and get back to #crushingit at life.
We all know working out has more benefits than just making us look super hot. Regular exercise has been shown to balance mood, increase concentration, and improve sleep. Part of these results can be attributed to the testosterone we produce during workouts.
Strength training, or lifting weights has been shown to increase testosterone at better levels than more cardio-centric workouts. This is not to say that cardio is bad, it’s just to serve as motivation to mix it up once in a while. The muscle you build during strength training requires your body to produce more testosterone to maintain it. The higher T levels help increase lean muscle mass. This enters you into what we call a positive feedback loop where good leads to more good continuously.
If reading the words testosterone and muscle in the same sentence makes you think of a bodybuilding physique that may not sound appealing to you, don’t worry. The dedication that physique takes is much more than a few strength training sessions per week. Testosterone just aids in the process of building lean mass, aka improves your muscle to fat ratio. Think less body fat and more toned arms. Yes, please!
Get more sleep
I preach constantly that sleep is the first step in hormone balance. Testosterone, along with our other hormones, follows a circadian rhythm. T (ideally) spikes in the morning, when we need it most to boost our daily energy, and then gradually declines throughout the day. When we enter REM sleep, our brain sends out messages for our body to start building up the next day’s testosterone supply. Without quality sleep, our supplies plummet.
This occurs even in young, healthy men, so imagine how pronounced this deficiency can become in women who are “less young”. Oftentimes, poor hormone regulation causes sleep to be of poor quality, throwing you into a negative feedback loop, rather than the positive one we mentioned before. This means that sleep gets worse and worse making hormone levels worse and worse. If you feel like you are entering this cycle, you definitely want to work to start correcting both culprits simultaneously ASAP, before you enter what I call the no sleep/fatigue cycle of hell that’s incredibly common nowadays.
All of our hormones are intricately tied together so it’s no surprise that cortisol, our major stress hormone, has an effect on testosterone. These two hormones are negatively correlated, meaning as one goes up, the other goes down. When our bodies are stressed, they concentrate on what they think is important, our fight or flight hormones, rather than regulating our T levels. Each person has his or her own mechanisms for stress reduction. Some ideas to try would include meditation, getting outside daily, yoga, or strength training. Optimizing nutrition also has a profound effect here. Read about how I approach this issue in practice every day here.
Eat healthy fats
Did you know that the backbone of our physical hormone makeup is actually cholesterol? This is why cholesterol counts are often segmented into good and bad cholesterol. It’s not all bad! We can’t make hormones (or brain tissue) without some cholesterol, which often comes from healthy sources of fat. With this in mind, it makes sense that low levels of dietary fats lead to lower levels of important hormones.
*side note: it’s time to stop being afraid of the “F” word. Fat does not make you fat and it is necessary for health. Pick an awesome source and fuel up.
These days it seems like we’re told that vitamin D does everything. Well, it does, so go soak up the sun. Insufficient vitamin D levels have repeatedly shown to lead to lower levels of many hormones, testosterone included. Getting some sun exposure is the most reliable and effective way to boost our testosterone levels, but if this is not an option for you, consider supplementing. If you’re unsure of how much to supplement, ask your favorite naturopathic or functional doc if testing your levels is indicated.