Testosterone. What is it, exactly? Technically, it’s an androgen – a steroid hormone that determines male characteristics, and the end result of a process known as the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis. In healthy adult humans, males will have around 8 times the amount of it than their female counterparts at any given time, and produce around 20 times more of it throughout the course of a day.
In lay-speak, it’s what makes a man a man – and as we’re celebrating all things masculine this issue, we’ll talk about the good stuff – sufficient levels of it in the bloodstream contribute to emotional resilience, confidence, mental clarity, competitive drive, muscle-mass and tone, lower body fat, a healthy sex-drive, greater bone density and – according to more recent research – reduced risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression and a host of other illnesses.
Testosterone production is highest during and after puberty, and tends to be naturally influenced thereafter by a variety of factors such as relationship status and fatherhood, physical activity, sleep-quality, diet and hydration levels.
Without going into too much detail here, a young man with a healthy, active lifestyle and a diet that contains (not just consists of) adequate protein, fats (critically), carbohydrates, water and minerals should be reaping all of the aforementioned benefits of optimal testosterone levels, and striking out into the world with plenty of vigour and enthusiasm!
However, despite ever-increasing trends towards healthier lifestyles and diets, modern men seem to exhibit less and less masculine characteristics all the time, and shuffling, unmotivated, emotionally defeated boys sporting distinctly unmanly bodies (most notably the dreaded ‘man-boobs’) are ever more prevalent if you look around you. What’s worse, all of these things create a circular condition whereby a deep-seated (and often unrealised) sense of shame feed into the negative actions (bad diet, tendencies to self-isolation and crippling shyness, smoking and excessive drinking and so on) compound the problems.
Men as we know them are in crisis. Testosterone levels are falling globally and the results are manifesting themselves physically and psychologically all around us. If you don’t believe the first part of that statement, check out the results of this study as published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism: http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2006-1375. In case you are reading this somewhere with no internet connection, here are the crucial parts:
Results: We observe a substantial age-independent decline in T that does not appear to be attributable to observed changes in explanatory factors, including health and lifestyle characteristics such as smoking and obesity. The estimated population-level declines are greater in magnitude than the cross-sectional declines in T typically associated with age.
Conclusions: These results indicate that recent years have seen a substantial, and as yet unrecognized, age-independent population-level decrease in T in American and European men, potentially attributable to birth cohort differences or to health or environmental effects not captured in observed data.
So what do we think is happening? For a start, we’re facing a massive chemical assault on testosterone from a number of sources. Many plastic containers, bags and even coatings on till receipts contain a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). This readily absorbs into food and even through skin, and acts like the main female hormone – estrogen – in the body, resulting in lower testosterone. Likewise, areas with either natural or treatment-plant recycling of water from waste water contain traces of women’s birth-control pills and implants – themselves derived from synthetic estrogen-like compounds.
Next, the trend in the past two decades towards low-fat diets, and the vilification saturated fats have robbed male bodies of the critical nutritional building block of testosterone: dietary cholesterol. Without adequate amounts of saturated fats, the body cannot create optimal amounts of testosterone – along with many other important steroid hormones.
There are undoubtedly other, more subtle factors at play; a decline in physically challenging manual jobs, lower responsibility placed on men as ‘providers and protectors‘ than found traditionally, and much greater calls for a reigning in of typically masculine behaviours – usually made in the name of political correctness.
In the name of all things manly, here’s a quick guide to putting your balls back in action and raising your testosterone levels, naturally.
1. Get moving. Lift weights or conduct intense interval training at least three times weekly. Challenge yourself to do better each time, and enjoy the feeling of mastering your body – after all, it’s the one thing that you and you alone are in charge of, regardless of status or position, imagined or otherwise.
2. Open up. We’re talking posture here. A study conducted by Harvard professor and sociologist Dr. Amy Cuddy showed that holding ‘power postures’ – arms open, hands on hips, head high increased testosterone by 20% in just a few minutes, whereas the opposite, closed, arms and legs crossed type postures resulted in a 15% drop in testosterone in the same timeframe. So spread yourself out and take up some space.
3. Chow down. Specifically, get adequate amounts of your daily calories from saturated fats, as cholesterol is the main raw material your body needs to synthesize steroid hormones. Eat eggs (with their yolks), nuts, butter and stop trimming the fat off your steak!
4. Rest up. You’ll need adequate sleep to produce testosterone in appreciable quantities, so avoid those late-night gaming and Facebook sessions on a work night, they’re robbing your manhood. Additionally, here’s a man’s mantra for resting (but only once your work and workouts are done): never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can sprawl, never sprawl when you can lie down and never lie down when you can sleep.
5. Ditch the plastic. To avoid synthetic estrogens from BPA’s, don’t heat your food in plastic containers, go for whole foods that come unpackaged wherever possible and avoid drinking from plastic cups and water bottles – unless they are specifically stated to be BPA free.
All of the above should put you back on track to being the man you were born to be, but the choice is ultimately your own. If you’ve been feeling down, clouded by brain-fog, generally weak and listless or even feeling impotent – in any sense – with no apparent medical cause, take the above advice, from man-to-man, and let me know what happened.
If you’d like to contact Rick drop us a line here at Gallery HQ and we can put you in touch with him.