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October 29, 2021 8 min read
Testosterone is a particularly vital hormone for weightlifters and fitness enthusiasts, and not just the male ones.
Everyone has testosterone in their body and should be aware of its effects. Low testosterone can lead to fatigue, demotivation, brain fog, weight gain, and muscle loss, none of which will help you reach your fitness goals.
Scientists don’t completely understand how testosterone works. Research does show that your diet can lower your T-levels, though. Read on for 10 foods and food groups that lower testosterone so you can keep your body well-tuned for muscle growth.
You don’t have to be a urologist to understand this guide, but some knowledge about testosterone and how it works should help illustrate why certain foods can lead to lower T-levels.
Testosterone is an androgen made in either the testes or the ovaries. In the testicles, leydig cells synthesize cholesterol to make testosterone.
These organs receive signals from the hypothalamus that cause them to create testosterone (among other things) which eventually goes back to the brain and acts on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.
One of the many functions of testosterone is to support muscle growth and strength endurance. It also increases libido, promotes sperm production or healthy ovary function, and strengthens bones. These functions occur when testosterone binds with cell receptors.
There are two different kinds of testosterone in the human body: testosterone that’s attached to proteins to regulate their transportation, distribution, and metabolism, and free testosterone which is unattached to proteins. Two proteins called albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) are most commonly bound with testosterone.
The majority of testosterone in both males and females is bound and the majority of bound testosterone is bound with albumin.
Free testosterone and SHBG-bound testosterone are easily bound to cell receptors, unlike albumin-bound testosterone. SHBG and free testosterone are referred to as bioavailable testosterone for this reason.
Foods that reduce testosterone levels do so by corrupting its binding ability or interrupting the signal exchange between the brain and the testicles or ovaries so that less testosterone is produced to begin with. They could also lower the availability of cholesterol needed for testicular leydig cells to make testosterone.
If that all seemed too complicated, just remember: your body needs an adequate level of testosterone and food can interrupt its production or function. Soon, we’ll tell you how 10 foods in particular interact with some of the systems we just covered. First, let’s talk about a few other factors.
While everyone has testosterone in their bodies, those with higher baseline amounts (i.e. those with testicles) will be more heavily affected by changing T-levels. For everyone else, testosterone is only measured to make sure it doesn’t get too high and lead to diseases like polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS. That’s why we’re going to focus on the former group for this section.
Testosterone production naturally decreases as we age.
According to Harvard Health, “more than a third of men over 45 may have reduced levels of testosterone” compared to baseline levels.
Chronic disease and high BMI are related to reduced levels of bioavailable testosterone as well. I
n the same study that mentioned this finding, the researchers made a recommendation for standard testosterone levels that would leave “just 2.5% of men between the ages of 40 and 79” with “abnormally low T-levels based on hormone levels alone.”
That should tell you what the risk is of seriously, harmfully low testosterone. We’re primarily concerned with it in terms of muscle growth, weight loss, and fitness in general.
Lower testosterone levels can sap all your energy. Severely low testosterone levels, also called hypogonadism, can reduce sperm count, sex drive, and performance, possibly draining any motivation you had to hit the gym. Your body might not synthesize protein or build muscle mass well with very low testosterone levels even if you do keep to your routine.
Having enough testosterone can improve your performance during a workout. The PRO SERIES MASS STACK encourages the production of testosterone to help build high-quality muscle mass. We know you’re already monitoring your diet for important macronutrients like protein and carbs, but if you’re cruising toward middle age and want to keep smashing out those weights, you’ll have to optimize testosterone as well. Avoid the foods in the next section for the best results.
Let’s preface this explanation with an important note: low-fat diets have plenty of health benefits and help you cut weight so your muscles really pop. You’re at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease and certain kinds of chronic illnesses if you avoid harmful fats like saturated and trans fats. Too much of these harmful fats can lead to obesity, which can lower your testosterone among its many other things.
But as we’ve already mentioned, the testes convert cholesterol into testosterone. So while you shouldn’t make fatty animal byproducts a staple of your diet, it appears that your body does need some fats to make testosterone.
In one study of 3,128 men, participants adhering to a low-fat diet were found to have lower serum testosterone levels even after controlling for comorbidities (outside chronic diseases) as well as age, activity level, and BMI.
Before you go out and start slamming burgers, we’d like to point out that the researchers involved in that study were classifying diets as low-fat, unrestricted, or Mediterranean after the fact - all participants on a low-fat or unrestricted diet weren’t necessarily eating the same exact things.So while it may be true that a low-fat diet results in lower T-levels, you should still be selective about the types of fat you eat.
You should also watch the levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in your diet. Lean meat and poultry, low- or reduced-fat dairy products, and non-tropical plant-based oils in moderation are great ways to get healthy fats that will keep your testosterone levels in balance.
The way foods derived from licorice root affect your T-levels is a bit complicated. Researchers have found that licorice doesn’t directly eliminate testosterone but moderate licorice consumption does inhibit DHEA sulfation.
Sulfation and desulfation are most likely an important part of how testosterone functions, so eating licorice products could impact the efficacy of the testosterone hormones you do have.
Although it’s probably not a big part of most people’s diets, licorice can be found in some herbal teas and other products besides its well-known candy form. If your testosterone levels are a big concern, you’d be better off cutting it out altogether.
You can also use ALPHA-AF to optimize T-levels and drive.
Many whole grain products such as bread and crackers have flaxseed in them. Flaxseed oil and flaxseed milk are also common ways to enjoy this food, which is often prescribed for cholesterol management.But a diet that’s too low in (healthy!) fats and cholesterol can inhibit your body’s ability to create testosterone. In addition to that, flaxseed has high levels of a phytoestrogen called lignan.
Lignan can mimic high estrogen levels, counteracting your testosterone even if it doesn’t actively reduce the total testosterone in your body.Studies show that flaxseed reduces serum cholesterol in most men.
Although lignans from flaxseed could be the cause of lower testosterone, it’s unlikely they are causing it single-handedly unless you consume lots of them in seed form. Oil made from flaxseed doesn’t have the lignans than whole seeds do, so it shouldn’t reduce your T-levels.
If you’re worried about your physical shape, fried foods should already be cut out of your diet. They’re high in unhealthy fats and usually lack nutrients. Even fried vegetables lose enzymes, vitamins, and other nutrients when they’re fried, and if they’re covered with breading you’re adding lots of carbohydrates to your diet as well.
Not only are fried foods associated with lower testosterone levels, but they’ve also been shown to correlate with poorer kidney function in men over 40.
In short, although they may satisfy a certain craving, fried foods are bad news all around. Consider baking your veggies or eating them raw to maximize your nutrient intake.
Similar to fried foods, cutting out alcohol is kind of a no-brainer if you want to lose weight or just get healthy. The negative impacts of high alcohol consumption are numerous and well-documented, but one of the less well-known ones is its effects on testosterone.
Alcohol consumption alters testosterone metabolism in the liver and inhibits the secretion of testosterone in both the testicles and the pituitary gland. Low levels of androgens in the elderly are positively correlated with high alcohol consumption.
Just what constitutes high alcohol consumption, though? One popular standard puts it at two alcoholic beverages per day for men and one for women. Two glasses of wine every day are considered a high amount of alcohol.Kicking back with a cold beer is undoubtedly nice after a long day, but the healthier option is to wait until the end of a long week rather than drinking each day. Or, better yet, avoid alcohol consumption altogether.
With high amounts of sugar, fat, carbs, and untold preservatives and coloring agents, processed food is a nightmare for your body. Unfortunately, the vast majority of ready-made, canned, store-bought, and fast food is processed in some way, either to preserve it or to make it more appealing for customers.
The most processed foods are ready-to-eat products and frozen or microwaveable meals. If you can, buying fresh produce and natural foods is a much better way to go from a health perspective. Even veggies that seem unprocessed have sometimes undergone some kind of preservation processing.
Eating out and a low intake of homemade foods were found to predict low testosterone and hypogonadism.
That makes sense because the food served at restaurants tends to be more heavily processed and prepared with more butter and salt for flavor. These ingredients increase the likelihood of a high BMI and increased body fat, which is very likely related to how they affect testosterone levels.
Not all vegetable oils are created equal in terms of their effect on testosterone levels. Many are great sources of healthy fats such as polyunsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 that the human body can’t produce on its own. But, bizarre as it sounds, some of the health benefits of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce male hormone levels.
One study found that polyunsaturated fats “significantly reduced serum testosterone production” over five hours.
We should note that the study was performed on overweight and obese men and the effects of vegetable oils on other men could be different.Polyunsaturated fats are rich in an antioxidant called vitamin E.
Soybean, corn, and sunflower oil are the most popular kinds. Many people use olive oil or avocado oil as an alternative. In any case, you should try to limit the amount of oil in your food because of its fat content.
Adding butter, and sugar to your diet through baked goods can have many negative effects on your health. Excessive sugar alone can raise your cortisol levels, making you feel more stressed and encouraging your body to store energy as fat. Whole grains can be a great source of nutrients like magnesium and are often fortified with vitamin D.
But when it comes to most bread and pastries, the sugar content frequently outweighs the advantages of any grain content.
A healthy T-level is essential for men’s health. It improves mood, ensures proper testicular function, helps build muscle mass, and improves muscle endurance.
Some foods can reduce testosterone levels and leave you feeling groggy or cause unintended weight gain. Make sure to avoid the ten foods and food groups in this guide to keep your testosterone levels in balance.