At last we've reached the final post of Testosterone Week and based on the comments from you all, this is the post you’ve been most looking forward to. Today I’m going to share what I did during my 90-day experiment in order to double my total and free testosterone levels.
I’m afraid I have no super cool u201Csecretsu201D to share and there are no easy shortcuts to increasing your T. If you were expecting some magical potion or supplement or weird body hack that will instantly and naturally increase your T levels, what follows is bound to disappoint. Despite what some companies or websites might tell you, there’s no single thing that will boost your testosterone naturally for the long term.
The unsexy truth is that increasing testosterone naturally simply comes down to making some long-term changes in your diet and lifestyle. As you’ll see, what I did to increase T largely boils down to eating better, exercising smarter, and getting more sleep. That’s pretty much it. But as with most things in life, the devil is in the details, so I’ll share with you exactly what I did and provide research that explains why the things I did helped boost my testosterone.
The good news here is that while the things I recommend below will boost your T, their effect is hardly limited to testosterone. They'll greatly increase your overall health and well-being at the same time.
Ready to get started?
The Obligatory Disclaimer
While I do have a pretty manly mustache, I’m not a doctor or a medical expert. I’m a guy with a law degree he's never used who blogs about manliness. What I’m about to share shouldn’t be taken as a substitute for qualified medical expertise. It’s simply my experience and views on the subject. Before you make any changes in lifestyle or diet, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider. Be smart.
My 90-Day Testosterone Experiment
Let's do a quick review of what I shared in the introduction to this series. August of last year was a tough month for me, primarily because of a huge and grueling project we were in the midst of here on the site. I was stressed out and my sleeping, healthy eating habits, and workout regimen all suffered. At the end of the month I got my testosterone levels tested and found that my total T was 383 ng/dL and my free T was 7.2 pg/mL – close to the average for an 85-100-year-old man.
I then began a 90-day experiment to see how diet and lifestyle changes could boost that number.
The reason I started the experiment at that point is because I know a lot of guys who live my last-August lifestyle all the time, and I wanted to see what would happen to an u201Caverageu201D guy who turned things around. At the same time, there was no u201Cnormalu201D time in my life which would have been better for me to start the experiment. My stress level and diet fluctuates throughout the year anyway, so at any point, factors in my current lifestyle would have influenced the results. I wanted to begin at “ground zero.”
After 90 days, I had my testosterone tested again. My total T had gone up to 778 ng/dL and my free T had risen to 14.4 pg/mL. I had doubled my testosterone.
I know the experiment didn't simply bring me back to my pre-August levels because of the fact that when I learned that the original test I took can sometimes overestimate your T levels, I took a more accurate test around four months after the start of the experiment (I've continued the lifestyle changes made during the experiment) and my total T had gone up again to 826.9 ng/dL.
If you're already healthy, making the changes I list below will probably not double your T levels. But if you're starting at ground zero, then you should see pretty dramatic results.
Alright, with that all out of the way, let's talk about exactly what I did to double my T levels in 90 days.
Our diet plays a huge role in our testosterone production. Our glands need certain minerals — like zinc and magnesium — to get testosterone production started and our Leydig cells need cholesterol to make testosterone. Some foods — like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage — can help boost T levels by removing estrogens in our body that lower our T.
The biggest change I made to my diet was increasing my fat and cholesterol intake. There’s a reason why old school strong men would drink raw eggs — studies have suggested that higher fat and cholesterol consumption results in increased levels of total T; men eating low-fat diets typically have decreased testosterone levels. The emphasis on increasing fat and cholesterol consumption meant I got to eat like Ron Swanson for three months — bacon and eggs and steak was pretty much the staple of my diet.
But you might be asking, “Isn’t cholesterol bad for you? Doesn’t it cause heart disease?”
Answer: It’s complicated.
I don’t have enough time or space to cover the ins and outs of cholesterol in this post, but overall, research is showing that popular beliefs about cholesterol aren’t completely correct and the public shouldn’t be as afraid of this molecule as it is.
If you’re interested in learning more about the myths and benefits of cholesterol, I highly recommend reading these in-depth, well-written, and well-researched articles at Mark’s Daily Apple:
- The Definitive Guide to Cholesterol
- The Straight Dope on Cholesterol Part 1
- The Straight Dope on Cholesterol Part 2
For those interested, at the end of this section, I share my cholesterol and triglyceride levels after more than four months of eating copious amounts of bacon, eggs, meat, and nuts.
Now here's a breakdown of what I ate at each meal:
Breakfast – “Give Me All the Bacon and Eggs You Have”
During the weekdays, I ate what I called the “Ron Swanson Special” — three slices of bacon and three whole eggs. Aside from being delicious, it also provided the fats and cholesterol my body needed to make testosterone. Nitrates freak me out, so I used nitrate-free bacon.
On Saturday mornings, Gus and I went to Braum’s — pancakes for Gus; breakfast burrito for me. That’s one of our father/son traditions.
Sundays I typically skipped breakfast – I usually just wasn't hungry.
Lunch – The Man Salad
I know Swanson wouldn't approve, but for lunch each weekday (and sometimes on Saturday) I ate a salad. But it wasn't just any salad, it was a Man Salad damnit! I packed as many T-boosting foods as I could into this thing.
- Spinach/Spring Salad Mix. This was the base of my salad. I used Organic Girl Greens from Whole Foods. Yeah, I know. The base of my Man Salad came from a company called Organic Girl. Spinach and other leafy green vegetables contain minerals like magnesium and zinc, which have been shown to aid in testosterone production (study on magnesium, and another; study on zinc)
- Meat. Meat, particularly beef, provides our bodies with the protein it needs to create muscle (more muscle = more T) and the fats and cholesterol to make testosterone. My meat topping of choice was sliced up chuck steak. I grilled two of them on Monday and it lasted me until the next Monday. Every now and then I’d slow-cook some ribs or brisket to use as my meat topping. My philosophy was the fattier, the better.
- Nuts. Usually a handful of Brazil nuts or walnuts. Nuts are little fat bombs that provide the cholesterol that Leydig cells need for T production. One study suggest that the selenium in Brazil nuts boosts testosterone. Just don’t go crazy with them. Too much selenium is no bueno.
- Avocado/Olives. Avocados and olives are a great source of the good fats we need for healthy testosterone production.
- Broccoli. Every now and then I’d throw some broccoli into the salad. Broccoli contains high levels of indoles, a food compound that has been shown to reduce the bad estrogen in our bodies that sap testosterone levels.
- Olive Oil. I topped my Man Salad off with lots of olive oil. Research suggests that olive oil helps your Leydig cells (which produce testosterone) absorb cholesterol better. And as I've mentioned a few times, our Leydig cells need cholesterol to make T. More cholesterol absorption = more testosterone.
- Balsamic Vinegar. Mostly for taste. It’s also supposed to help keep your insulin in check.
I bought most of the ingredients for my Testosterone Salad at Whole Foods. For those curious, I added up all the ingredients and divided by six (I typically ate six of these salads in a week). The cost per salad was roughly $5. That’s about the price many folks pay every day for a crappy fast food meal. If you’re on a budget, I’m sure you could get the ingredients at Walmart and bring the cost per salad down even more.
This is what I ate for breakfast and lunch almost every single weekday during my 90-day experiment, and it's what I continue to eat every weekday more than four months after my experiment began. And I don't mind at all. I guess I am a pretty boring dude.
During the day I tried to snack on testosterone-healthy foods like nuts, pumpkin seeds, and broccoli. I’d throw in some dark chocolate every now and then too.
An added testosterone benefit of my high fat and balanced protein and carb diet was that it probably helped me lose some body fat (I went from 18% to 12% body fat). Studies show that high fat diets actually contribute to increased body fat loss. And as we discussed earlier, as you lose body fat, your T production ramps up. Virtuous cycle for the win!
Dinner – Whatever (in moderation)
I just ate what the family was having: chili, chicken and rice, enchiladas. Whatever. I wasn’t worried too much about carbs. I just watched my portions and tried to stop eating as soon I was full.
With the exception of increasing my fat and cholesterol intake, my diet wasn’t that unconventional. I didn’t follow a strictly low-carb or Paleo diet because recent research has suggested that a diet high in protein and low in carbs actually causes T levels to decrease. With that said, I was judicious with the carbs. I tried to get most of my carbs from veggies and fruit, but I didn’t freak out if my wife made us spaghetti for dinner.
I tried to be really strict with my diet during the week and relaxed it on the weekends. Life’s short. I want to be able enjoy a Triple Stack Sandwich or taquito from QuikTrip every now and then.
I’m a lifelong teetotaler, so alcohol wasn’t on the menu. Some studies have shown that beer can lower your T levels in a few ways, but I imagine it would be fine as a weekend indulgence.
Obviously, you don’t have to follow my exact meal plan. The goal is simply to eat more high-fat foods.
Egads! What did all that eggs and steak do to your cholesterol levels?
I was curious what my cholesterol levels would be after following a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat, so I got a full lipid screening a little more than four months after I began my experiment. Here are the results:
- Total Cholesterol: 202 mg/dL (Just barely out of the desirable range of < 200 mg/dL.)
- HDL Cholesterol (“Good” Cholesterol): 77 mg/dL (Optimal range is > 60 mg/dL — my HDL levels were great!)
- LDL Cholesterol (“Bad” Cholesterol): 112 mg/dL (This put me in the near or above optimal range of 100-129 mg/dL.)
- Triglycerides: 65 mg/dL (< 150 mg/dL is considered normal; < 100 mg/dL is optimal — mine were downright stellar.)
Looking at the raw numbers, overall my lipid screening was pretty dang awesome.
Total cholesterol was a bit high, but most doctors agree that total cholesterol isn’t a good indicator of heart disease risk.
Things get more interesting when you look at the ratios that doctors use to determine a patient’s risk for heart disease.
- Total cholesterol/HDL Ratio: 2.6:1 (Normal is < 5:1; optimal is < 3.5:1. Mine was optimal.)
- LDL/HDL Ratio: .68:1 (Normal is > .3:1; optimal > .4:1. Mine was optimal.)
- Triglycerides/HDL Ratio: .84:1 (Optimal is < 2:1. Mine was optimal.)
So despite pounding back bacon, eggs, whole milk, and steak for four months, I still had healthy cholesterol levels.