When it comes to muscle building hormones, testosterone is king. All other hormones pale in comparison with regard to muscular development. Testosterone is the singular reason why men, for the most part, have more muscle and strength than women.
You can do everything else right. You can lift a lot of heavy weight. You can eat clean and organic. You can take vitamins and supplements. You can go to the gym day in and day out. But if your testosterone level is low, then you will not grow.
Larry Scott once used the bull as an example as to why some people gain muscle easily. A bull is large and muscular, and yet all he does is eat grass all day. So what does that tell you?
Muscular size has a lot to do with biochemistry. If you have optimal anabolic biochemistry, then you'll gain muscle, despite harsh conditions. Hence, if you have a high amount of testosterone circulating in your bloodstream, then you will gain muscle easily.
Things that Kill Testosterone
Certain things kill testosterone. Watching the Lifetime Channel or the View will certainly make your nuts shrink, but so can low calorie diets, vegetarian diets, getting old, aerobics and alcohol. If you’re a 50 year-old alcoholic vegan marathon runner, then little girls have more testosterone than you.
Vegetarian diets. The lack of animal proteins can depress T-levels, which is why monks in Asia are vegetarian: it fits their Buddhist reverence for life, but it also kills the sex drive and aggressive tendencies.
Stress! Everybody has to deal with stress, but how you react to it has an effect on your testosterone levels. The more stress you have, the more cortisol you produce and the lower your testosterone.
To illustrate this point, one study took a group of male rats and measured their testosterone levels. Then they were dumped into freezing water where they swam until they nearly drowned. The researchers measured their T-levels again and found the rats had virtually no testosterone. The stress of nearly drowning in freezing water had chemically castrated them.
Humans react the same way to both physical and mental stress. The more stress you have, the lower your testosterone. Avoid stressful situations when you can, and learn to react more calmly under stress.
Steady state cardio. The more aerobic exercise you do, the lower your testosterone. A number of studies show a 30% decline in testosterone when you do steady state cardio activities such as cycling and long distance running.
This is why steroid use is rampant in the cycling. Cyclists need an endogenous form of testosterone to replace the natural T they’ve lost.
Amongst long distance runners it is not uncommon to find men with T-levels at 300 ng/dl (the average range for men age 85-100 is 300-400 ng/dl). Go below 260 ng/dl, and you start having problems getting it up.
How to Boost Your T-Levels
What raises testosterone is brief but heavy training, along with a high protein, moderate fat and low carb diet.
Cycle your training. We know that heavy compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, power cleans, etc.) induce a major dump of testosterone into your bloodstream. Heavy lifting on the compound lifts primes your body’s biochemistry and nervous system to grow muscle.
The problem is that you cannot train with heavy compound movements for a long time, every time and all the time. This would rapidly deplete your body’s testosterone and lead to overtraining.
The way to get around this it is to cycle your training intensity. By cycling between high and low reps throughout the week, you avoid depleting your testosterone. Cycling between heavy and light weight prevents you hitting a plateau in muscle growth.
Keep your workout under an hour. Training longer than an hour depletes your testosterone and lowers your immunity. You're more likely to overtrain if you consistently workout longer than an hour.
Eat saturated fat. If you want a healthy dose of T coursing through your veins, then you need to eat lots of red meat and eggs. Stick with organic eggs and grass-fed beef. The cholesterol found in these foods will help your body manufacture a constant supply of muscle-building testosterone.
Far from being unhealthy for you, saturated fat has a number of health benefits:
- Improved cardiovascular risk factors (partly by raising HDL, the good cholesterol)
- Strong bones
- Improved liver health
- Healthy lungs
- Healthy brain (your brain is mainly made of fat and cholesterol)
- Proper nerve signaling
- Strong immune system
Eating saturated fat from sources such as red meat, eggs, butter and coconut oil helps you gain muscle. If you didn't have saturated fat in your diet, then your body would have a hard time manufacturing hormones such as testosterone.
BUT... before you go out scarfing down bacon cheeseburgers, you have to understand that eating saturated fat is only half the story.
1) Eating saturated fat by itself doesn't give you a heart attack. But eating saturated fat with a lot of carbs will put in the triple bypass zone. So cut out white and brown carbs such as breads, pastas, rice, sugars, etc.
2) Although a high fat/high protein diet sounds great, without vegetables you're headed for constipation city. A meat only diet will get you ripped, but you'll burst a blood vessel in the eye from straining on the toilet if you don't eat your green leafy vegetables.
3) Eating meat and eggs all the time with few carbs is very healthy, and you'll look great because of the ripped abs and tight skin. But you have to eat organic. Organic eggs and grass fed beef have a higher omega-3 profile.
Get some sun. Exposure to sunlight causes your body produce vitamin D, and vitamin D helps you produce more testosterone.
Bonus Tip - Practice Power Posing
What if I told you that you could naturally elevate your testosterone by 20%? And what if I told that you didn’t need to take a special herb or get a prescription from a doctor to boost your T level?
In fact this method of boosting your testosterone is absolutely free and legal. The method is called “power posing,” and it has been shown to increase testosterone by up to 20% and decrease cortisol by up to 25%.
Power posing is body language which expresses alpha male traits: power, confidence and dominance. Power poses are open and expansive expressions of the body.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy conducted studies on power posing and how body language affects the neuroendocrine system. These studies found that simply holding one's body in a "high-power" pose for as little as two minutes stimulated higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
What’s a high power pose look like? Many bodybuilding poses would be considered power poses, since many of them display the body in an open and expansive fashion.
The universal power pose, however, is the “V for Victory” pose. The Victory pose is typically displayed when athletes and other competitors win. In this pose you spread your arms out in a “V,” chin slightly lifted.
Taking a powerful pose such as the Victory pose can increase your testosterone and reduce cortisol, which can have profound effects on your mood. Research subjects who had undergone the 2-minute power pose reported feeling more powerful and in-charge. Hence, you can use body language to optimize your biochemistry not just for muscular growth but for mood enhancement as well.
Applying Power Posing in the Gym
If you’re a competing bodybuilder, then you should already be practicing your power poses. But if you’re not a bodybuilder, then you can still practice a power pose to increase your testosterone before or during a workout.
The Victory pose is already incorporated in a number of overhead pressing exercises. So if you want to boost your T-levels, include exercises such as the snatch, the standing military press and the clean and jerk.
Give the Victory pose a try. It’s a simple way to boost your testosterone.