It’s frustrating when we can’t increase our muscle mass, lose weight or think clearly due to low testosterone. As the main male sex hormone, a deficiency can impair reproductive function, lowering sperm count and sperm production, and knocking out sex drive too. It’s also frustrating when the only options seem to be steroids, which may cause more side effects than benefits.
What if there were natural ways to increase testosterone? Read on to learn more about how to increase testosterone with 14 testosterone-boosting foods.
Throwing out egg yolks in favor of egg whites’ protein content was once a fitness trend. However, a study comparing whole eggs to egg whites found that leaving in the egg yolks increased muscle strength and testosterone while reducing body fat.
Egg yolks are a rich source of arachidonic acid, which assists the testes in testosterone production. They are also great sources of nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins, improving your overall health.
Beef is an effective and delicious whole-food source of protein that may also boost testosterone naturally. A small trial of six elite athletes demonstrated that beef was more effective in increasing muscle size and testosterone than a calorie-equivalent carbohydrate supplement.
With beef, their testosterone-to-cortisol ratio (TCR) improved from 0.31 to 0.4 over a period of eight weeks. The TCR of the carbohydrate group fell slightly, from 0.4 to 0.38. However, beef did not improve iron status. Beef is also a rich source of zinc, which prevented a decline in testosterone after intensive exercise in male athletes.
Some shellfish, such as king crab, lobster, and clams, are high in zinc. Zinc increases testosterone by reducing its conversion to estrogen, by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme. Lab research on the meat and shell powders of blood clam, Asian green mussel, and the (rare) mud creeper found that they were able to significantly boost testosterone levels.
The zinc content of certain shellfish is likely the main reason why they have been used in traditional medicine, including modern integrative practice, to enhance male fertility.
Regularly enjoying oily fish, including salmon, mackerel, and herring are linked with better sperm counts and function. As for which nutrients play the largest role in these benefits, a population study suggests that omega-3 fatty acids pull much of the weight. Men taking fish oil had 8% higher testosterone to luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, as well as lower FSH and LH.
These men also had higher sperm counts and larger testes compared to those who didn’t take fish oil. The longer they had been taking fish oil, the higher their sperm counts. Oily fish’s omega-3 fatty acid content is thought to increase the sensitivity of testosterone-producing cells to FSH and improve sperm health.
Tuna gets its own category, as it isn’t considered an oily fish. However, tuna species such as yellowfin and frigate tuna are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and protein—tuna is particularly high in DHA.
DHA and EPA, the other anti-inflammatory fatty acid fish are known for, may increase testosterone in men but not women. DHA-enriched fish oil boosted testosterone by an average of 1.95nmol/L and was effective regardless of age.
It is thought that EPA and DHA are aromatase inhibitors too, as one of the anti-inflammatory pathways they act on prevents the enzyme from making estrogen.
Oysters are perhaps the highest natural food source of zinc, with Atlantic oysters measuring at 77.35mg per 85-gram serving in one study. As written above, zinc can protect your testosterone production in times of stress such as heavy exercise.
Additionally, the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea Gigas) may have other benefits in testosterone production. Partially-digested proteins from the oyster are shown to increase testosterone levels in laboratory research. One way is by boosting the function of some genes responsible for sex hormone release.
Extra-virgin olive oil is well-known for its potential cardiovascular benefits, but what about men’s health? A study testing the effects of extra-virgin olive oil and virgin argan oil on healthy men showed that olive oil may boost testosterone levels by 17.4%, and luteinizing hormone by 42%.
The protective antioxidant effects of the oils’ vitamin E content were thought to be partly behind their testosterone-boosting properties. Vitamin E may guard the Leydig cells of the testes against oxidative stress, which would otherwise damage them.
Pomegranates appear to be a mixed bag when it comes to being a testosterone-boosting food. Research does suggest that they are aromatase inhibitors, preventing testosterone from being converted to estrogen and promoting a healthy balance of hormones.
On the other hand, pure pomegranate juice may reduce testosterone when taken right after exercise. This is similar to other studies showing that antioxidants should be separated from exercise, as their beneficial effects work in opposing pathways.
Plant milks are increasingly popular for both ethical reasons and to avoid lactose and casein, which many people are intolerant to. These are often fortified with nutrients so they can match the health benefits of dairy milk.
If you can’t have dairy milk, it’s best to find calcium-fortified plant milk to prevent deficiency. Besides its bone-building benefits, calcium may increase testosterone too. A study of 30 male athletes found that calcium boosted the rise in testosterone that comes with exercise. It is thought that this benefit comes from calcium’s effects on gonadotropin pathways.
Antioxidant-rich onions may fight low testosterone levels in several ways. They appear to protect the testes against inflammation and oxidative stress, and increase nitric oxide, which opens the blood vessels serving the testes. This may have the added bonuses of helping to create erections, reducing fertility issues, lowering blood pressure, and improving heart health.
Onions may act directly by increasing luteinizing hormone too, which stimulates the testes to make testosterone. For these reasons, a study on older men demonstrated that taking onion extract for four weeks significantly increased testosterone. Larger studies are needed, although the results are promising.
Leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are great food sources of magnesium, which boosts testosterone. A study of taekwondo practitioners and a control group found that magnesium supplements increased testosterone in both groups, but had a stronger effect in the athletes.
At rest after supplementation, the athletes had 18% higher free testosterone compared to non-supplemented athletes. While testosterone increases with exercise, taking magnesium led to more testosterone. Magnesium is involved in hundreds of physiological processes, including energy production and moderating stress response.
Certain types of beans may help increase testosterone too. Velvet beans (Mucuna pruriens) act indirectly as a natural testosterone booster, by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and increasing dopamine. Dopamine kicks off gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) production, which boosts testosterone.
Research on Malaysian men found that higher vitamin D levels were linked to higher testosterone, independently of age and ethnicity. The results were dependent on body weight, while other research suggests that vitamin D only increases testosterone in overweight men.
In a clinical trial of 200 men, taking 3,332 IU of vitamin D led to a 25% rise in total testosterone levels, from 10.7nmol/L to 13.4nmol/L.
Some breakfast cereals are fortified with a range of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, iron, and vitamin D.
As written above, vitamin D supplementation may raise testosterone levels by as much as 25%, when used in high doses. Zinc can boost testosterone naturally and safeguard its production during times of stress, such as heavy exercise. Taking these nutrients together may bring you more gains than one supplement alone.