When it comes to bodybuilding, the roles of hormones like testosterone cannot be overlooked. When the body’s hormones stop functioning as they should, it becomes a big issue that can impair growth and development.
Aside from the roles hormones play in helping us stay healthy to carry out our daily activities, they are also vital to people trying to gain muscle. Some people get frustrated after dedicating their time and efforts to bodybuilding and yet not seeing the desired results. Many people don’t know that hormones could be the culprit in cases like that.
This article will explore the importance of testosterone hormone to bodybuilders, the possibility of increasing testosterone levels, and how to do that without causing harm to the person.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is typically called the male hormone, even though females also produce it in a small amount. Testosterone is a hormone primarily produced by the testicles in men and the ovaries in women. It is called the male sex hormone because it is associated with sex drive (libido) and plays a vital role in sperm production.
Babies start producing testosterone as early as seven weeks after birth. Testosterone levels increase in puberty and peak during late teens. After 30, men’s testosterone levels usually start declining each year.
In cases where a male cannot produce insufficient testosterone hormone, it becomes a problem and can lead to a condition known as hypogonadism. Fortunately, people with such conditions can be treated using hormonal therapy.
Testosterone affects reproduction (low levels of the hormone may cause erectile dysfunction). It also affects sexuality as increasing levels of the hormones cause the development of male secondary sexual characteristics such as pubic hairs and deepening of the voice.
Low testosterone levels can cause:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight (fat) gain
- Swelling and breast tenderness
- Loss of body hair
- Decreased muscle strength
- Sleep disturbances
Why testosterone is important to bodybuilders
Do you want bigger, bulkier, and stronger muscles? Then you must look up the testosterone hormone and understand how it works to help muscle growth.
Testosterone is a key hormone involved in growth as it increases the level of growth hormone. It increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters, which promote tissue growth. There is an interaction between testosterone and DNA nuclear receptors to cause protein synthesis.
Testosterone is needed in the bone marrow for the synthesis of red blood cells. It also works to increase bone mass and bone density. This makes for increased strength and sustenance during exercise. People with low testosterone levels are at risk of suffering bone fractures, breaks, and falls.
Asides from muscle growth, testosterone is also involved in fat metabolism. It helps burn fat more efficiently. This means low testosterone levels can cause an increase in body fat.
Best ways to increase testosterone safely/naturally
Men who have low testosterone levels might seek ways to boost their testosterone levels. The increased benefits of boosting testosterone levels have been studied in people with low testosterone levels.
Below are some of the benefits of increased testosterone levels.
- It increases bone density thus, making for stronger bones
- It is healthy for the heart, and low testosterone levels have been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
- It increases muscle mass and energy
- It plays a role in fat metabolism and weight control
- It is associated with increased thinking abilities, mathematical reasoning, and faster processing speed
- It improves mood and quality of life
Different things such as health conditions, age, alcohol, drug misuse, and medication side effects can cause a decline in testosterone hormones. Treating the underlying cause of low testosterone levels will make it easier for the body to start producing the hormones as it ought to.
Things that can help increase testosterone levels include:
1. Use of herbs
The use of herbs is one of the natural ways to increase the level of testosterone. While some herbs help ease the symptoms of low testosterone, others may help the body produce more testosterone. Some of the herbs that might help with testosterone problems include:
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): This is a herb used in traditional Indian medicine. Its medicinal purposes include treating infertility and sexual dysfunction. Men that take ashwagandha may experience increased sperm concentrations and serum testosterone levels.
Chrysin (Passiflora incarnata): Passiflora Incarnata, also known as purple passionflower, is a wild passion vine native to South America, Central America, and the Southeastern United States. It contains a flavonoid extract called chrysin which can be taken as a tea or supplement. Studies have shown that chrysin can increase sperm concentration, sperm motility, and testosterone levels.
Malaysian ginseng (Eurycoma longifolia): This plant is native to Southeast Asia and is known to have antidiabetic, antimalarial, and antimicrobial properties. When taken as herbal medicine, Malaysian ginseng can induce the production of male hormones such as testosterone and relieve depression and fatigue.
Fenugreek: Fenugreek is a popular herb studied for its effects on sexual function. A 2020 study review found that this herb extract can increase testosterone levels. Also, another study reported that taking fenugreek improved strength after six weeks.
2. Taking certain vitamins and supplements
Just like herbs, supplements might help boost testosterone. Below are some supplements that can be beneficial.
Zinc supplements: Zinc deficiency can be associated with low testosterone. Zinc is an essential micronutrient that helps the body produce genetic materials and fight off invading micro-organisms. Taking zinc supplements can help testosterone levels for people who have zinc deficiencies. Zinc can also be sourced from foods like red meat, beans, seafood, dairy products, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, and poultry.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D plays a vital role in the body, such as absorbing calcium into the bones and protecting the bones against osteoporosis. Studies have also found that vitamin D significantly increases testosterone levels in men with vitamin D deficiency.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): The body cannot make enough DHEA in some cases of low testosterone. DHEA is the hormone that the body converts to estrogen and testosterone. Taking DHEA supplements might help remedy low testosterone problems. However, ensure you check with your doctor before taking this supplement, as there isn’t sufficient proof about its safety.
D-Aspartic acid: D-aspartic acid is an amino acid. Research suggests that this amino acid can boost the production of hormones like testosterone and luteinizing hormone. It boosts testosterone level by increasing the levels of luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the cells of Leydig in the testes to make more testosterone.
3. Eating foods that boost testosterone
To regulate testosterone levels, a balance of all hormones in the body is important. This means you have to consume well-balanced, nutrient-rich meals. Studies have shown that consuming foods that contain hormones or hormone-mimicking nutrients (e.g. phytoestrogens) might help improve testosterone levels. If you are already receiving treatments for your hormonal problem, you might want to consider some potential testosterone-boosting foods to complement your low testosterone treatments. Some of those foods include:
- Egg yolks
- Low-fat milk with vitamin D
- Fortified cereals
Other natural ways to boost testosterone levels include:
- Reducing alcohol intake: Alcohol consumption can cause hormonal imbalance. Drinking regularly for about five days can cause a decrease in testosterone levels. People who drink excessively are likely to have shrunken testes, thin chests, and higher levels of estrogen, a female hormone.
- Going on diets that help control weight: Dietary plans like the Mediterranean diet can help control weight and prevent excess weight gain. It also reduces the risk of developing insulin resistance which has been linked with lower testosterone levels. Opt for healthier fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts.
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruits: Fruits and vegetables contain vital nutrients- vitamins and minerals. These nutrients help maintain the normal functioning of the body systems (homeostasis), which can help balance hormones.
- Build your strength: Strength training can boost your testosterone. You should focus on working out more. Get a trainer, if you can, and try strength training workouts like pushups, lunge, squat, crunches, resistance band, and deadlift.
- Get enough sleep: Inadequate sleep can cause a drop in testosterone levels. Testosterone hormone increases when you sleep. Thus, you should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
What to avoid when trying to increase testosterone
People make the mistake of doing certain things detrimental to their hormonal system and health in general. It is important also to point out some things people should avoid when trying to increase testosterone.
- Do not over-exercise: While working out can help increase testosterone levels, do not overdo it. Over-exercising can cause an opposite effect- a reduction in testosterone levels. It is not good for overall health and can cause the tear of muscle tissues.
- Stressing yourself: You are advised not to live a sedentary lifestyle. However, being physically active does not equate to stressing yourself. In a state of stress, the adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol which inhibits the effectiveness of testosterone. Get enough rest and avoid stress.
- Eating too many carbs or sugar: You need balanced meals for a balanced hormonal system. However, you must limit the intake of certain foods such as carbs. Eating sugary foods or foods that contain high carbohydrates typically increases insulin levels. High insulin levels have been linked to lower testosterone. One way to prevent this is to avoid processed foods and stick with whole, unrefined carbs.
The male hormone testosterone is one of the key hormones that play a role in bodybuilding. It makes for increased muscle mass, growth, strength, and bone density. Studies have shown the opposite effect for men with low testosterone levels.
Bodybuilders might benefit more from adequate production of this hormone. Taking certain herbs and supplements and eating some testosterone-boosting foods are some natural ways to increase the production of this hormone.
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