Testosterone impacts more than your muscles and sex drive; it can affect your physiology, career, and relationships. Give yourself an "Edge" with this complete guide to testosterone.
Name: Sebastian Balcombe
Occupation: Founder and CEO of Athletic Edge
Education: BS in exercise physiology from Florida Atlantic University
Believe it or not, testosterone plays a large role in driving and motivating you toward reaching your goals in life. If you want to make your dreams a reality, you need to learn more about the forms of testosterone, the optimal levels specific to your age, and the natural ways to influence your levels. This knowledge will give you the edge you need to maximize your quality of life.
Unfortunately, most accessible information on this topic contains gaping holes, especially when it comes to the ranges of total, free, and bioavailable testosterone for various age groups. For example, many current references show one testosterone range for men between 19 and 70 years of age.
This article is different. If you want to learn about the relevant ranges specific to men your age, you're in the right place. I'll also explain how the composition of your diet, total calories, and supplements impact natural testosterone levels.
EFFECTS OF TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
Maintaining healthy levels of testosterone can provide benefits in all aspects of life. Low testosterone levels, on the other hand, can negatively impact you in ways you might not have realized.
NATURAL BENEFITS OF TESTOSTERONE
- Drive to gain status and success in one's career
- Dominance without aggression
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
- Low self-confidence
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced sexual desire
- Fewer erections, infertility
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Increased body fat, reduced muscle mass and strength1
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF TESTOSTERONE
Your total testosterone includes three forms of testosterone that circulate in your body:
- Testosterone tightly bound to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
- Testosterone loosely bound to a protein called albumin
- Testosterone in an unbound state known as "free testosterone"
The combination of the two usable forms of testosterone (free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone) is called "bioavailable testosterone."
Testosterone bound to SHBG is essentially "inactivated," meaning it's unable to exert any cellular action. On the other hand, your body can utilize testosterone bound to albumin and free testosterone—that is, bioavailable testosterone—at the target tissue level.
Because free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone have the strongest effects on your body, let's take a closer look at these two.
Free testosterone can be used instantly in biochemical processes in the body—everything from skeletal muscle cells, skin, and scalp, to kidney, bone, central nervous system, and prostate tissues. Free testosterone is able to interact at the intracellular level.
FREE TESTOSTERONE CAN BE USED INSTANTLY IN BIOCHEMICAL PROCESSES IN THE BODY—EVERYTHING FROM SKELETAL MUSCLE CELLS, SKIN, AND SCALP, TO KIDNEY, BONE, CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM, AND PROSTATE TISSUES.
What does that means from a scientific perspective? It activates transcription of specific genes in a muscle cell's nucleus and increases the synthesis of the two primary contractile proteins, actin and myosin (muscular hypertrophy).
By having an anticatabolic effect on muscle cells, testosterone may help to increase mass and strength.2 More specifically, muscle growth happens when the anabolic effects of testosterone are more pronounced overall than the degenerative effects of cortisol.
Albumin-bound testosterone was once believed to be an inactive form of testosterone, much like testosterone bound to SHBG. But a growing body of evidence shows that testosterone that's weakly bound to albumin is actually disconnecting, or dissociating, and becoming bioavailable, or useable, by the body.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of optimal levels, there are a few other key facts to keep in mind as far as changes, distribution, and production of testosterone in men:
- SHBG levels in the body typically decrease when estrogen levels decrease, and increase when estrogen levels rise.
- The distribution of testosterone in men is typically 30-45 percent bound to SHBG and about 50-68 percent to albumin. The remaining 0.5 to 2.0 percent exists in a free, unbound state.
- Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, with the largest amounts produced in the Leydig cells of the testes. It is also produced in smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex.
- An adult male will manufacture 2.5-11.0 mg of testosterone per day.
- Total testosterone levels decrease at a rate of about 1 percent per year after the age of 30.
OPTIMAL TESTOSTERONE LEVELS IN MEN
TOTAL TESTOSTERONE (MALES)
According to Quest Diagnostics, men between the ages of 18-89 should have total testosterone levels of 250-1100 ng/dL. This age range makes it difficult for anyone who is serious about understanding optimal testosterone levels for his specific age. Should someone in their 30s feel good with the same testosterone levels as someone in their 80s? Of course not!
If you're looking for testosterone values relevant to you, I've got them. After referencing several studies, I've listed the average total testosterone levels specific to each age group:
AGETOTAL TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
20-29 years old 278-906 ng/dL
30-39 years old 300-830 ng/dL
40-49 years old 280-700ng/dL and an average of 539 ng/dL
50-59 years old 240-630 ng/dL and an average of 499 ng/dL
60-69 years old 210-540 ng/dL and an average of 502 ng/dL
70-89 years old 170-490 ng/dL3,4
FREE TESTOSTERONE (MALES)
Quest Diagnostics lists healthy free-testosterone levels as 4.6-22.0 ng/dL in men ages 18-69, and 6.0-7.3 ng/dL for men over the age of 69. Mayo Medical Laboratories simply says men ages 16 and up should be in the 9-30 ng/dL range. Again, these are very broad ranges—a one-size-fits-all approach that's not specific to your needs. Here are some more specific and relevant age-related numbers:
AGEFREE TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
20-39 years oldAn average of 10.75 ng/dL
40-49 years old 7-26 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
50-59 years old 5-22 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
60-69 years old 5-19 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
BIOAVAILABLE TESTOSTERONE (MALES)
According to Mayo Medical Laboratories, the following breakdown outlines healthy bioavailable testosterone levels by age:
AGEBIOAVAILABLE TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
20-29 years old 83-257 ng/dL
30-39 years old72-235 ng/dL
40-49 years old 61-213 ng/dL
50-59 years old 50-190 ng/dL
60-69 years old 40-168 ng/dL
Now that you know the benefits and forms of testosterone, its physiological impact, and the healthy ranges for your age, we'll move on to triggers that lower testosterone and the natural strategies you can use to boost your testosterone levels.
Factors like psychological stress, diet, and supplement protocols are known to positively and negatively impact testosterone levels. For the scope of this article, we'll look at dietary and supplemental strategies.
If you don't have the time to dive into the explanation of each dietary strategy and nutritional supplement that impacts testosterone levels, here's a quick summary:
5 DIET AND SUPPLEMENT GUIDELINES TO OPTIMIZE TESTOSTERONE LEVELS
DIET AND SUPPLEMENTATION KEYS
- Do not drop your total calories below 20 percent of your maintenance daily calories.
- Keep fat at 25-30 percent of your total caloric intake, focusing primarily on polyunsaturated fats, followed by monounsaturated fats and saturated fats.
- Consume more carbohydrates than protein, aiming for a carb-to-protein ratio of 2:1 or greater.
- Supplement with fenugreek, longjack, d-aspartic acid, tribulus alatus, diindoymethane, or coleus forskohlii to increase testosterone or decrease estrogen.
- Monitor vitamin D-3 and zinc levels—these are two key necessary vitamins and minerals for testosterone production.
AVOID SEVERE CALORIC RESTRICTION
Simply put, if you are dieting and start to go 20 percent or more below your daily caloric maintenance needs, your testosterone levels can start to decline.
In one study, men on low-calorie diets of 1,350-2,415 calories per day showed a decrease in total- and free-testosterone levels and an increase in SHBG, the protein that binds and inactivates testosterone—regardless of that fact that they were getting 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for all essential nutrients.6
DON'T SKIP HEALTHY FATS
Aim to get 25-30 percent of your total calories from fat, as research shows that 20 percent or less can cause your testosterone levels to drop.7-11 I recommend focusing largely on the polyunsaturated fats, followed by monounsaturated fats, followed by saturated fats. Don't leave out the saturated fats.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Salmon, tuna, flax seed oil, walnuts, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
- Monounsaturated fats: Olive oil, avocados, sunflower oil, sesame oil, peanut butter, canola oil
- Saturated fats: Coconut oil, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, milk, cheese, butter, and animal sources of protein
CONSUME MORE CARBOHYDRATES THAN PROTEIN
Diets that are lower in carbohydrates to protein or equal in carbohydrates to protein (1:1 ratio) can lower your testosterone levels.12,13 If you want to maximize your testosterone levels, stick to a higher carbohydrate-to-protein ratio diet of 2:1 or greater.
For example, if you're a 200-pound male aiming to consume a gram of protein per pound of body weight (200 grams), you would need to consume at least 400 grams of carbohydrates to hit the ratio needed to optimize your natural testosterone levels.
USE SUPPLEMENTS TO GIVE YOU AN EDGE
Certain supplements may increase testosterone levels:
- Fenugreek: Fenugreek extract has been shown to increase both bioavailable and free-testosterone levels naturally within the body. Based on available research, it's believed that fenugreek can decrease the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, thereby increasing overall natural testosterone levels, through naturally-occurring saponins within the seeds of the fenugreek plant.14-15
- Longjack: Longjack works to support free testosterone by inhibiting sex hormone-biding globulin (SHBG), which binds to testosterone and makes it unusable. The end result? More free testosterone—the kind your body can utilize.16,17
- Diindolylmethane (DIM): DIM is an anti-estrogen ingredient, supporting a more favorable testosterone-to-estrogen ratio.
- D-aspartic acid (DAA): Taking 2-3 grams per day for 1-3 months has been shown to increase testosterone.18
- Tribulus: This extract of tribulus alatus (Testafuranol) which is high in beta-sitosterol and furostanolic saponins, has been shown to increase libido and naturally boost testosterone levels.19
- Coleus forskohlii: 250 milligrams (standardized to 10% forskolin) taken twice a day for 12 weeks may increase testosterone.20 This herb can be tough on your stomach, so start at a lower 100-milligram dose and assess your tolerance.
KNOW YOUR VITAMIN D-3 AND ZINC LEVELS
If you're deficient in either vitamin D-3 or zinc—which is more common than once thought—your testosterone levels will decrease. If you are not deficient in either, taking more will not increase your testosterone levels. Your multivitamin/mineral or testosterone supplement should include these supportive vitamins and minerals.
Specific dosing will depend on your own natural levels, which you can find out by having your doctor perform a simple blood test.
HOW DO YOU LIVE AT THE EDGE?
You're on a mission. You know it's going to take hard work to reach your goals, and you know the best things in life never come easy. You have to earn them—there aren't any miracle pills or shortcuts—but there are strategies and tools that can have a tremendous impact on your progress and performance.
At AE, we're on this mission with you, fully committed to sharing the knowledge, strategies, and tools that will give you the edge you need to fight against your challenges, train with passion, and achieve your fitness goals.
If you follow these research-backed nutritional and supplemental guidelines, you'll optimize your natural testosterone levels, pushing you to reach your highest potential in your training and in your life.
Article via BodyBuilding.com