Do you crave to achieve your goals in the most optimal way, or are you just beginning to get into a training program and you want to start off with the right knowledge? Then one of the things you need to learn is how to lower SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) in your body.
Building your body size and strength is affected by many factors. In addition, it doesn't just involve the type of exercises you do, but also the chemical processes going on inside your body.
If the acronym SHBG sounds foreign to you, we're here to help you out. What is it and what does it have to do with exercise?
To reduce SHBG and increase male hormones, you can take supplements and foods rich in boron, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc as well as take fish oil and Tongkat Ali.
What Is SHBG?
SHBG, together with albumin, are glycoproteins that sex hormones like male hormones and DHT bind themselves to.
But before we proceed, let’s keep in mind that there are many reasons why you want more male hormones in your body:
- Male hormones reduces body fat. Research shows that male hormones deficiency results in storage of fats, while another study shows that an increase in male hormones results in adipose tissue (fats) reduction.
- Male hormones increases muscle mass. This hormone does this by increasing the synthesis of proteins in the muscles.
- Male hormones increases skeletal strength. The increase in hormone's levels in men and women with low amounts has been shown to increase bone mineral density in the spine.
- Male hormones enhances libido. Although it is still a mystery how this hormone increases the sex drive, it is known that low amounts of male hormones are associated with low sex drive.
As you can see, male hormone has a big role to play in building your body, not to mention enhancing your masculinity. But having high male hormones levels does not always mean the benefits will be visible.
This is because the male hormones in the bloodstream that is bioavailable is actually important – the kind that is readily available for your body to use.
When male hormones is bound to SHBG, it is not available to be utilized by the body. It is the one that is not bound to these proteins, called free male hormones, that is available for use.
Only bioavailable male hormones can bind with androgen receptors. This binding process is what enables muscle building, to take place.
In short, lower SHBG means more usable male hormones for building muscles.
Taking male hormone boosters may help increase male hormones but it is also important to balance levels of these binding proteins and hormones.
On a side note, although albumin is another protein that sex hormones bind to, it is much weaker and smaller in amount than SHBG. SHBG is what you really need to be more concerned about.
The Relationship Between SHBG, Male, and Female Hormones
What use is there in keeping SHBG around? The answer lies in another sex hormone: female hormones.
Having too much female hormones in the body (especially in men) leads to negative effects. These include lower libido, an increase in body fats, and appearance of feminine characteristics like "man boobs".
The increase in fats also causes aromatization, or conversion of male hormones to female hormones in these tissues. More female hormones results in more fats, and the cycle goes on.
SHBG also binds to female hormones, and when there's more female hormones in the blood this protein increases as well. One approach in lowering SHBG is by lowering female hormones levels.
Another approach is by increasing male hormone levels. This is because high levels of androgens like this hormone lowers SHBG levels.
However, this does not mean you should increase male hormones without limit. More male hormones also increases female hormones so the best way is to balance all these hormones and proteins. You can easily keep track of them by doing a blood test:
The Role of Sugars and Carbs
A common mistake made by those who are looking to lower SHBG levels is going through high carbohydrate diets. But research shows that carbohydrates do not significantly affect SHBG levels.
It is actually high sugar levels that can lower SHBG. The conversion of glucose and fructose in sugars into lipid inhibits SHBG.
But if so, taking too much sugar leads to diabetes. And aside from metabolic issues due to insulin resistance, studies show that men with type 2 diabetes have low levels of bioavailable male hormones (free male hormones).
In short, high intakes of carbohydrates or sugars are not the right methods to lower SHBG levels.
So, what is the right way?
How to Lower SHBG: What to Avoid
Basically, there is a list of things you need to avoid and those that you can take to lower SHBG levels. First, here are things you should not take or should reduce:
Xenoestrogens and Phytoestrogens
Higher levels of female hormones increase SHBG levels, so this means that you need to take certain steps to lower substances that have female effects on your body. Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens are substances that mimic female hormone functions.
These substances can be found in most processed food, plastics, and bath products. Therefore, go organic and if you eat in plastic containers, go for BPA–free containers.
For many people, parties and get–togethers just can't be complete without alcohol. You might have to change your stance a bit because ethanol, which is present in many alcoholic drinks, is harmful to the body.
Of particular interest here are its effects on male hormone levels. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down certain body functions, including sexual functions.
Alcohol is found to lower male hormones in several ways:
- Intake of ethanol increases the NADH/NAD+ ratio in the mitochondria. This increase in ratio levels of the coenzymes slows down the transport process involved in male hormone production.
- According to this study, another way alcohol intake decreases male hormone is through increasing beta–endorphins.
- Acetaldehyde, a product of ethanol metabolism, is found in this study to be a toxin for Leydig cells. Leydig cells are the cells responsible for male hormone production.
- Drinking too much alcohol also increases aromatization (conversion of male hormones to female hormones). As discussed, very high levels of female hormones are not ideal for men (and even for women).
Moreover, alcohol in rats was found to make the testicles smaller just from 5% concentration of ethanol in their food.
Fortunately, the negative effects of alcohol in your male hormone levels are dependent on how much you drink. So you can still have a few drinks with your buddies occasionally.
Among pharmaceutical drugs, side effects are fairly common. Some of these effects are hormone–related, particularly drugs that have anti–androgens.
These anti–androgens either lower male hormones or inhibit their function by blocking androgen receptors. Some of the prescription drugs that belong to this category are the following:
- Anti–fungal Drugs Like Ketoconazole
- Anti–depressant Meds
- NSAIDs Like Ibuprofen and Paracetamol
- Hair–loss–preventing Drugs
Disappointingly, some supplements (even male hormone boosters) contain anti–androgens. Some examples of these are soy proteins, licorice root, bitter melon, etc.
Although fiber is beneficial to the body's digestive process, it plays an opposite role when it comes to hormones. The way it helps with digestion, it can also absorb sex hormones like male hormones and female hormones and then flush them out of the system through bowel movement.
Studies show that high fiber diets can lower male hormone levels. Fiber can also increase SHBG.
However, fiber is still important for the body as studies show that it can even decrease the risk of death caused by heart disease, some types of cancer, diabetes, and stroke.
But in order to reap its life–prolonging effects without decreasing your male hormones, consumption of the right amounts is needed.
How to Lower SHBG: What to Take
Now that you know what to avoid, it’s time to learn about the substances you might want to take in order to lower SHBG:
Boron, even though not a very popular nutrient, can be found in broccoli, potatoes, carrots, and bananas. This is because this nutrient can be found in the soil and subsequently absorbed by the plants.
However, because most commercial food isn’t naturally grown in soils containing this nutrient, your typical produce isn’t likely to contain ample amounts. The good news is that you can get enough boron through supplements.
According to this study, boron can increase male hormone levels. Furthermore, it is the amount of free male hormones that it increases because it lowers SHBG levels.
However, aside from increasing male hormones, boron also increases the femal hormones, estradiol by significant amounts. It is therefore not advisable for men with already high levels of female hormones.
However, if your female hormone levels are low, supplementing with boron is a good method of increasing your free male hormone levels.
This stresses more importance on balancing the male and female hormone ratios instead of increasing total male hormones amounts.
Unknown to many, vitamin D is actually a hormone responsible for a lot of body functions. It is a substance most known to help the body absorb calcium and other nutrients necessary to build strong bones.
You can get vitamin D by getting exposed to the sun, from food like fish and egg yolk, and from supplements. Deficiency of this nutrient could lead to several conditions like rickets and cardiovascular diseases.
As if helping with form and maintaining strong bones wasn't enough, Vitamin D also has a role to play with regards to how to lower SHBG levels.
According to this study, vitamin D can increase male hormone levels. Men with enough vitamin D were also found to have lower SHBG and higher male hormone levels.
Therefore, if you want to lower SHBG levels without spending a dime on supplements, go out and spend more time under the sun.
Magnesium is another very important nutrient involved in many body processes. It is involved in muscle, nerve, immunity, and bone related functions.
But even though it is vital, a lot of people are deficient in magnesium. This is because it can be easily lost through perspiration and many people also don't follow healthy diets.
This nutrient is also very helpful with hormonal functions. According to studies, magnesium helps with working out in three ways.
Simultaneously, magnesium helps decrease SHBG and increase free male hormones. It does this by inhibiting the binding of male hormones to SHBG.
These findings are supported by another study that resulted in increased levels of free and total male hormones after magnesium supplementation. These were found to be the same with both sedentary and active participants in the study.
Magnesium also increases IGF–1 (insulin–like growth factor) that helps with muscle building.
You can get this nutrient by eating foods like beef, spinach, dark chocolate, etc.
Other sources of magnesium are topical creams and oils, as well as Epson salt. External application is actually much better because you can increase the amount of the nutrient while avoiding adverse effects.
Zinc is another important mineral for a healthy reproductive system. But it's a mineral that the body cannot produce by itself so getting it from food and other sources is necessary.
Studies show that zinc supplementation can increase total and free male hormone levels after exercise, and increase male hormone, DHT, and sperm count in infertile males.
Fish oil can be a source of vitamin D, but fish oil itself also deserves a spot in the list of how to lower SHBG. This is because it has effects on male hormones in a number of ways.
Fish oil increases male hormone production that is activated by the luteinizing hormone (LH). DHA in fish oil also shows anti–female hormone effects through down–regulating the female hormone receptor.
Tongkat Ali is a very popular male hormone booster. And its effects are proven by scientific research.
Building muscles is not all about workout routines and eating more or fewer of specific groups of food. It can also be affected by body processes at the cellular level.
It is important to have balanced levels of sex hormones like male hormones, DHT, and female hormones with better effects leaning towards higher male hormone levels. This is because male hormone and DHT are needed to build muscle mass and strength.
However, having more male hormone is not enough because its usability is affected by how much is freely flowing in the bloodstream and how much is bound to sex hormone binding proteins like SHBG. It is therefore important to learn how to lower SHBG levels and increase male hormone while decreasing female hormone.
In order to do this, you first need to avoid male hormone–reducing substances as well as those that boost female hormones and SHBG levels. These include alcohol, xenoestrogens, medication and supplements, and too much fiber.
Finally, on top of your intakes, no results can be seen without hard work and dedication to the right set of exercises to achieve your ideal physique.