How to Lower SHBG: What to Take & What to Avoid

Medically reviewed by — Research analysis by Alex Eriksson

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 testosterone, 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 testosterone and DHT bind themselves to.

But before we proceed, let’s keep in mind that there are many reasons why you want more testosterone in your body:

  • Testosterone reduces body fat. Research shows that testosterone deficiency results in storage of fats, while another study shows that an increase in testosterone results in adipose tissue (fats) reduction.
  • Testosterone increases muscle mass. This hormone does this by increasing the synthesis of proteins in the muscles.
  • Testosterone 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.
  • Testosterone enhances libido. Although it is still a mystery how this hormone increases the sex drive, it is known that low amounts of testosterone are associated with low sex drive.

As you can see, testosterone has a big role to play in building your body, not to mention enhancing your masculinity. But having high testosterone levels does not always mean the benefits will be visible.

This is because the testosterone in the bloodstream that is bioavailable is actually important – the kind that is readily available for your body to use.

When testosterone 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 testosterone, that is available for use.

Only bioavailable testosterone can bind with androgen receptors. This binding process is what enables anabolic processes, like muscle building, to take place.

In short, lower SHBG means more usable testosterone for building muscles.

Taking testosterone boosters may help increase testosterone 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, Testosterone, and Estrogen

What use is there in keeping SHBG around? The answer lies in another sex hormone: estrogen.

Having too much estrogen 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 testosterone to estrogen in these tissues. More estrogen results in more fats, and the cycle goes on.​

SHBG also binds to estrogen, and when there's more estrogen in the blood this protein increases as well. One approach in lowering SHBG is by lowering estrogen levels.

Another approach is by increasing testosterone levels. This is because high levels of androgens like this hormone lowers SHBG levels.

However, this does not mean you should increase testosterone without limit. More testosterone also increases estrogen so the best way is to balance all these hormones and proteins. You can easily keep track of them by doing a blood test:

sugar carbs

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 testosterone (free testosterone).​

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 estrogen increase SHBG levels, so this means that you need to take certain steps to lower substances that have estrogenic effects on your body. Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens are substances that mimic estrogen 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 testosterone levels. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down certain body functions, including sexual functions.​

Alcohol is found to lower testosterone 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 testosterone production.​
  • According to this study, another way alcohol intake decreases testosterone 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 testosterone production.
  • Drinking too much alcohol also increases aromatization (conversion of testosterone to estrogen). As discussed, very high levels of estrogen 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 testosterone 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 testosterone or inhibit their function by blocking androgen receptors. Some of the prescription drugs that belong to this category are the following:​

  • Beta–blockers​
  • Anti–fungal Drugs Like Ketoconazole
  • Corticosteroids
  • Anti–depressant Meds
  • NSAIDs Like Ibuprofen and Paracetamol
  • Hair–loss–preventing Drugs

Disappointingly, some supplements (even testosterone 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 testosterone and estrogen and then flush them out of the system through bowel movement.

Studies show that high fiber diets can lower testosterone 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 testosterone, consumption of the right amounts is needed.​

fiber foods

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 testosterone levels. Furthermore, it is the amount of free testosterone that it increases because it lowers SHBG levels.​

However, aside from increasing testosterone, boron also increases the estrogen, estradiol by significant amounts. It is therefore not advisable for men with already high levels of estrogen.​

However, if your estrogen levels are low, supplementing with boron is a good method of increasing your free testosterone levels.

This stresses more importance on balancing the androgen and estrogen ratios instead of increasing total testosterone amounts.​

Vitamin D

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 testosterone levels. Men with enough vitamin D were also found to have lower SHBG and higher testosterone 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 foods


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 testosterone. It does this by inhibiting the binding of testosterone to SHBG.​

These findings are supported by another study that resulted in increased levels of free and total testosterone 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 testosterone levels after exercise, and increase testosterone, DHT, and sperm count in infertile males.​

Fish Oil

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 testosterone in a number of ways.

Fish oil increases testosterone production that is activated by the luteinizing hormone (LH). DHA in fish oil also shows anti–estrogenic effects through down–regulating the estrogen receptor.​

Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali is a very popular testosterone booster. And its effects are proven by scientific research.

One study shows how it increases testosterone levels as well as decreases stress. Another research proves its positive effects on male reproduction by improving erectile function, increasing libido, and increasing semen amount.


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 testosterone, DHT, and estrogen with better effects leaning towards higher testosterone levels. This is because testosterone and DHT are needed to build muscle mass and strength.

However, having more testosterone 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 testosterone while decreasing estrogen.

In order to do this, you first need to avoid testosterone–reducing substances as well as those that boost estrogen 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.

Alex Eriksson (Research Analysis)

Alex Eriksson is the founder of Anabolic Health, a men’s health blog dedicated to providing honest and research-backed advice for optimal male hormonal health. Anabolic Health aspires to become a trusted resource where men can come and learn how to fix their hormonal problems naturally, without pharmaceuticals.

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