Those men who are on a quest for impressive muscle and great strength have to dominate the goal of keeping their testosterone levels top-notch. Aside from working out and drinking supplements, the most helpful plan of action to achieve this would be to follow the Testosterone Diet.
Of course, it’s just as rigorous as it sounds. The hormone responsible for the lion's share of muscle growth isn’t going to do all the work on its own.
By the way, testosterone controls plenty of other things important to men too, such as a deeper voice and the growth of body hair.
Thought you’d have to resort to steroids? Not really, thanks to the awesome muscle-building potential of a proper diet.
How Diet Affects Testosterone Levels
In a nutshell, everything you eat will affect testosterone production either positively or negatively. Stick to the right nutrients, and your T will be on point.
Let’s get into the details.
- Testosterone production starts in the brain, with a little something called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).
- GnRH is released from the hypothalamus and travels all the way to the pituitary gland to activate the release of luteinizing hormone (LH).
- Then, LH travels through the blood to the testes, where it stimulates the enzymes that convert cholesterol into testosterone.
Each of these steps is crucial to the process, and your diet is key to ensuring it goes right and yields a good amount of testosterone.
On the flip side, your diet can also be responsible for the overproduction of estrogen, or the female hormone. For example, a diet that leaves you overweight will inevitably inhibit testosterone production.
More specifically, excess weight leads to higher estrogen and lower testosterone levels due to aromatization. This process is named after an enzyme called aromatase, which is produced in body fat and converts T into estrogen.
Thankfully, aromatase inhibitors can prevent this from happening. In another article, we’ve covered more on natural aromatase inhibitors, if you’re interested in that topic.
It may seem like a lot to remember, but all you have to know is that diet has a major impact on the amounts of testosterone and estrogen in your body at any given time.
Counting Calories and Macros
Now that we’ve settled the importance of diet in building muscle and strength, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how the Testosterone Diet works. The gist of it is, you’ll have to count calories and macros.
Calories is common enough, but not everyone knows what macros are. These are the macronutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins, the integral components of any diet that involves muscle building.
Let’s dive into it!
The first step is counting your calories. You’d think that a low-calorie diet is the way to go, but it actually isn’t. Less calories mean less GnRH released in the brain, which will result in less testosterone-stimulating enzymes.
On the other hand, too many calories will surely lead to more body fat and possibly more estrogen production. The Testosterone Diet is all about keeping the balance between these two extremes.
To find out how many calories you have to ingest per day, just multiply your body weight by 18-20 calories. Let’s say you weigh 160 pounds. That means you’ll need an intake of 2,880-3,200 per a day. Use this range as a starting point, stick to it for a few weeks, then make adjustments if needed.
After calories, it’s time to worry about your macros, starting with carbohydrates. A common misconception is that low-carb diets are great for building muscle, but that’s just not true.
Researchers from the University of Northern Carolina proved that a low-carb diet decreased T levels, even when supported by regular exercise. This finding was then mirrored by another study conducted shortly afterwards.
The amount of carbs you need vary depending on your bodybuilding and weight loss goals, as well as the level of physical activity you tend to engage in. On average, you’ll need about 2 grams of carbs per pound of your body weight per day. For example, someone who weighs about 160-pounds would need just about 320 g of carbs for one day.
However, someone who leads a sedentary lifestyle with no exercise would need just around 1.5 g of carbs per pound of body weight. Conversely, someone who practices intense bodybuilding should eat 2.5 g per pound of body weight.
Another less obvious thing about this part is that refined carbs would actually be good for you, except for around workout time. This is because high fiber can lead to low testosterone levels.
Of course, this doesn’t give you a free pass to munch on all sorts of pastries. We’re talking options like white rice over brown rice, since it has lesser fiber.
Still, fiber is needed for a balanced diet, so some fruits, vegetables, and whole-wheat bread won’t do much harm.
If you want to read up more on simple vs. complex carbs and how different types of carbs can affect your body, click over to the Glycemic Index.
Next up is fat. This macronutrient should make 20-35% of your total calories for the day. Let’s say you consume 3,000 calories in a day. That means that 600-1,000 of them should be fat. This would amount to 65-100 grams of fat per day.
Of course, you’ll have to keep an eye on which fats you'll eat. For example, it could be better to avoid polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) present in vegetable oils and fatty fish like salmon.
According to a study conducted by the Centre of Sports Medicine, monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) would be better, as these are known to increase testosterone levels. You can find quite q bit of MUFAs in nuts, avocados, olives, olive oil, red meat, and egg yolk.
The final macronutrient is protein. The Testosterone Diet is incomplete without this macro, but many people have no idea that they shouldn't eat more proteins than they get carbs.
A more in-depth answer to the question of how much protein should you eat is somewhere between 0.8 and 1.3 grams per pound of your body weight. This is according to Helms’ study on protein and T levels.
But a simpler answer that will be easier to remember is that the ratio of carbs to protein should be 2:1. So, you’ll have to ingest around 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight per day. Easy enough: if you’re 160 pounds, aim for an intake of 160 g of protein daily.
The most important thing to remember about protein is that animal sources are optimal in this matter. Studies have shown that, for men, vegetarian diets tend to result in lower testosterone levels.
Micronutrients and Supplements
There are lots of supplements out there that many swear by in their ability to increase testosterone, but you’ll want to avoid an overkill of capsules.
How do you know which ones you actually need, though?
For instance, there are diindolylmethane (DIM) supplements, which keep testosterone unbound but doesn’t necessarily boost T levels. In a previous article we’ve talked about how DIM realistically helps men with their bodies.
But more often than not, a simple but effective diet will do the trick. Let’s talk about the essentials.
What Are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients, to put it simply, are made of vitamins and minerals. Together and in small amounts, they have a hand in your personal development and hormone production.
Unfortunately, a large part of the U.S. population is deficient in these nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. All of these are major players when it comes to testosterone.
Calcium, as most people know, supports bone health. Bones, after all, are important when it comes to building strength and improving body shape. Meanwhile, magnesium is an underrated mineral that has been proven to positively affect T production.
But vitamins probably have more success on that front.
Vitamin A, for instance, is a powerful antioxidant which has been studied as a testosterone booster. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is known to protect the testes from oxidative stress. Vitamin D strengthens bones and mostly improves mood, while Vitamin E is also an antioxidant that boosts T levels.
The good news is, these can all be easily found in various food that you can incorporate into your diet. However, it’s still likely that sub-optimal amounts will yield sub-optimal testosterone levels, so it would help to be safe.
This is where supplements come in.
Which Supplements Will Help?
Before you go crazy about all the options out there, there’s one thing you should know: natural T boosters aren’t the same as anabolic steroids or testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).
The latter two work by putting hormones into your body, which could have negative effects for you in the long run. Natural boosters or supplements work, well, more naturally. They do this by providing your body with the right nutrients to stimulate testosterone production.
And the biggest truth bomb? None of these supplements are miracle workers and should definitely not be your prime method of increasing T.
After all, that’s exactly why they’re called supplements. They’re there to add to the benefits that your diet and lifestyle should already be giving you.
It's important for you to view supplements as just that - something with which you can supplement your diet and lifestyle. They should never be relied upon as the major focus of your efforts.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the Testosterone Diet, let’s talk about the meals you can eat despite the restrictions.
To give you something more specific to mold your personal meal plan after, we’ve listed a few examples of meal ideas for your T Diet.
Based on your body weight and personal food preferences, you can tweak some of the measurements and ingredients however you want. Make these recipes your own – as long as you follow the dietary restrictions.
- 6 oz of sweet potato
- 1/2 cup of oatmeal
- 4 egg whites
- 1 whole egg
- 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup of yogurt
- Nutrition Value: 508 calories, 74 g of carbs, 8 g of fat, 35 g of protein
- 6 oz of top sirloin steak
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 2 cups of broccoli stalks
- 2 carrots
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 medium white potato
- Nutrition Value: 728 calories, 69 g of carbs, 27 g of fat, 54 g of protein
Grilled Chicken with Brown Rice (4 servings)
- 4 boneless chicken breasts, 5 oz each
- 1/2 cup of black olives
- 4 tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup of feta cheese
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1 tsp of garlic
- 1 tsp of rosemary
- 1 tsp of thyme
- 1 tsp of oregano
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 3/4 cup of brown rice
- Nutrition Value: 362 calories, 35 g of carbs, 13 g of fat, 25 g of protein
If you want to build killer meals plans, check out our list of the best testosterone boosting foods. We’ve also posted a guide on anti-estrogen foods, if you’re worried about how you can negatively affect your muscle building efforts through your diet.
Vegetables, Workout Shakes, and Other Tips
Now before we wrap up our short guide on the Testosterone Diet, we couldn’t help but leave some hopefully helpful tips that could aid you on your journey to higher testosterone levels.
For those curious about what veggies are best and whether workout shakes do any good, this is specifically for you.
Now if you’re also subscribing to a rigorous workout regimen, then pre and post-workout shakes will definitely help you out. Shakes with protein and carbs that digest faster will increase testosterone levels through the muscle cells and testosterone receptors present in them.
Let’s be more specific. Before your workout, get a shake that consists of 20 g of protein and 20-40 g of carbs. After your workout, a shake 20-40 g of protein and 40-100 g of carbs will do the trick.
Before you get too overwhelmed to jump into this diet, know that you can actually try it out for six weeks and go back to your usual workout diet after. It’s not too healthy to avoid unrefined carbs and polyunsaturated fats for a long time. They have benefits too, after all.
What most bodybuilders do is come back to the T Diet every six weeks or so. If you find your muscle mass and strength has improved after your first try, then it would be great if you made this a regular thing.
With the Testosterone Diet, you might just find your T levels up in no time.