Muscle for life

What 17 Studies Say About Increasing Your Testosterone Naturally

What 17 Studies Say About Increasing Your Testosterone Naturally

If you want to know what you can really do to increase your testosterone naturally and what it will actually do, then you want to read this article.


Imagine…with just  “one weird trick,” you could boost a single hormone in your body and…

  • Lose fat and gain muscle…without even setting foot in a gym
  • Feel confident, strong, and assertive
  • Skyrocket your energy levels and mood
  • Look and feel a decade younger
  • Have earth-shattering sex
  • Sleep like a baby

I’ll stop there because if you’re reading this article, this pitch probably sounds familiar.

It’s a short list of the many promises made by testosterone peddlers on the Internet and late-night TV infomercials.

They make it sound as if increasing your testosterone levels will damn near give you superpowers, and that it’s as easy as popping a few pills every day.

And boy oh boy do they sell a lot of pills.

You see, testosterone is on a lot of people’s lips these days.

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, “testosterone boosters” are selling like hotcakes, and steroid use becoming more and more prevalent.

There are many unanswered questions, though.

How much does testosterone affect muscle growth and fat loss? How do you know if you have high or low T levels? How much can you affect them naturally through diet, exercise, and supplementation, and what can you expect in terms of results?

Well, we’re going to cover all that and more in this article. By the end, you’re going to know more about testosterone than most people ever will, including how to optimize your testosterone levels naturally and safely.

So, let’s start with a basic question that many people can’t really answer…

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What Is a Hormone?

Most people could tell you that testosterone is a hormone, but few could explain what a hormone is. So let’s start there.

A hormone is a chemical the body produces to control and regulate the activity of cells and organs.

Hormones play a critical part in every bodily function, including growth, digestion, metabolism, reproduction, and even mood.

Think of them as “messenger molecules” that give your cells and organs instructions. For example, insulin is a hormone that causes cells to absorb glucose from the blood and use it for energy.

[Read: How Insulin Really Works: It Causes Fat Storage…But Doesn’t Make You Fat]

What Is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone that’s mainly produced in the testicles and the ovaries.

Because it’s the most important male sex hormone (androgen), men generally have much higher testosterone levels than women.

And those testosterone levels affect much of what goes on in the body, including…

  • Muscle and bone strength
  • Production of red blood cells
  • Sex drive
  • Production of sperm
  • Energy levels and mood

Testosterone’s effects are easy to see—the more testosterone in a body, the more “manly” it looks, sounds, and functions.

(And on the flip side, the more of the female hormone estrogen there is, the more “womanly” the body will be.)

Accordingly, when testosterone levels aren’t as high as they should be, you can experience various side effects like…

  • Low sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of muscle and strength
  • Fat gain
  • Brain fog
  • Depression

Clearly, there are plenty of good reasons to pay attention to our testosterone levels and do whatever we can to keep them in a normal range.

But what’s a normal range?

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

What Are Normal Testosterone Levels?

normal testosterone levels

Did you know that you can have symptoms of low testosterone despite your testosterone levels coming in around normal?

The reason for this has to do with the difference between testosterone and free testosterone.

You see, not all of the testosterone produced by your body is available for use.

Most of what gets made binds to two proteins–albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG)–and most of these “bound” hormones can’t break free from the proteins.

Thus, testosterone levels can be normal or even high but due to high albumin and/or SHBG levels, free testosterone levels can be low and produce symptoms of low testosterone.

Fortunately, a simple blood test can measure levels of both total and free testosterone, which are usually expressed in terms of nanograms per deciliter of blood, or ng/dL.

(A nanogram is a billionth of a gram, and a deciliter is one-tenth of a liter.)

Generally, the normal ranges of testosterone in men are:

  • 270 to 1,070 ng/dL total testosterone, with an average of about 679 ng/dL
  • 9 to 30 ng/dL free testosterone (2 to 3% of total testosterone levels is normal)

And in women:

  • 15 to 70 ng/dL total testosterone
  • 1 to 5 picograms/dL free testosterone (again, 2 to 3% of total T is normal)

As you can tell by the wide ranges, some people’s bodies naturally produce far more testosterone than others’.

What Are Low Testosterone Levels?

low testosterone

Because the range of normal testosterone levels is so large, what is good for one person can low for another.

That’s why you have to look at more than just testosterone and free testosterone levels when doing hormone testing.

You also need to check for symptoms of low testosterone, which commonly include:

  • Sadness
  • Reduced energy
  • Decreased strength
  • A decline in the ability to play sports
  • A decline in work performance

For example, while a middle-aged man might not experience any symptoms of low T at 350 ng/dL, a man under 40 probably would.

This is reflected in research that shows that in men younger than 40, the likelihood of symptoms of low testosterone rises when total testosterone levels fall below 400 ng/dL.

Furthermore, studies show that in men from ages 40 to 90, symptoms of low testosterone tend to set in when total testosterone levels are below 300 ng/dL.

The symptoms in men 40+ are similar to those for younger men but also include:

  • Less physical endurance
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced libido
  • A tendency to fall asleep after dinner

As you can see, overall quality of life is heavily impaired by a testosterone deficiency, which is why some people are willing to go to great lengths to avoid it.

How Much Does Testosterone Help With Muscle Growth?

muscle growth

Now that we have our “testosterone 101” under our belts, let’s get to the real reason you’re probably here:

Building muscle.

Most gym-goers think that testosterone is a major determinant of how quickly we can build muscle and lose fat.

They’re right.

Testosterone is the primary hormonal driver of muscle growth.

[Read: The Best Way to Stimulate Muscle Hypertrophy (Build Muscle)]

T’s muscle-building effects are so dramatic that one study conducted by scientists at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science found that subjects who were administered testosterone injections gained a significant amount muscle and lost fatwithout even exercising.

Thus, it would seem to be a safe bet that the higher our testosterone levels are, the bigger and leaner we’ll be, right?

Well, it’s not that simple.

That assumption is true if we’re talking about shooting (literally) your T levels through the roof with steroids, but here’s what most gym-goers don’t know:

The fluctuation of testosterone levels within the normal range has very little impact on muscle growth and fat loss.

That is, raising your testosterone levels won’t confer significant body composition benefits until you exceed the physiological normal range, and that can only be accomplished with exogenous (introduced into the body, not produced by it) hormones.

We can find ample evidence of this in the literature.

For example, a study conducted at McMaster University investigated whether the variance in hormonal responses to weightlifting affects muscle and strength gains.

The subjects—young resistance-trained men—did five weightlifting workouts a week and followed a standard high-proteinbodybuilding diet.”

After twelve weeks, scientists found that participants experienced vastly different hormonal reactions to the workouts, but these differences had no significant effect on muscle growth or strength gains.

In other words, there was no meaningful difference between people who experienced dramatic spikes in anabolic hormones during and after training and those who experienced more muted reactions.

Another study worth mentioning was conducted by scientists at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Synthetic testosterone and testosterone suppressing drugs were used to manipulate the testosterone levels of 61 young, healthy men.

After 20 weeks, researchers found a dose-dependent relationship between testosterone and leg strength and power (the higher the T levels, the greater the leg strength)…

…but the effects weren’t significant until T levels reached about 1,200 ng/dL, which is about 20 to 30% above the natural ceiling.

Granted, the increases in strength and power would have been higher if subjects had been weightlifting, but the results are still telling.

For even more perspective, let’s look at an extensive review of steroid research conducted by researchers at Maastricht University in 2004.

They found that people lifting weights on steroids gained, on average, between 4.5 and 11 pounds of muscle over the short term (less than ten weeks), and that the fastest muscle gain was 5 pounds over the course of six weeks.

That may sound impressive, but when you compare these numbers with what you can achieve naturally, one thing is very clear:

If an anabolic drug cocktail that doubles or even triples your testosterone levels doesn’t necessarily cause you to gain “shocking” amounts of muscle, what, then, can you expect to achieve with a relatively small increase?

The answer is next to nothing.

Now, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t take steps to increase your testosterone levels.

You should, and we’ll talk more about that soon, but you should do it knowing that it isn’t likely to help you much in your quest to get bigger, leaner, and stronger.

Does Testosterone Help You Lose Fat Faster?

lose fat faster

The study I cited earlier conducted at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science also investigated the relationship between total testosterone levels and body fat levels.

They found that testosterone levels were strongly correlated with leanness, which means that the higher your testosterone levels are, the leaner you’re going to naturally be.

Unlike the counterfactual findings relating to muscle growth, this effect was seen in differences well within the physiological normal ranges (differences of just 100 to 200 ng/dL significantly impacted total body fatness).

To wit, the difference in body composition between men at 600 and 300 ng/dL was staggering–the latter group was, on average, 36% fatter than the former.

[Read: How to Measure and Improve Your Body Composition]

The exact mechanisms underlying these observations haven’t been fully teased out yet, but research does show that testosterone can suppress the creation of fat cells and low-testosterone has also been identified as a contributing factor to obesity.

The 4 Best Ways to Boost Your Testosterone Naturally

boost testosterone


We’ve reviewed how testosterone impacts both your muscle and fat levels and we’ve set some realistic expectations as to what is and isn’t possible without drugs.

Let’s now talk about how to increase testosterone naturally.

There are several natural, science-based strategies you can use to boost your testosterone, and, depending on your circumstances, the overall effects on your general health and well-being can be negligible or significant.

If you’re currently doing most of what we’re going to cover, you obviously don’t have much room for improvement.

If you’re not, however, you do, and the resulting physical and mental/emotional effects can be quite dramatic.

1. How to Use Your Diet to Boost Your Testosterone Levels

use diet to boost testosterone

You’ve probably heard that some diets are more “anabolic” than others, and there’s truth there.

Your eating habits have a profound effect on your testosterone levels.

Where many testosterone “gurus” go off the rails, though, is with their actual diet recommendations.

The worst of them promote “tricks” and “hacks” like eating more of individuals foods ranging from the mundane (eggs) to the obscure (Brazilian nuts).

Most, though, are staunchly high-fat and low-carb. That, they say, is the real “secret” to maximizing testosterone production.

Well, ironically, the exact opposite is true.

Let’s find out why…

How Dietary Fat Intake Affects Testosterone Levels

foods to boost testosterone

The body needs a certain amount of dietary fat to maintain optimal health and performance. There’s no denying that.

If you don’t get enough fat in your diet, a whole host of physiological processes become compromised, including hormone production.

[Read: How Many Grams of Fat Should You Eat Per Day?]

That’s why the Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 20 to 35% of their daily calories from dietary fat.

One thing many people don’t consider, though, is those percentages were established for the average sedentary person, who burns a lot less energy than those of us that exercise regularly (and especially those of us with above-average levels of lean mass).

For example, a 190-pound sedentary man with a normal amount of muscle mass would need to eat about 2,000 calories per day to maintain his body weight.

The IoM, then, says he would need 45 to 80 grams of fat a day. That’s reasonable.

Let’s look at me, though:




I weigh 192 pounds, I lift weights for four to six hours and do about 1.5 hours of HIIT cardio per week, and  I have about 45 more pounds of muscle than the average 190-pound dude.

Thus, my total daily energy expenditure is quite a bit higher and I need to eat about 3,000 calories per day to maintain my body weight.

Now, if I were to blindly apply the IoM’s percentages, my fat intake would soar to 65 to 115 grams a day.

But do I really need that much more fat just because I’m muscular and exercise regularly?


Exercise improves fat metabolism but doesn’t dramatically increase our need for dietary fat.

Now, what does all that mean for dietary fat and testosterone?

Well, switching from a low-fat to a high-fat diet can boost testosterone levels—but not by much.

For example, one study found that men who got a whopping 41% of their daily calories from fat had just 13% more testosterone than men who got only 18% of their daily calories from fat.

Another study conducted a decade earlier demonstrated similar findings.

So that means that, strictly speaking, eating a lot of dietary fat is “better” for increasing testosterone levels, but it’s not so exciting when you consider that:

  1. Increasing your testosterone levels by relatively small amounts isn’t going to do much of anything, and certainly isn’t going to help you build muscle faster.
  2. If you eat that much fat, you’re going to have to restrict your carbs, which will suppress your T levels.

Which brings me to my next topic…

How Carb Intake Affects Testosterone Levels

carb intake affects testosterone

If you exercise regularly and eat even a halfway sensible diet, the carbs you eat are going to affect your testosterone levels a lot more than the fat.

For example, a study conducted by scientists at the University of North Carolina found that, when combined with daily exercise, a low-carb diet raised resting cortisol levels and reduced free testosterone levels.

Similar results were seen in another study, conducted about twenty years earlier.

How does that work, exactly?

Well, there’s an inverse relationship between cortisol and testosterone, which means that the higher your cortisol levels are, the lower your testosterone levels will be.

Thus, anything that dramatically and chronically raises cortisol levels (like calorie restriction, overtraining, high levels of stress, and low-carb dieting) will also dramatically and chronically lower your T levels.

This is one of the many reasons I recommend a high-carb diet if you’re very physically active–it helps keep cortisol levels low and thus testosterone levels high.

The mechanisms in play here are simple:

If you eat a high-carb diet, your insulin levels will be generally higher than if you were going low-carb, and insulin lowers cortisol levels.

So, in a sense, a high-carb diet allows you to train hard without paying the price of abnormally high cortisol levels putting the kibosh on your testosterone production.

A high-carb diet is more anabolic than low-carb for other reasons as well, but that’s another discussion.

[Read: How to Know Exactly How Many Carbs You Should Eat]

The bottom line is this:

If you’re physically active and care about your health, performance, and results–and especially if you lift weights regularly–you’re going to do far better eating a lot of carbs than a little.

How Protein Intake Affects Testosterone Levels

how protein affects testosterone

This section of the article will be short and to the point:

high-protein diet is good for a lot of reasons, but it doesn’t affect testosterone production.

That’s what scientists from the College of New Jersey found in a study conducted with twenty-three experienced collegiate weightlifters.

The subjects were separated into three different groups:

  • 1 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight
  • 1.6 to 1.8 g/kg
  • >2 g/kg

After twelve weeks, the differences in testosterone levels were negligible.

So, while you should make sure to eat enough protein, know that it won’t improve your testosterone levels.

How Energy Balance Affects Testosterone Levels

how calories affect testosterone

The relationship between the amount of energy you consume and burn is referred to as “energy balance.”

When you eat less energy than burn, you’re in what’s called a state of “negative energy balance” or a “calorie deficit.”

This results in weight loss.

On the flip side, when you consume more energy than you burn, you’re in a state of “positive energy balance” or a “calorie surplus.”

This results in weight gain.

[Read: How Many Calories You Should Eat (with a Calculator)]

There are hormonal effects to calorie deficits and surpluses as well.

Namely, a calorie deficit lowers testosterone levels, but they return to normal once the deficit is erased (once energy intake is increased to equal or exceed expenditure).

My point isn’t that you should avoid calorie deficits at all costs, of course. If you want to lose fat, you’re going to have to restrict your calories.

What you want to avoid, however, is “accidentally” staying in a slight calorie deficit (so slight that fat loss is too minimal to be noticed) for many months or even years as a result of mild, chronic undereating.

Nor do you want to do what many people do, which is binge on the weekends and then heavily restrict calories 5 to 6 days per week to try to “undo” the damage.

Instead, you want to have a good idea of how much energy you’re burning every day and your default diet should consist of or less that many calories.

How Micronutrients Affect Testosterone Levels

how micronutrients affect testosterone

Don’t listen to the deranged “IIFYMers” gloating over their abs while eating handfuls of Pop Tarts and ice cream every day.

The foods you choose to eat matter. A lot.

The reason for this is your body needs a lot more than just “macros” to stay healthy and vital and perform optimally. It also needs a large number of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients.

[Read: How to Eat Healthy and Actually Enjoy It (Really!)]

Thus, it’s no surprise that certain micronutrients play vital roles in supporting testosterone production.

For example, zinc, vitamin D, and magnesium deficiencies are known to suppress testosterone production, and cruciferous vegetables contain a substance known as indole-3-carbinol, or “I3C,” which can reduce “bad” estrogen levels and thereby help maintain optimal testosterone levels.

The bottom line is this:

If you want to help your body produce as much testosterone as possible, you want to eat a diet rich in micronutrients.

You should consider supplementing with a good multivitamin as well (I do).

2. How to Use Your Body Composition to Boost Your Testosterone Levels

how body fat affects testosterone

Research shows that as body fat levels rise, free testosterone falls and estrogen increases, which is conducive to further fat gain.

This is why higher levels of body fat are generally associated with lower levels of testosterone.

And this is why I recommend that men with more than 15% body fat focus first on reaching around 10% body fat before “bulking” to gain muscle.

For women, a safe “cutoff” for body fatness is about 25% body fat.

[Read: How to Calculate Your Body Fat Percentage Easily & Accurately]

If you do that, you’ll not only support your body’s testosterone production, you’ll look better and gain muscle faster as well.

3. How to Use Exercise to Boost Your Testosterone Levels

how exercise boosts testosterone

Most people know that exercise can raise testosterone levels.

What they don’t know, though, is it can tank your T levels as well.

It all comes down to what type of exercise you do and how much you do of it–and the worst choice is doing a ton of cardio.

This is bad for many reasons, not the least of which being the fact that it can greatly elevate resting cortisol levels, which in turn depresses testosterone levels.

And if you really want a problem, combine a large amount of cardio with a large calorie deficit (as many people do). The results can be quite catastrophic.

Now, that isn’t to say that all cardio is bad, of course. You just need to know how much is too much.

[Read: How Much Cardio You Should Do (and How Much Is Too Much)]

Now, if you want to have healthy hormone levels and a lean, muscular, and athletic physique, then the type of exercise you want to focus on is resistance training.

Nobody will argue that lifting weights helps you build muscle, but did you know that it also supports testosterone production?

Not all forms of resistance training are equal, though, both in terms of muscle building and hormone optimization.

If you want to get the most out of your time in the gym, you want to…

1. Focus on compound exercises like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press.

These exercises elicit larger hormonal responses than the wimpy isolation exercises you see most people doing.

2. Follow a workout routine that combines traditional strength and bodybuilding training.

This combination of training methodologies is the perfect way to get the most muscle and the most testosterone for your mileage.

The low-rep, high-weight work you do to build strength is also vital for building muscle, but pure strength programs tend to be low-volume (you don’t do many reps per week) because of how much stress they put on the body.

This isn’t optimal for maximizing muscle growth or boosting testosterone levels.

That’s why I recommend a “hybrid” approach that emphasizes heavy compound weightlifting but also includes isolation exercises to increase weekly volume without entering overtraining territory.

(That’s exactly how my weightlifting programs for men and women are laid out.)

3. Keep cardio to a minimum (do just enough to achieve your goals).

You already know that doing too much cardio, and especially when cutting, is a recipe for skinny fat.

If you want to get really lean, though, you’re probably going to have to do cardio simply to increase your energy expenditure so you can continue losing fat.

The good news, though, is you don’t have to do very much. For example, I never do more than two hours of cardio per week when cutting.

The reason I have to do a fraction of other people is I do high-intensity interval training, which not only helps you lose fat faster than steady-state cardio but raises T levels as well.

How Not to Boost Your Testosterone Levels:
Natural Testosterone Boosters

how not to boost testosterone

Natural testosterone boosters are all the rage these days.

Supplement companies love to make ’em and bodybuilders and fitness models love to shill for ’em.

If we’re to believe the hype, these pills and powders are every bit as effective as steroids and sure to transform us into ripped alpha males slathered in sex and sensuality.

Sadly, it just ain’t so.

There isn’t a single natural testosterone booster on the market that could deliver even a shadow of that promise.

The best you can get is a small and temporary increase in T levels, which, as you now well know, will do more or less nothing.

[Read: The 3 Best (and Worst) Muscle Building Supplements]

We’ve covered a lot in this article so I won’t linger here long, but just to give you an idea of why test boosters are so underwhelming, let’s take a look at three of the most common ingredients found in them:

  1. Tribulus terrestris
  2. ZMA
  3. D-aspartic acid

Multiple studies have proved that supplementation with Tribulus terrestris doesn’t affect testosterone levels, body composition or exercise performance. It’s a dud. End of story.

ZMA is a combination of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6, and unless you’re deficient in zinc, studies show that ZMA doesn’t raise testosterone levels.

As for D-aspartic acid, research shows that supplementing with it can raise testosterone levels, but it’s unreliable and the effects are slight and temporary. In otherwise healthy men, the T-boosting benefits are gone within a month.

You’ll find many other ingredients as well, including horny goat weed, eurycoma longifolia jack, holy basil, velvet antler and saw palmetto, and the story is the same:

Each and every one is either unproven or ineffective.

The unfortunate truth is this:

If a testosterone booster contains 100% natural ingredients, it won’t do enough to matter.

And if you’ve taken a “natural” T booster that made a significant difference, it was the placebo effect or wasn’t as natural as you thought.

(Many shady supplement companies slip small amounts of cheap anabolic steroids into their “natural” testosterone boosters to make them actually do something.)

The Bottom Line on Testosterone

how to boost testosterone

Testosterone is an incredibly important hormone.

It directly impacts our quality of life in many ways and factors heavily in our fitness and performance. It’s worth much of the attention it gets.

What many people don’t want to hear, though, is there are no quick fixes for raising and maintaining optimal testosterone levels.

High T levels have to be earned. They’re one of the many rewards for healthy living, which looks like this:

Do all that and you’ll look and feel great and have the highest testosterone levels you can naturally achieve.


What’s your take on testosterone? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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Leave a Comment!
  • Another great article Mike. I’m actually heading towards 50…cripes! Just turned 48 actually. I’ve never actually had T levels measured, might do one day.

    But on a more basic level, at the risk of sounding a little crude and puerile, for guys over 40, and younger actually, who find themselves thinking about sex A LOT, and waking with a healthy ‘boner’ every morning (told you, juvenile humour, snigger!!) without a lot of excess body fat and man boobs, would those ‘indicators’ alone be enough to think T levels were pretty good, alongside not falling asleep in your dinner etc 🙂

    I follow the practical steps that you suggest at the end of the article, but being sex mad with a good dose of the ‘morning glory’ should put my mind at rest er?

    Also, there have been ‘old wives tales’ about baldness and higher testosterone levels, sounds like crap to me, you find anything to validate that?


    • Thanks!

      Yup, if you still feel and work like a dude is supposed to, you’re probably fine. 🙂

      I haven’t seen any correlation between balding and T but haven’t looked into it specifically, either.

      • Haha, yep, much to my wife’s irritation, she was probably hoping I’d stop being such a pest by now.

        I think the balding and T thing is probably just a myth made up by balding men to bolster their position, same as the “big feet, big ****”” analogy I suspect 🙂 I can confirm, with size 11 feet, that it’s definitely NOT true!!

        Cheers Mike

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  • John Fawkes

    Hey Mike, I see you mention high estrogen, but low estrogen can be a problem too- guys need sufficient estrogen to have a decent libido. How common of a problem do you think that is? My I’m pretty lean, and my joints are often a bit dry and creaky, and that makes me wonder if my estrogen actually hovers on the low side.

    • Yup, low E can definitely be a problem. Not very common, though.

      Get a blood test and you can know for sure.

  • Ella

    As a woman, I have definitely played around in the low T territory. I haven’t formally been tested but I totally know what this feels like. Sounds a lot like overtraining. I’ve lost a good amount of weight through calorie cutting and cardio and feel myself slowing down (lowered ability to sleep, more depressive energy, PMS symptoms on the rise, and not as affected by coffee). I’ve only cut calories to about 1400-1500 per day at 5’7″ and about 155 pounds, and don’t even do that much cardio (3-4x) week of zumba- BUT I know that genetically, like the rest of my family, I have little natural muscle tone.

    My question is, what are your thoughts on plyometric workouts in relation to testosterone and overall health? Something like Kayla Itsines BBG (this includes lots of jumping lunges, squats, planks, and burpees). I like the leaner look her clients seem to achieve. I would just like to know if you think this would still be taxing on the body, or if heavy lifting needs to be incorporated? If so, is there a training schedule you recommend that somehow incorporates some of both to get the testosterone benefits while still achieving a leaner (less muscular) look?

    Also, I really enjoy the zumba classes for the mental boost- but I’m finding I can’t perform as well. How often would you suggest going without hurting progress?

    • Low T is generally associated with men but women can suffer the ill effects too.

      Plyo isn’t going to help raise T levels like heavy weightlifting, and cardio like Zumba can cause issues if you do too much (generally raising your cortisol levels, which will in turn depress your T).

  • Trav

    So, I am 45 as of March. Weigh too much and have been “sluggish” for a long time now. I had a blood test done through my doctor and processed by Quest Diagnostic Labs; result, T-count was 129. The doc sets me up with a 1 mg testosterone shot, one time a month for two months. Have the vampires suck another couple of vials; result, T-count is now 95… wtf. Now I have been on 1 mg every 2 weeks for 2 months… getting my blood drawn again tomorrow (Wednesday, 6/8/16)…

    Even with a doctors help, this is a being a pita. I appreciate the article and the information, helps me understand more about what is going since the doctor really seems a little dim about being able to educate me about it… think he might do good reading this article himself. 🙂

    Thanks again Mike, you always seem to have an article show up dealing with a current issue I am dealing with.

    • Hey hey,

      It’s more than 1 mg T as that is basically nothing (standard TRT dose is probably around 150 mg per week).

      That said, your #1 focus right now should be losing fat. If we could get you to or below 15% body fat, everything would change…

  • Daniel

    Thank you for another great article, but it catch my eye when you talked about the approach of IIFYM and that it wasn’t as great as they claim. Do you have an article where you talk about that? I mean the importance of micronutrients and that stuff.

  • Thomas Cros

    What brilliant article Mike, cleared up a lot of miss-information. Good clear unbiased advice thanks.

  • Rasinthika perera

    Hi Mike, Thank you for spending your time for people like us… I am 29 years old female. 5.3 feets in height and 59kg in Wight. I am trying to loose weight in my upper body and gain weight in my lower body as I have lost of fat in my belly and back and my lower body doesn’t have much mussels. I guess my body shape called “Apple shape”. Can you please advise me how to achieve my goals and would it be okay if I add a protein shake to my diet as I go to the gym for couple of times a week.
    Thank you so much again.
    Hope to hearing from you soon.

  • Jbana

    Interesting article – as a female it’s hard to find much information about sensible ways to manage testosterone to get results that isn’t geared at guys so much appreciated. However I am wondering about the recommendation to supplement with a multivitamin – I’ve been seeing a number of articles like this one (https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/antioxidants-and-exercise-more-harm-than-good/) recently and am feeling a bit on the fence in relation to vitamins right now. What are your thoughts?

  • Andrew

    Hey Mike,

    So I am wrestling with your statement that “insulin stores fat but doesn’t make you fat”. Is that for the typical person? I am a type 1 diabetic and I feel that is exactly why I have the fat I do because the disease I have. Also you prescribe to eat a lot of carbs and that’s great but that means I as a diabetic will have to increase my insulin levels which in turn does no good. From reading it seems that having extra insulin in my system over night reduces my HGH and thus puts me in a dilemma. So I am wondering what is the best thing I can do to get the best testosterone in my system because I believe I do have a lower level of free testosterone in my system. I have several of the systems listed in this article. The worse part seems to be my energy levels bottom out fast typically. So I am hoping you can advise me on a plan that can help me lose the fat without increasing my insulin levels and which increase my testosterone levels. Thank you for the great information.


    • Hey Andrew, I do understand how hard it is for a diabetic to get high level of testosterone. I am a diabetic as well. I was diagnosed with diabetes 4 years ago and last year i found out that mine testosterone levels are low as well.

      Than one of my friend suggested me to use chemforce and on good faith I started using and you won’t believe that after 1 month of taking the supplement. Mine testosterone levels started to increase and after 4 months they were completely normal. I would suggest instead of increasing your insulin level use chemforce you can buy it from http://www.fenfuro.com / http://www.chemforce.in

      You must give it a shot.


    • I’ve worked with quite a few people that have type 1 diabetes and not much changed. We lowered carb intake but otherwise everything is still working the way it should metabolically.

      Insulin levels don’t influence T levels, and you should be able to time your insulin shots by setting your meal schedule up properly?

  • Rob Taylor

    Mike D aspiric acid has alot of human clinical esearch behind it. It can raise someones free serum T level from 400 to the 800 range pretty easily. The issue is that you need to cycle it or otherwise it will return to baseline.

    • Uh, no it doesn’t, and no it most definitely won’t raise your T 400 ng/dl. I link to several papers on tribulus. It’s worthless.

      • Rob Taylor

        Mike I can link you the studies,but I dont know the rules of linking stuff on your blog. There are two human trials that prove DAA works. Basically of the three major DAA human studies is what thet found was. ”D-AA increased testosterone levels in healthy athletes when used short-term (12 days) and in guys with low testosterone when used long-term (90 days). However young bodybuilders who already had high testosterone levels didn’t note anything special in their serum testosterone levels after long-term D-AA supplementation (28 days). The researchers theorized that this was caused by a negative feedback loop being triggered on due to already high testosterone levels and DAO levels, suggesting that younger guys should probably cycle D-Asp if they want to see any effects.” I still agree in terms of muscle building this means nothing,but in terms old guys and people with low T for fat loss I would say its significant.

  • Gourav Vashistha

    hieeee, mike….
    I am gourav 5’10 around 85kgs with around 25-30% fat(lost around 12kgs in last 2.5 months), i was on 1500 calorie diet and its not bothering me but after reading your stuff the calculation goes on 1800 and i will definitely try that for some that and see the results, and my workout routine ki 6 days a week one day single part, 8 variations, 3 sets each of rep 15-12-10 are these ok or am i on wrong track and i should follow 3 variations way(i m gaining strength and muscle with my current routine too, what should i follow please make the picture a bit clearer and thanks in advance).

  • fsfsxii

    I’m looking to lose weight, my fat % is 35% which indicates obesity. I’m what you would call a “skinny-fat” type of person. Been training for 2 months now, cut a lot of my bad eating habits, haven’t had a burger in 4 months. I haven’t weighed since i started working out, and i’m afraid to do so. To be fair, i’ve gained muscle in my thighs, arms and legs, but i haven’t lost my belly and chest fat.
    Any tips are highly appreciated.

  • Chris Kawahito

    “one study found that
    men who got a whopping 41% of their daily calories from fat had
    just 13% more testosterone than men who got only 18% of their daily
    calories from fat.”

    That’s 13% I don’t want to miss out on. Saying that you will be eating less carbs because you’re eating fats is already factored in that equation.

    • Did you read the entire article?

      • Chris Kawahito

        Yeah a lot about how T doesn’t deliver on its promises. But since it suggests ways to increase T at the end, it seems to leave out this 13% opportunity for preference for a high carb diet.

        • You’ll get more out of high-carb dieting with the other strategies I outline.

  • Andrew

    I’ve read that in order to optimize T levels and not chronically increase cortisol, you should avoid working out back to back days and limit your training to three days per week. This is according to Chris Walker of TestShock. What are your thoughts in a nutshell?

    • No problem with back to back with training even 5 days/week with the BLS/TLS training volume. If the intensity and volume was really high, then yeah it makes sense to limit to every other day or fewer days/week.

  • Neal

    hey mike, i got my testosterone checked a few times and it is on the lower side.
    im 22 and it used to be around 400 when i was 17, six months ago it was 240, and now i got it up to 350.
    it is still considered normal but lowish, would you say it is affecting my ability to build muscle and strength?
    should i really make it a priority to push those numbers up in your opinion?
    I’ve been doing what i can(making sure i don’t have micro deficiencies etc) but i wonder whether i should really dive into the problem.

    • No difference when T is within normal ranges. Your progress isn’t being affected.

      Keep doing what you’re doing! That’s a nice improvement you’ve made from 240.

    • Mark G

      Neal, How did you raise your T up 110? Mine is mid range but am trying to increase 75-100. Thanks.

  • Joe

    Hey Mike, would taking a zinc supplement increase my T?

  • Francesko

    great article about testosterone levels. i am also creating an article just like this for my fitness website http://www.motivation4fitness.com
    this article it a truly inspiration not just for the writers but also for the people who want to increase testosterone levels.

    thank you mike!

  • infinitelabs

    Testosterone Supplements is a herb derived component which support lean muscle development. Tribulus Terrestris is Natural Testosterone Booster

  • JunkMonkey

    Quick question: if I’m trying to bulk and can lift 3-5 days/wk (about 45 minutes per session), should I be doing HIIT? I’m not too worried about the eating; I’m getting you guys to set me up a meal plan…
    But the point is whether I should be working in some HIIT. I walk about 30 minutes, 5 days/wk. Should I change that, or should I add?

  • Brandon Jenkins

    Yes i am aware 7 Secrets to Boost Testosterone Naturally: boosting male testosterone

  • Elisavet

    My husband had been having low energy and libido. He has tried a few testosterone boosters and found one he liked but their tablets were big and it was difficult to swallow. I found Sunestron and encouraged him to try them. He’s been taking them for a couple of weeks now and feels his energy level is higher. In fact, he said he feels like a younger man these days! he is very pleased with Sunestron supplement and intends to continue taking them.


    Hi Mike.I have your book BLS and I’m also huge fan of your Podcast.I weight training 5 to 6 times a week according your program.Squeezing HIIT only about 2 to 3 times a week.My body fat is somewhere around 18% and right now I’m trying to cut it somewhere to 10 to 14%. The problem is that I have chronically low T and once I reduce my calories according to your recommendation I start feeling like a crap which I think is because my T drops.Should I increase any MICRO or all to alleviate my symptoms?I’m in my early 40

    • Unless you’re undershooting your fats, there’s no need. 20% is the minimum fat cals you should be getting from your diet.

      Give these tips a shot first, and verify with your doc that you have low T.


    One more question for you Mike. I read a lot of articles about negative effect of dairy on testosterone.Did you see that and if you did can you comment on that?Thanks

  • Andrew

    Could a high protein diet actually lower testosterone? I came across this study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17448569

    • I talk about this in the article.

      • Andrew

        Yes, you mention that high protein won’t improve testosterone levels. But there is research out there showing that it could negatively impact T levels. Thats all I’m saying.

        • Under certain circumstances, maybe, but it’s nothing for us to worry about.

  • Rex

    So you start off with “hey bullshit promises here, familar hearing this?”
    NOW “hears some overwhelming information about it (cause i’m not trying to sell you anything and never said was going to cut the sh*t) and actually some inaccurate and incorrect information in places.

    Yeah f*ck off bro.

    It’s to do with diet and minimising stress, end of.

  • PaulR

    Being 49 your body just seems to slow down a bit even when you are very fit. I have been using the Dr Max Powers Testosterone Booster to give me that edge – More energy and stamina is back so pleased. No side effects at all,started to feel effects on day two waking up with plenty of energy and ready for another busy day

  • Ronald Cox

    How much of an increase to T levels, percentage-wise, would actually be needed to spark any noticeable gain muscle mass while weight training consistently?

    • Good question. I’d say increases of 300 ng/dl and up would probably make a difference in terms of gaining muscle and strength.

  • Rata

    Found this webpage via google search for natural solutions to low T. I’m 60 yrs old male, 5’6″, 159lbs. Do not appear overweight, don’t know my body fat content. Regular doc won’t give Rx for blood test, but I have symptoms which align with low T. Your article provides many concepts to apply. I’m not specifically interested in getting results which would make me look like the photos on the page (but don’t have a problem if that is a side-effect — I get it — your site is called MuscleForLife). My goal is to do natural things that would increase my testosterone if it is low. My question is: Where do I start?

  • Tyler

    I read that forskolin increases tesstosterone, how true is that?


  • Scott j

    So quick question: I’m male 5’4″” and 123. I have always been small boned. I just turned 50. While it might seem odd…I have had a decent size belly but been doing cardio for 2 months so it’s been going down. My total t has hovered around 300….free t at like 4. I really don’t want to do trt….after losing the belly fat and implementing your regimen do you think my T level might go up closer to 500? While I have lower T I have not noticed huge symptoms other than a bit lower libido. Thoughts? Btw all other blood counts look great for me

    • Hey Scott, that’s great you’ve been making good fat loss progress. As you continue to lose weight and implement the tips above, you should start seeing an increase.

  • db

    You are talking out of your arse.

    When talking about a high fat diet you said that a 13% increase in testosterone levels will have little or no effect on the body. 13% is a significant increase and will most likely have some noticeable effect in terms of libido/mood etc., you could be right about muscle mass though.

    You clearly approached this article with preconceived ideas about a high-fat diet, and you let that affect the advice you gave to people who may or may not see you as an expert. The evidence relating to high-fat diets and testosterone levels that you cited clearly shows a positive relationship between high-fat/low-carb diets and boosting testosterone levels. Not only that, but the study you referenced, when providing ‘evidence’ for high carb diets being beneficial in improving testosterone levels in the body, is irrelevant as it is not statistically significant with a total sample size of 20. Yet you still decide to go against the evidence and recommend to your readers that they should stick to a high-carb diet.

    You did not approach this article objectively and you let your views affect your findings in spite of the evidence, which as a person who is giving advice to other people about their health, is extremely irresponsible.

    You should not write another article until you are able to put your own beliefs aside, and have the balls to admit to yourself that what you think may be wrong when the evidence clearly shows you are.

    Grow up. you are potentially affecting a lot of peoples’ health negatively by putting out this bullshit.

  • Ghostrider

    I definitely agree that when it comes to optimizing a person’s diet and activity to produce more T, the increased levels of T are almost negligible. You might get a tiny boost in the positive effects that T have such as gaining a little more muscle tone or feeling a little more energized, but it’s nothing compared to those that have synthetic T introduced into their system in doses way above the normal range.

    But another thing to consider when it comes to carbohydrates and T is that different people deal with glucose in their system differently. Some people can eat a sugary donut or some fruit, and while their blood sugar might spike momentarily, their blood sugar levels regulate fairly quickly throughout the day. Another person that eats a donut will have a blood sugar spike and then walk around the rest of the day with elevated sugar levels, only to the repeat the cycle the next day. What am I getting at? Elevated sugar levels will suppress T. It’s just another dynamic. Healthy dietary fats will increase T, but each person deals with carbs differently. So I believe the dietary ratio of carbs should be adjusted according to the individual themselves.

    • While it’s true that different people can respond to carbs differently, the variance isn’t as dramatic as you’re thinking, and they won’t affect T levels as dramatically, either.

  • Bryan

    Hey Mike, I have been following your program for a couple of years now. I am 33 years old, 6’3 and roughly 190lbs. I have not made the kind of progress that I have hoped and don’t feel like I have the energy to push hard through a lot of the workouts as much as I would really like. I try to get 8 hours of sleep every night, I eat lean meats and plenty of fruits and veggies and just feel more rundown and less energetic than I should for as “healthy” as the rest of my numbers come out from the blood work. I take Triton, Fortify, Triumph and Recharge daily and pulse as a pre-workout.

    I went and had my T tested and it came back at 318. According to their chart it is below the normal range of 350 but according to you 270 is the lower end of the scale. My doctor offered to start me on the shots but I am leery given all the research I have read. I have read your article about trying to increase it naturally and have been trying to do as many of the things I can such as better sleep, eating cruciferous veggies, meats and healthy fats. I had contemplated trying the shots for a while to see if it makes a difference in the way I feel overall. Thoughts?

    • Hey Bryan, 318 does seem to be in the normal range. You could try implementing the tips to increase T naturally, and get retested in a couple months, and see where you’re at then. Ultimately, though, I’d listen to your doctor. When’s the last time you look a deload? Maybe taking a week off would get you re-energized 🙂

  • Shravan Upadhayay

    hi Awesome Post . it contain informative information.

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  • Wayne W

    Hello, do you have any clue when levels can return to normal after a year & half cut? I’ve been eating at maintenance now for two weeks. I’m in the 7.3- 8.5 bf range,. I put the percentage higher & lower just in case my scale is off. Also, do you take personal calls for pay

    • The only way to know for sure is to get your levels checked. In the study I linked, testosterone was nearly at baseline after 3 months post-competition, but that’s a much more grueling process and bigger calorie deficit than most people will be doing.

      • Wayne W

        Thanks, where is the link

      • Wayne W

        Okay I see it. It doesn’t specify the month in the study for t, but does for some other hormones, within 1-6 months. Its amazing the athletes in this study gained back all their bodyfat from 5%-15%🤔. If they maintained 8%-12%, that probably would’ve been more optimal for T & other hormones overall & quicker.

        • Hard to say really. When you’re that lean and underfed, not being in a deficit and gaining back body fat is pretty critical for raising testosterone back up, and 15 percent really isn’t enough to make a significant dent in T levels. That study was just on a single male bodybuilder, so we can’t extrapolate the results to everyone.

  • anuroop paul

    well..!! it might sound like another loser story, but its like there was a time back in 2009 when i weighed arnd 172 pounds, and i am like 180 cms tall hitting the gym on a regular basis with the regular, protein/bcaa/glutamine/hmb routine. Then i get a sedentary job and my workouts take a hit. its 2018 now, 9 yrs down. I am 207 pounds now, desperately trying to get back to my old shape even better,but i cant, i am depressed. i am 32 yrs old. so the golden period in my life was when i was 23 yrs old.. !!
    Is this something to do with T!! i don’t know where to start. Should it be cardio/weights + cardio/ weights.
    supplementation: i thought of taking only caesin as it would make me feel full and i would eat less
    Any guidance would be great!!! a life changer!!

    And yeah.. i am generally like the average guy if you look at my arms and legs.. almost no fat or very little fat under the skin if i flex..!! its my waistline which is going exponentially strong!!!

  • mustafa

    ay up mike got a question for you alot people say u cant gain muscle and lose fat at the same time they say only beginners can however, athleanx on youtube said otherwise he knows what hes talking about so i take his word he said you can just keep protein intake high and and be in calorie deficit ? whats your take on that ? thanks

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