The male hormone testosterone is not just essential for producing male characteristics and enhancing libido, but as one of the most anabolic hormones produced by the body, it is essential for building muscle. The importance of diet to health cannot be overstated. What you eat has a profound impact on the way your body functions, including hormone levels. A healthy, balanced diet is a fantastic place to start, but there are some foods that can play a big role in optimising testosterone levels. Click through the links to read more about these foods and their active ingredients.
Eggs were a bodybuilding staple in the days before protein powder, and should still be. Aside from being high in protein, eggs are rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, a hormone-like vitamin, which is associated with higher testosterone production. Eggs also contain cholesterol, which has copped a bad rap for too long. Recent research has suggested that cholesterol and heart disease are not as tightly linked as first thought. Our bodies actually need cholesterol for a number of reasons, including production of hormones like testosterone. Get cracking!
Fish is a great choice for anyone's diet, but there are a few reasons salmon is the best of the best. Firstly, it has the highest level of vitamin D out of any fish, which makes it ideal to support testosterone production. On top of this, salmon provides the body with lean protein, and it is rich in omega-3, which has more benefits than can be counted.
As we just read, seafood, in general, is of benefit for testosterone production, but certain foods really stand out from the pack. Oysters are another one of these. The mythology surrounding oysters and libido has some basis in fact because oysters can increase levels of testosterone through their high zinc content. Zinc has a strong association with testosterone levels and oysters pack a megadose of this vital mineral.
Cruciferous Vegetables – Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, Brussels Sprouts and more
If Popeye had switched from spinach to cabbage, he could have been a monster. This is because cruciferous vegetables naturally contain a molecule called indole-3-carbinol, which becomes a molecule called diindolylmethane or DIM though the process of digestion. DIM is a powerful aromatase inhibitor, which means it prevents an enzyme in our bodies called aromatase from changing testosterone into the female hormone, oestrogen. If you're not man enough to eat your vegies, a greens supplement will do you a world of good, and if you want DIM on its own, you can buy it as a powder from Elemental Nutrition.
Stock up on Listerine, because garlic has been shown to help the body build muscle. Not only does garlic up the production of LH, the hormone that tells our bodies to produce testosterone, but it also decreases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can promote muscle breakdown. Garlic allows the body to make the most of the protein it takes in, so use it to season high protein foods like meat and fish.
Red grapes are rich in a compound known as resveratrol that has a lot of scientists very excited. Not only is it a powerful antioxidant, but it is thought to promote nitric oxide synthesis which is important in muscle pump, and it has shown promise as a weight loss aid. But grapes are on this list because resveratrol is able to bind to and block oestrogen receptors, tipping the balance away from this muscle-inhibiting female hormone that, believe it or not, all men produce in small quantities.
Why did we tell you to go for red grapes and not red wine, which is also a potent source of resveratrol? Unfortunately for people who like a drink, alcohol is well known for its ability to inhibit testosterone production in men, amongst other negatives, including reduced protein synthesis, weight gain, and of course, if you're in the pub, you're not in the gym. Beer drinkers have a second blow coming – the hops used to flavour most beers are rich in an analogue of female hormone oestrogen. Try to abstain, but if you fancy the odd drink, switch out beer for red wine.
Throughout history, pomegranate has been associated with fertility, and there has been a lot of research demonstrating the ability of this fruit to increase testosterone levels. It can also interfere with the oestrogen receptors, lowering the effect of this hormone. On top of this, pomegranate is a super antioxidant and it is thought that it can improve outcomes in men with prostate cancer. Making pomegranate juice a daily habit is a great move, not only for testosterone levels and muscle building, but for overall health.
What better to throw into a fruit salad with pomegranate than pineapple? Like eggs, pineapples have historically been associated with muscle building, but have been all but forgotten about in recent years. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which helps the body maintain high testosterone levels during strenuous exercise during which it would otherwise be depleted (1). It also reduces exercise induced muscle damage. Pineapples may not always be in season, but the good news is that bromelain is an ingredient in a lot of protein powders because it is also a protease, which is a type of enzyme that helps the body digest protein.
There has been a bit of a backlash in some quarters, but we're here to tell you that a moderate intake of dairy can do wonders for your testosterone levels. Not only is dairy high in testosterone boosting vitamin D, but it is rich in calcium. Research has shown that calcium enhances the effects of testosterone releasing hormone LH, and that calcium can increase the effects of exercise on testosterone levels (2). We already know dairy is the best quality protein, so this is a no brainer. Pack your diet full of milk, cheese and healthy dairy, and supplement using whey or casein, and you'll be well on your way to a better body.
(1) Shing CM, Chong S, Driller MW, Fell JW. Acute protease supplementation effects on muscle damage and recovery across consecutive days of cycle racing. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015 Jan 21:1-7.
(2) Vedat Cinar, Abdulkerim Kasim Baltaci, Rasim Mogulkoc, Mehmet Kilic. Testosterone Levels in Athletes at Rest and Exhaustion: Effects of Calcium Supplementation. Biological Trace Element Research June 2009, Volume 129, Issue 1-3, pp 65-69