Ah, testosterone. One of the great anabolic-androgenic hormones of the human body. And other mammals. And reptiles. And birds.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone primarily released from the sex organs of both males and females, but also by the adrenal glands. It is both anabolic (constructive) and androgenic (characterizing males). As such, males have 15-20 times greater production of testosterone as females. It promotes muscle mass, bone mass, and body hair, among many other things.
Manliness is (by the Oxford Dictionary) the traditional male quality of being brave and strong. One can easily see how testosterone, low-t, and confidence levels can affect one’s perceived “manliness.”
Low testosterone is a recent phenomenon that has sparked a drug-war on hypogonadism. And it’s casualties are getting younger and younger. If you self-diagnosis via the interweb, you will find that the symptoms of low-t (as it’s called) include reduced sex drive, decreased energy levels, increased bodyfat levels, reduced muscle mass, and mood changes (being whiney).
In fact, some people would even have you believe that decreased strength and endurance or falling asleep after you eat could be a sign of low testosterone. And you’ll need some sort of fancy medical therapy to fix it.
But hold on there, Slick. All of these qualities sound like those of your average guy in his 20’s or 30’s that hasn’t been working out regularly because he has a full-time job and just got married. Sound familiar? Yes, your testosterone may be low. But no, you probably don’t need drugs to fix it.
Your “condition” might not be a condition. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you could improve it by doing a few simple things.
- Lift some weights.
- Eat a bit cleaner.
- De-stress regularly.
- Sleep more.
- Do manly things on a regular basis.
But let’s take a look at why what you’re doing now is pulling you down into a Mordor of low-testosterone and decreased overall manliness.
1. Not Lifting Weights
You like running. I get that. Exercise is fun. Maybe that cute girl from work likes 5k’s. So you start running 5k’s with her. It works for a bit because she likes that you like to do the same things she does. But it doesn’t stay like that. Your muscles are saying, “Peace out, man. You don’t need us.” They’re leaving and you’re getting softer.
At this point, you’ve been friend-zoned and there’s probably no coming back because she’s already hooked on the guy from three cubicles down that drives a Ferd F-Teenthousand and wrestles polar bears. Sound like you? Maybe not.
Maybe your girlfriend likes doing Insanity or some other crazy video program. Is it okay to work out with her one day a week? Maybe. (Although that might even be pushing it.) But you can’t be jumping around like a 5th grader in gym class and expect to look like a college running back.
You need to lift some weights. Let me say it again. You need to lift heavy weights to look like you lift weights. But maybe you don’t have any goals when it comes to lifting. You don’t like the weights at the gym because they’re intimidating.
Well, you need to get over that. Look, I know this section has been harsh, but it’s true. Resistance training is (in my opinion) your first priority when it comes to getting your testosterone levels back to normal and commandeering your life like you should be doing.
Here are some guidelines.
- Lift heavy. Like 85-95% heavy. In fact, don’t even come to me complaining about your low-t levels unless your powerlifting total is at least 750 lbs or your Olympic total is above 100 kg (that’s around 220 lbs). And those numbers aren’t even high. Bottom line though, your weights need to be heavy. Not pink dumbbell heavy. Not 30 lbs dumbbell heavy, either.
- To go along with that, you’re obviously using large muscle groups. Cleans. Deads. Squats. Presses. Chins. Rows. Snatches. Anything that involves a sled or a Prowler.
- You need some volume. You can’t walk in a perform 3 sets of 10 dumbbell curls, even with 60 lb dumbbells, and expect this wild hormonal response. Heavy weight. Big muscles. If you’re doing all of those things, the volume should take care of itself. Just don’t go crazy. Crazy volume induces overtraining and overtraining makes you softer too.
- Short rest. Not on your squat triples. On your accessory stuff. Maybe some ring chin-ups or dumbbell row.. You could get by with one minute rest intervals. Make sure to utilize all sorts of rest interval ranges.
I’m not saying you need to bench 800 lbs, but have you ever met a guy that benched even 315 lbs that didn’t have the confidence of a walrus during mating season? Go lift some weight. And sprint a little while you’re at it. Sprinting is awesome too.
2. Eating Like Jabba the Hut
Nothing will make you soft quicker than a soft-guy diet. The only time you should be eating chocolate is when you’re eating the darkest chocolate you can find for the antioxidants. And nobody ever developed a physique worth Instagramming via pizza and beer.
Steak. Chicken. Fish. The fewer legs, the better.
Vegetables. Green, orange, yellow, red, blue, purple, and white. You should strive for all the colors of the rainbow.
Carbs. That’s rice, potatoes, quinoa, and oats (if you enjoy gluten).
And healthy fats. Like avocado or coconut oil.
Why does your diet matter? Because without enough protein, bye-bye muscles. Without carbs, bye-bye quality workouts and then, by default, bye-bye muscles and good hormone levels. And lastly, it is suspected (though not proven) that strength-training athletes utlizing diets high(er) in saturated fats have higher testosterone levels. Sounds good to me.
Investigate dieting a bit if you’re still confused. Read through my insulin-based nutrition posts and then read everything you can on diet from guys like Nate Miyaki, Jason Ferruggia, Adam Bornstein, and John Romaniello. They should have some advice for you.
Stress increases cortisol. I touched on cortisol in my insulin-based nutrition series. It is the stress hormone and doesn’t do good things for your body. When you get stressed, cortisol diverts energy away from anabolic, awesome things like repairing muscles (to make them bigger and stronger), burning through glucose, and fixing you when you’re sick.
Instead, cortisol saves glucose and burns through amino acids.
Now, your muscles are wasting away and your bodyfat level is going nowhere but up. And what does that do? It stresses you out more. Because now, not only did you miss the deadline on that final essay or work project, but you’re getting softer and your girlfriend doesn’t want to cuddle you.
4. You Sleep Like My Cat
Only for a few hours at a time and always with your eyes half-open. Poor-quality sleep has been linked to significant decreases in testosterone. Get some sleep.
And make it quality. Your room should be dark. Your computer, phone, and IPad should all be off. Like I tell my clients, you should be getting at least six hours of sleep, hopefully 7-9, and ideally ten or more.
Moreover, poor-quality sleep also impacts your growth hormone release. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl, growth hormone does lots of good things for you (protein synthesis, elevated immune function, and increased availability of free fatty acids).
Here, I will also address 5. You classify froyo dates, spin classes, and shopping for cute undies as “manly activities.”
Just watch this video. If you haven’t figured out my thoughts on this subject by now, I’m not sure that I can help you.
I’m not a male chauvinist. But I will say that men and women are different animals and what may be good for one is not necessarily good for another (even though we all know that girls should be lifting heavy too). Guys, if you think you have low-t, these are some of my suggestions to you. All I know is that you should try them all first before you decide that you need drugs to fix the problem.
Whether it’s reduced sex drive, decreased confidence, a deteriorating body composition, gynecomastia, or any combination of those, check these things off your list first:
Lift some weights. Eat clean(er). Sleep. And don’t stress.
Oh, and here’s the Summer’s Eve commercial if you haven’t seen it. As a final note, I fall asleep after I eat all the time and I’m like 99.9% sure that I don’t have low-t.