A Guide To Testosterone: Get The Edge Through Diet And Supplementation

Testosterone impacts more than your muscles and sex drive; it can affect your physiology, career, and relationships. Give yourself an "Edge" with this complete guide to testosterone.

Believe it or not, testosterone plays a large role in driving and motivating you toward reaching your goals in life. If you want to make your dreams a reality, you need to learn more about the forms of testosterone, the optimal levels specific to your age, and the natural ways to influence your levels. This knowledge will give you the edge you need to maximize your quality of life.

Unfortunately, most accessible information on this topic contains gaping holes, especially when it comes to the ranges of total, free, and bioavailable testosterone for various age groups. For example, many current references show one testosterone range for men between 19 and 70 years of age.

This article is different. If you want to learn about the relevant ranges specific to men your age, you're in the right place. I'll also explain how the composition of your diet, total calories, and supplements impact natural testosterone levels.

Effects of Testosterone Levels

Maintaining healthy levels of testosterone can provide benefits in all aspects of life. Low testosterone levels, on the other hand, can negatively impact you in ways you might not have realized.

Natural Benefits of Testosterone

  • Confidence
  • Competiveness
  • Drive to gain status and success in one's career
  • Dominance without aggression

Understanding the Different Forms of Testosterone

Your total testosterone includes three forms of testosterone that circulate in your body:

  • Testosterone tightly bound to sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG)
  • Testosterone loosely bound to a protein called albumin
  • Testosterone in an unbound state known as "free testosterone"

The combination of the two usable forms of testosterone (free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone) is called "bioavailable testosterone."

Testosterone bound to SHBG is essentially "inactivated," meaning it's unable to exert any cellular action. On the other hand, your body can utilize testosterone bound to albumin and free testosterone—that is, bioavailable testosterone—at the target tissue level.

Because free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone have the strongest effects on your body, let's take a closer look at these two.

Free testosterone can be used instantly in biochemical processes in the body—everything from skeletal muscle cells, skin, and scalp, to kidney, bone, central nervous system, and prostate tissues. Free testosterone is able to interact at the intracellular level.

Free testosterone can be used instantly in biochemical processes in the body—everything from skeletal muscle cells, skin, and scalp, to kidney, bone, central nervous system, and prostate tissues.

What does that mean from a scientific perspective? It activates transcription of specific genes in a muscle cell's nucleus and promotes the synthesis of the two primary contractile proteins, actin and myosin (muscular hypertrophy).

By having an anticatabolic effect on muscle cells, testosterone may promote mass and strength.2 More specifically, muscle growth happens when the anabolic effects of testosterone are more pronounced overall than the degenerative effects of cortisol.

Albumin-bound testosterone was once believed to be an inactive form of testosterone, much like testosterone bound to SHBG. But a growing body of evidence shows that testosterone that's weakly bound to albumin is actually disconnecting, or dissociating, and becoming bioavailable, or useable, by the body.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of optimal levels, there are a few other key facts to keep in mind as far as changes, distribution, and production of testosterone in men:

  • SHBG levels in the body typically decrease when estrogen levels decrease, and increase when estrogen levels rise.
  • The distribution of testosterone in men is typically 30-45 percent bound to SHBG and about 50-68 percent to albumin. The remaining 0.5 to 2.0 percent exists in a free, unbound state.
  • Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, with the largest amounts produced in the Leydig cells of the testes. It is also produced in smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex.
  • An adult male will manufacture 2.5-11.0 mg of testosterone per day.
  • Total testosterone levels decrease at a rate of about 1 percent per year after the age of 30.
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Optimal Testosterone Levels in Men

Total Testosterone (Males)

According to Quest Diagnostics, men between the ages of 18-89 should have total testosterone levels of 250-1100 ng/dL. This age range makes it difficult for anyone who is serious about understanding optimal testosterone levels for his specific age. Should someone in their 30s feel good with the same testosterone levels as someone in their 80s? Of course not!

If you're looking for testosterone values relevant to you, I've got them. After referencing several studies, I've listed the average total testosterone levels specific to each age group:

Age Total Testosterone Levels
20-29 years old 278-906 ng/dL
30-39 years old 300-830 ng/dL
40-49 years old 280-700ng/dL and an average of 539 ng/dL
50-59 years old 240-630 ng/dL and an average of 499 ng/dL
60-69 years old 210-540 ng/dL and an average of 502 ng/dL
70-89 years old 170-490 ng/dL3,4
Age Total Testosterone Levels
20-29 years old 278-906 ng/dL
30-39 years old 300-830 ng/dL
40-49 years old 280-700ng/dL and an average of 539 ng/dL
50-59 years old 240-630 ng/dL and an average of 499 ng/dL
60-69 years old 210-540 ng/dL and an average of 502 ng/dL
70-89 years old 170-490 ng/dL3,4

Free Testosterone (Males)

Quest Diagnostics lists healthy free-testosterone levels as 4.6-22.0 ng/dL in men ages 18-69, and 6.0-7.3 ng/dL for men over the age of 69. Mayo Medical Laboratories simply says men ages 16 and up should be in the 9-30 ng/dL range. Again, these are very broad ranges—a one-size-fits-all approach that's not specific to your needs. Here are some more specific and relevant age-related numbers:

Age Free Testosterone Levels
20-39 years old An average of 10.75 ng/dL
40-49 years old 7-26 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
50-59 years old 5-22 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
60-69 years old 5-19 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
Age Total Testosterone Levels
20-39 years old An average of 10.75 ng/dL
40-49 years old 7-26 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
50-59 years old 5-22 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)
60-69 years old 5-19 ng/dL (Normal ranges in the Deslypere study)

Bioavailable Testosterone (Males)

According to Mayo Medical Laboratories, the following breakdown outlines healthy bioavailable testosterone levels by age:

Age Bioavailable Testosterone Levels
20-29 years old 83-257 ng/dL
30-39 years old 72-235 ng/dL
40-49 years old 61-213 ng/dL
50-59 years old 50-190 ng/dL
60-69 years old 40-168 ng/dL
Age Total Testosterone Levels
20-29 years old 83-257 ng/dL
30-39 years old 72-235 ng/dL
40-49 years old 61-213 ng/dL
50-59 years old 50-190 ng/dL
60-69 years old 40-168 ng/dL

Now that you know the benefits and forms of testosterone, its physiological impact, and the healthy ranges for your age, we'll move on to triggers that lower testosterone and the natural strategies you can use to boost your testosterone levels.

Factors like psychological stress, diet, and supplement protocols are known to positively and negatively impact testosterone levels. For the scope of this article, we'll look at dietary and supplemental strategies.

If you don't have the time to dive into the explanation of each dietary strategy and nutritional supplement that impacts testosterone levels, here's a quick summary:

5 Diet and Supplement Guidelines to Optimize Testosterone Levels

1

Avoid Severe Caloric Restriction

Simply put, if you are dieting and start to go 20 percent or more below your daily caloric maintenance needs, your testosterone levels can start to decline.

In one study, men on low-calorie diets of 1,350-2,415 calories per day showed a decrease in total- and free-testosterone levels and an increase in SHBG, the protein that binds and inactivates testosterone—regardless of that fact that they were getting 100 percent of the recommended daily intake for all essential nutrients.6

2

Don't Skip Healthy Fats

Aim to get 25-30 percent of your total calories from fat, as research shows that 20 percent or less can cause your testosterone levels to drop.7-11 I recommend focusing largely on the polyunsaturated fats, followed by monounsaturated fats, followed by saturated fats. Don't leave out the saturated fats.

  • Polyunsaturated fats: Salmon, tuna, flax seed oil, walnuts, sesame, and pumpkin seeds
  • Monounsaturated fats: Olive oil, avocados, sunflower oil, sesame oil, peanut butter, canola oil
  • Saturated fats: Coconut oil, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, milk, cheese, butter, and animal sources of protein


3

Consume More Carbohydrates Than Protein

Diets that are lower in carbohydrates to protein or equal in carbohydrates to protein (1:1 ratio) can lower your testosterone levels.12,13 If you want to maximize your testosterone levels, stick to a higher carbohydrate-to-protein ratio diet of 2:1 or greater.

For example, if you're a 200-pound male aiming to consume a gram of protein per pound of body weight (200 grams), you would need to consume at least 400 grams of carbohydrates to hit the ratio needed to optimize your natural testosterone levels.

4

Use Supplements to Give You An Edge

Certain supplements may support testosterone levels:



  • Fenugreek: Fenugreek extract has been shown to promote both bioavailable and free-testosterone levels naturally within the body. Based on available research, it's believed that fenugreek can decrease the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, thereby increasing overall natural testosterone levels, through naturally-occurring saponins within the seeds of the fenugreek plant.14-15
  • Longjack: Longjack works to support free testosterone by inhibiting sex hormone-biding globulin (SHBG), which binds to testosterone and makes it unusable. The end result? More free testosterone—the kind your body can utilize.16,17
  • Diindolylmethane (DIM): DIM is an anti-estrogen ingredient, supporting a more favorable testosterone-to-estrogen ratio.
  • D-aspartic acid (DAA): Taking 2-3 grams per day for 1-3 months has been shown to promote testosterone.18
  • Tribulus: This extract of tribulus alatus (Testafuranol) which is high in beta-sitosterol and furostanolic saponins, has been shown to support libido and naturally boost testosterone levels.19
  • Coleus forskohlii: 250 milligrams (standardized to 10% forskolin) taken twice a day for 12 weeks may promote testosterone.20 This herb can be tough on your stomach, so start at a lower 100-milligram dose and assess your tolerance.
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5

Know Your Vitamin D-3 and Zinc Levels

If you're deficient in either vitamin D-3 or zinc—which is more common than once thought—your testosterone levels will decrease. If you are not deficient in either, taking more will not support your testosterone levels. Your multivitamin/mineral or testosterone supplement should include these supportive vitamins and minerals.

Specific dosing will depend on your own natural levels, which you can find out by having your doctor perform a simple blood test.

How Do You Live at the Edge?

You're on a mission. You know it's going to take hard work to reach your goals, and you know the best things in life never come easy. You have to earn them—there aren't any miracle pills or shortcuts—but there are strategies and tools that can have a tremendous impact on your progress and performance.

At AE, we're on this mission with you, fully committed to sharing the knowledge, strategies, and tools that will give you the edge you need to fight against your challenges, train with passion, and achieve your fitness goals.

If you follow these research-backed nutritional and supplemental guidelines, you'll optimize your natural testosterone levels, pushing you to reach your highest potential in your training and in your life.

References

  1. Seidman, S. N. (2006). Androgens and the aging male. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 40(4), 205-218.
  2. Kicman, A. T. (2008). Pharmacology of anabolic steroids. British Journal of Pharmacology, 154(3), 502-521.
  3. Schatzl, G., Madersbacher, S., Temml, C., Krenn-Schinkel, K., Nader, A., Sregi, G., ... & Marberger, M. (2003). Serum androgen levels in men: impact of health status and age. Urology, 61(3), 629-633.
  4. Araujo, A. B., O'Donnell, A. B., Brambilla, D. J., Simpson, W. B., Longcope, C., Matsumoto, A. M., & McKinlay, J. B. (2004). Prevalence and incidence of androgen deficiency in middle-aged and older men: estimates from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 89(12), 5920-5926.
  5. Deslypere, J. P., & Vermeulen, A. (1984). Leydig Cell Function in Normal Men: Effect of Age, Life-Style, Residence, Diet, and Activity. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 59(5), 955-962.
  6. Cangemi, R., Friedmann, A. J., Holloszy, J. O., & Fontana, L. (2010). Long?term effects of calorie restriction on serum sex?hormone concentrations in men. Aging Cell, 9(2), 236-242.
  7. Hämäläinen E, Adlercreutz H, Puska P, Pietinen P. (1984). Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 20(1):459-64.
  8. Dorgan, J. F., Judd, J. T., Longcope, C., Brown, C., Schatzkin, A., Clevidence, B. A., ... & Taylor, P. R. (1996). Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 64(6), 850-855.
  9. Reed, M. J., Cheng, R. W., Simmonds, M., Richmond, W., & James, V. H. T. (1987). Dietary lipids: an additional regulator of plasma levels of sex hormone binding globulin. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 64(5), 1083-1085.
  10. Wang, C., Catlin, D. H., Starcevic, B., Heber, D., Ambler, C., Berman, N., ... & Swerdloff, R. S. (2005). Low-fat high-fiber diet decreased serum and urine androgens in men. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90(6), 3550-3559.
  11. Hämäläinen EK, Adlercreutz H, Puska P, Pietinen P. (1983). Decrease of serum total and free testosterone during a low-fat high-fibre diet. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, 18(3). 369-70.
  12. Anderson, K. E., Rosner, W., Khan, M. S., New, M. I., Pang, S., Wissel, P. S., & Kappas, A. (1987). Diet-hormone interactions: protein/carbohydrate ratio alters reciprocally the plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective binding globulins in man. Life Sciences, 40(18), 1761-1768.
  13. Kappas, A., Anderson, K. E., Conney, A. H., Pantuck, E. J., Fishman, J., & Bradlow, H. L. (1983). Nutrition-endocrine interactions: induction of reciprocal changes in the delta 4-5 alpha-reduction of testosterone and the cytochrome P-450-dependent oxidation of estradiol by dietary macronutrients in man. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 80(24), 7646-7649.
  14. Wilborn, C., Taylor, L., Poole, C., Foster, C., Willoughby, D., & Kreider, R. (2010). Effects of a Purported Aromatase and 5 ?-Reductase Inhibitor on Hormone Profiles in College-Age Men. International Journal of Sport Nutrition,20(6), 457.
  15. Poole, C., Bushey, B., Pena, E., Constancio, E., Jones, T., Dufour, F., ... & Wilborn, C. (2009). Effects of TESTOSURGE supplementation on strength, body composition and hormonal profiles during an 8-week resistance training program. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 6(Suppl 1), P11.
  16. Tambi, M. I. B. M., Imran, M. K., & Henkel, R. R. (2012). Standardised water?soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late?onset hypogonadism? Andrologia, 44(s1), 226-230.
  17. Henkel, R. R., Wang, R., Bassett, S. H., Chen, T., Liu, N., Zhu, Y., & Tambi, M. I. (2014). Tongkat Ali as a potential herbal supplement for physically active male and female seniors—a pilot study. Phytotherapy Research, 28(4), 544-550.
  18. Topo, E., Soricelli, A., D'Aniello, A., Ronsini, S., & D'Aniello, G. (2009). The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 7(120), 1482-1488.
  19. Kohut, M. L., Thompson, J. R., Campbell, J., Brown, G. A., Vukovich, M. D., Jackson, D. A., & King, D. S. (2003). Ingestion of a dietary supplement containing dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione has minimal effect on immune function in middle-aged men. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 22(5), 363-371.
  20. Godard, M. P., Johnson, B. A., & Richmond, S. R. (2005). Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men. Obesity Research, 13(8), 1335-1343.
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