Most bodybuilders know that there's an important relationship between high testosterone levels and they body's ability to increase muscle mass to a significant
degree. And likely, you already know that testosterone is the quintessential male hormone. What you may not know about testosterone however, is how you should
go about increasing your body's levels - without resorting to the black market.
Sure, training, taking supplements and following a proper nutrition program will help you keep your testosterone levels up. Over the last few years however, the
scientific community has provided many answers as to how you can really maximize your testosterone. The various research findings provide many practical
strategies .for those seeking to enhance testosterone for athletic performance and muscle building. Before we explain these though, it's important to better
understand what testosterone is and how it works in the human body.
"Testosterone is an androgenic-anabolic steroid hormone that's derived from cholesterol, released by the testes and the adrenal cortex (in small amounts) in
males," says Dwayne Jackson, PhD, and professor at the University of Western Ontario (London). Testosterone is the main player responsible for male secondary
sex characteristics such as body hair, muscle development, body composition, aggression* deepness of voice and bone mass. Women also secrete testosterone from
their ovaries, and in far smaller amounts than men do.
While testosterone performs numerous functions in the body, most bodybuilders are interested in how it affects their physiques, "Adequate blood testosterone
concentration is integral to the production and maturation of sperm, maintaining the male reproductive system and libido" Jackson says. "In terms of muscle
growth, testosterone stimulates protein synthesis, making this hormone a major player in muscular development."
The amount of testosterone in your bloodstream is a determining factor for how much muscle mass you can build and maintain. The normal range for total testosterone
in males is 270-1,100 ng/dl. Free testosterone declines naturally with age. (See "Your Final Exam" for normal ranges.) "The best way to find out your testosterone
levels is to have a blood test" Jackson says. You can do this through your doctor or using an in-home blood test. "Some signs that your testosterone levels may be
depressed are low libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased energy level* depression and. in extreme cases, hot flashes/' If you're experiencing a range of these
symptoms, Jackson advises that you see your physician for a physical and blood work."
BOOST YOUR TEST SCORE
Now that you have an understanding of how testosterone works in the body, you're ready to start boosting your own levels. You can implement as many of the following
strategies as necessary to increase your testosterone levels.
1. Follow an overload weight-training program using compound movements.
One of the best ways to increase muscle growth is to follow a training protocol that stimulates the highest release of testosterone. To do this, you should
emphasize heavy compound moves in your weight training: Squats, deadlifts and bench presses should form the core of your training. These multijoint exercises
stimulate more testosterone release than do detail moves such as concentration curls, rope pressdowns or flyes.
Jackson adds that load volume is the most important factor in stimulating free testosterone release. "New research shows that completing 10 reps at 75% of your
one-rep max with two minutes of rest between sets results in the greatest testosterone release. So, the strategy that was taught in the '60s is still correct:
Overload for growth."
2. Keep training volume moderate during each weight-training session.
For best results, keep the length of your training sessions to about 60 minutes, and no more than 75 minutes. A lot of guys think the more training volume they
include in a workout, the more they'll stimulate muscle growth. Unfortunately, two-hour workouts can lead to overtraining along with a cascade of catabolic hormones,
which tear down muscle tissue. With two-minute rest intervals between sets, you should be able to perform workouts of about 20 sets in 60 minutes, and this strategy
is better for boosting testosterone levels and increasing muscle mass than is training excessively.
3. Emphasize recovery between training sessions.
If weight training stimulates testosterone production, then more frequent weight training sessions should stimulate even more testosterone production, right? Wrong,
says Jackson. "Rest and recovery are really important for maintaining high testosterone levels. Keep in mind that overtraining - from too much in one session or too
many training days without rest - will result in a disturbance in the anabolic/catabolic hormone balance." When you overtrain, Cortisol and other catabolic hormones
increase and testosterone levels decrease, severely hindering your muscle-building goals. Jackson recommends a periodized training program that includes adequate
rest and recovery.
One common training protocol is to include four weight-training sessions a week with a two-on/one-off/two-on/two-off rhythm. "Above all, you should listen to your
body," cautions Jackson. If you feel any signs of overtraining (fatigue, soreness, increased resting heart rate, insomnia or a need for more sleep), then take the
day off. Doing so is better than risk overtraining and undercutting your goals.
4. Keep your cardio moderate.
Another way to overtrain is to perform cardio exercise that's too intense. Long, challenging bouts of cardio also encourage the release of catabolic hormones. You
may think you're doing the most to display your muscle mass by cutting bodyfat, but this type of training tends to undercut testosterone levels, and thus muscle mass.
Save this type of cardio training for times when your primary focus is to reduce bodyfat. While you're trying to boost your testosterone levels you should instead
keep your cardio moderate - limit both the intensity and duration. Three 30-minute sessions a week, performed at a moderate intensity (walking on a treadmill with
a moderate incline or riding a stationary bike at a steady pace) are adequate to control bodyfat while your primary goal is building muscle by boosting testosterone
5. Take Tribulus Terrestris
Tribulus terrestris is an herb that grows in North America and Asia, and has been used as an aphrodisiac for centuries. It's no surprise, then, that it can help raise
your testosterone levels. Research has shown that Tribulus terrestris stimulates the pituitary gland to release more luteinizing hormone (LH), which stimulates
testosterone production. The active component in tribulus is a saponin known as protodioscin.
For maximum testosterone boosting, take a supplement that provides 500-2,000 milligrams of furostanolic saponins per day. Jackson suggests you look for products that
list the standardized extracts and their percent standardization. Tribulus products should contain a minimum of 80% total saponins and 40% protodioscin.
As for timing your supplements, divide your total daily dosage into 2-3 separate doses, taking one dose within an hour before your workout on your training days.
Saponin-based products should be cycled for best results. Take Tribulus for an eight-week cycle, followed by 2-4 weeks off the product before you begin another Tribulus
6. Try Fenugreek.
Similar to the effects of Tribulus terristris, the fenugreek herb also provides saponins that stimulate the release of LH. As with Tribulus, fenugreek stimulates
testosterone production in the testicles.
For the best results, take a dose comparable to that of Tribulus: 500-2,000 milligrams per day. Split this total amount over 2-3 doses, taking one in the hour before
your workout on your training days. Remember, your total intake of saponins should be within the 500-2,000 milligrams range per day. So, if you're taking both Tribulus
and fenugreek, the combined intake of both should be reduced to no more than 2,000 milligrams to keep you within range of the total.
As mentioned before, saponin-based products should be cycled for best results. Take fenugreek for an eight-week cycle, followed by 2-4 weeks off before you begin another
7. Use Tongkat Ali.
While it may sound like the name of an offspring of the infamous boxer, Tongkat Ali is really another name for Eurycoma longifolia Jack. This medicinal herb works through
a different mechanism than Tribulus and fenugreek, so it's a good complement for these saponin-based supplements. Tongkat Ali helps to free up bound testosterone so it
can be used by muscle tissue more effectively.
Look for a product that offers 20:1 strength (as quality varies considerably with this supplement). Take 300 milligrams per day, five days a week for up to eight weeks,
then cycle off for two weeks.
8. Use 6-OXO, an anti-aromatase, to further boost testosterone levels.
6-OXO (3, 6, 17-androstenetrione) is an anti-aromatase compound that helps to keep estrogen levels low while ensuring that free testosterone remains elevated. Research
has shown that 6-OXO can more than double the testosterone levels in healthy men.
Take 300-600 milligrams in one dosage with your last meal of the day. Cycle 6-OXO: Do 4-6 weeks on, 4-6 weeks off.
9. Emphasize testosterone-boosting protein foods.
You already know that you need to provide your body with plenty of amino acids in the form of dietary protein to provide the raw materials for muscle growth. It shouldn't
come as much of a surprise, then, that a diet high in protein also helps to boost testosterone levels. Several high-protein foods have been shown to have a particularly
beneficial effect on increasing testosterone levels. These foods include oysters, lean cuts of beef, eggs, chicken and turkey breasts, and cottage cheese. You should
consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight each day - more than this amount may even provide additional benefits. A 200-pound bodybuilder should eat
between 200-300 grams of protein each day.
10. Eat plenty of testosterone-boosting vegetables.
Vegetables contain all sorts of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients, many of which are beneficial for creating an anabolic environment by boosting testosterone
levels. Three of the standout vegetables are broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts. All three are high in indoles, which are nutrients that help to reduce the estrogenic
effects of estradiol (a form of estrogen found in both men and women that undercuts testosterone levels). For the best results, include at least two large servings of
these vegetables each day.
11. Add saturated fats (in moderation) to your diet.
When you take in plenty of fats, your testosterone levels rise (on the other hand, when your bodyfat level increases too quickly, your testosterone levels can decrease).
The key is to get in enough dietary fat without dramatically increasing your bodyfat level. Strive to get in about 4 calories per pound of bodyweight from dietary fat
(including both healthy and saturated fats) each day - thus, a 200-pound bodybuilder should consume about 800 calories from fat, or about 90 grams per day (800 calories /
9 calories per gram for fat = 88.9 grams). Split the difference between healthy fats and saturated fats as each has individual advantages. Healthy fats provide energy and
encourage heart health. Saturated fats boost testosterone levels by providing raw materials the body needs to make testosterone.
12. Make sure you consume the right amount of calories each day.
Testosterone levels are affected by how many calories you consume, and by your level of bodyfat. If you don't eat enough calories or if you carry too much bodyfat, then
you probably aren't maximizing your testosterone levels. You should slowly be adding bodyweight while you're on a pro-gram to increase muscle mass and testosterone levels.
To do so, you should be getting in at least 18 calories for each pound of body-weight. That means a 200-pound bodybuilder should be consuming at least 3,600 calories each
day (18 x 200 = 3,600), with an upper limit of about 4,000 calories per day. If your bodyweight is dropping, then it's a sign you aren't eating enough, you're overtraining,
or both. Increase calorie consumption by taking note of the other dietary strategies on this list and make certain that you're staying within the parameters of the training
protocol explained earlier in this article.
The good news is that if you're following the other diet recommendations on this list, you're probably meeting this one as well. The bad news is that you don't want to add
too much weight too quickly, so if you're adding more than a pound or two of bodyweight each week, you should back off the calories. Increasing your level of bodyfat
effectively diminishes your testosterone levels. If you're adding too much bodyfat, strive to take in 16-17 calories for each pound of bodyweight.