Understanding the impact that testosterone has on your development in the gym is paramount. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone that contributes to protein synthesis and the building of bigger muscles. At the end of the day, the goal of building muscle is why most of us are banging away at the weights 4-5 days per week. So what happens if you don’t have enough testosterone or you want more? There are obvious ways to increase your testosterone such as supplements and drugs. There is no question that these options will work, however, as I am sure you are aware, steroids are illegal and thus for me, not an option. There are, however, many supplements that do work, but that’s for another blog. So how about the foods we eat? Can they affect testosterone? The simple answer is yes! The magnitude with which these foods can influence testosterone is likely very small, although it is worth mentioning. The best approach to healthy testosterone production is a healthy diet, plenty of water, the right supplements, and of course heavy weights!
So, let’s get the bad guys out of the way! One quick internet search will find you plenty of top 10 to top 25 lists of negative testosterone affecters, but I am sticking to 3! The first culprit is good ol’ soy. Some research shows that regularly eating soy may cause a drop in testosterone levels. One study in 35 men found that drinking soy protein isolate for 54 days resulted in decreased testosterone levels. Soy foods are also high in phytoestrogens, which are plant-based substances that mimic the effects of estrogen in your body by altering hormone levels and potentially reducing testosterone. However, other research has been less conclusive and in fact shown that soy has no effect on testosterone levels. In the days of keto, paleo, and anti-carb diets, you may be dismayed to learn that some fat may be a bad guy. Several studies have also suggested that vegetable oils, such as corn and canola oils, can have a negative impact on testosterone levels. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are usually classified as a healthy source of dietary fat, but they may also decrease testosterone levels. A study of 69 men showed that frequently consuming polyunsaturated fats was associated with significantly lower testosterone levels. Now I do need to include here that cholesterol is the root of testosterone, so some high cholesterol foods in the diet are a not a bad thing. Finally, alcohol may be one of the worst “foods” in terms of a negative impact on testosterone. A study in 19 healthy adults showed that consuming 30–40 grams of alcohol per day, which equates to about 2–3 standard drinks, decreased testosterone levels in men by 6.8% over three weeks. Alcohol abuse, or long-term use, can have a negative impact on the endocrine system, which may cause a decrease in testosterone production. There is not a lot of evidence that an occasional drink will have a negative impact, but heavy drinking likely will.
So enough with the bad…let’s talk about the good! The list of “foods” that have a direct impact on testosterone is very small, in fact it’s zero. Now that may sound depressing, but hang on. Food can certainly have a positive impact on testosterone through more indirect methods. One of the hottest “food” items to help boost testosterone is a vitamin, vitamin D. Yes, that is correct, the one you get from the sun. Vitamin D is added to a ton of different foods, which makes it easier for us to meet our daily need. Foods high in vitamin D have been shown to contribute to increases in testosterone. A 12-month study found that supplementing around 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by around 25%. That is a big jump! Even more research has supported the idea that vitamin D can contribute to increases in testosterone. Other “foods” that likely contribute are those that support an anabolic environment; adequate protein intake, fibrous carbohydrates, and sufficient vitamins and minerals. A diet that is high in lean protein, full of vitamins and minerals, sufficient in calories, and devoid of starchy and sugary processed foods will likely have the most profound effect on your anabolic metabolism.