What Is Testosterone?
Testosterone is a type of androgen, a group of hormones responsible for male traits and reproductive activity. It is involved in the development of male secondary sexual characteristics, fertility, muscle mass, bone mass, fat distribution, and red blood production. This hormone is produced in the testicles. The ovaries and adrenal glands in females also produce testosterone in small amounts.
Apart from being the male sex hormone, testosterone also helps in muscle building and stimulates muscle growth by increasing protein synthesis. Studies show that increased testosterone levels can increase muscle mass, strength, and endurance.
The brain and pituitary gland regulate the production of testosterone.
Testosterone levels rapidly increase during puberty and early adulthood and start dropping as you grow older.
Anabolic steroids, synthetic substances that resemble testosterone, are banned by most sports organizations. They can improve athletic performance and build muscle faster. Anabolic steroids are used for the treatment of hormone problems in men and other diseases. They need to be consumed only on prescription from a healthcare professional.
Testosterone and Exercise
Testosterone levels increase after exercise briefly. This varies with the type and intensity of exercise. High-intensity exercises, endurance, and resistance training can boost testosterone levels more compared to other types of exercise.
Several studies have documented the effect of exercise on testosterone levels. Testosterone levels temporarily increase after exercise.
People who want to build more muscle often resort to several exercises that can boost testosterone.
How Does Genetics Influence Testosterone?
SHBG Gene and Testosterone Levels
SHBG gene encodes for SHBG protein produced in the liver. It is involved in the transport of 3 sex hormones: estrogen, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and testosterone throughout the blood. It also regulates the levels of testosterone in the body.
rs12150660 is an SNP located in the SHBG gene and influences protein concentrations. The minor allele, the G allele, alters the binding affinity of the gene and results in lower testosterone levels.
ACTN3 Gene and Testosterone Levels
ACTN3 gene is primarily expressed in skeletal muscle. This gene codes for a protein called Alpha-Actinin-3, which is necessary for producing explosive power contractions. This gene has been extensively studied in link with human physical performance, fitness, and athletic ability.
rs1815739 is an SNP in the ACTN3 gene with two alleles, R and non-functional X. According to a study, the R allele is associated with increased testosterone levels, whereas the X allele has decreased testosterone levels.
Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Testosterone
Age: Testosterone levels are higher during puberty and early adult life. They decrease with age.
Weight: People who are overweight or obese are found to have lower testosterone levels. Such people benefit from naturally increasing testosterone levels as it helps remove fat from the body.
Time: Testosterone levels are usually higher in the morning and lowest in the afternoon. Research shows that strength training in the evening boosts hormone levels to a greater extent than training done in the morning.
Fitness: When you initially start training, you may experience a bigger boost of testosterone. As you keep training, your body gets used to the changes in hormone levels, and the boost will be lower.
Effects of Abnormally High Testosterone Levels
Effects of Low Testosterone Levels
- Low sexual drive
- Loss of muscle mass
- Decreased bone mass
- Hot flashes
- Low energy levels
Recommendations To Maintain Testosterone Levels
There are several ways to increase testosterone naturally. These include:
Exercise is an effective way to boost testosterone levels and keep you healthy and fit. Resistance training like weight-lifting is found to be the most effective exercise to boost levels after a workout. The effects vary based on sex, age, and body composition.
Endurance training like cycling or running is shown to increase cortisol levels and lower levels of testosterone. Endurance training combined with cardio exercises can help maintain cortisol levels and muscle mass.
Different forms have exercise have varied effects on testosterone levels.
A diet high in protein, fats, and carbs is beneficial for maintaining hormone levels and health.
Spinach, almonds, cashews, and peanuts are a good source of magnesium, which helps maintain testosterone levels.
There are a few natural testosterone boosters that are supported by research. These include a herb called ashwagandha. Studies show that this herb can increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol levels(https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26609282/). Ginger extract may also increase hormone levels.
Long-term stress leads to higher cortisol levels and lowers testosterone levels. Reducing stress is necessary for leading a healthy lifestyle and maintaining hormone levels.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
- Testosterone, also called the male sex hormone, is necessary for the development of male secondary sexual characteristics, fertility, muscle mass, bone mass, fat distribution, and red blood production.
- Exercise can boost testosterone levels temporarily. In the long run, exercise and increased testosterone levels are important for building strong muscles.
- The G allele of SNP rs12150660 found in the SHBG gene and the X allele of SNP rs1815739 found in the ACTN3 gene is associated with decreased testosterone levels.
- Age, weight, and fitness level also have an impact on levels of testosterone in the body.
- There are several natural ways of increasing hormone levels. These include resistance training, a high protein, fat, and carb diet, reducing stress, taking zinc or vitamin D supplements, and getting ample rest.