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4 ways to boost testosterone

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MedicationsSleepDietExerciseSupplementsWhat to avoidRisks and benefitsSummary
Aging can cause testosterone to decline, but there are different ways to boost testosterone levels, like supplements, dietary changes, medications, and staying active.
Medically reviewed by Matt Coward, MD, FACS
Written by D. M. Pollock
Updated on October 26, 2023

Testosterone is an important hormone that contributes to the healthy functioning of many different bodily processes, from muscle building to maintaining heart health. As you age, your levels of testosterone start to decline.

As people nowadays are living longer than ever before, we are starting to see different signs of aging. The gradual decline of testosterone may be one change you notice.

There are other reasons why levels of testosterone may drop, including:

  • cancer treatment
  • stress
  • alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • obesity
  • infection

But there are different ways to raise your testosterone levels, including medications and lifestyle options.

1. Medications

A man doing a plank on a yoga mat, which is a way to boost testosterone.
Photography by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

If a doctor diagnoses you with low testosterone levels, they may refer to it as hypogonadism. If the doctor cannot identify a reason behind it, like weight gain, they may suggest testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

TRT comes in many different forms, with over 70% of people who take TRT opting for gels that you rub onto the skin of your shoulders or hips.

Testosterone cypionate (Depo-Testosterone) is another type of TRT, a prescription injection that you receive once every 2 weeks. Another option is testosterone enanthate (Delatestryl).

Other ways of taking TRT include:

  • skin patches
  • oral tablets
  • intranasal gels
  • pellets that a doctor places under your skin

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2. Sleep

Disrupted sleep is another factor that can lead to low testosterone levels. According to some research, how much sleep you get and how restful that sleep is can affect your testosterone levels. Sleep apnea, a condition where your sleep is disturbed, also has a link with low testosterone.

But often, instead of treating the low testosterone with TRT, experts would prefer to treat the underlying cause by improving your sleep. So, getting more restful sleep and sleeping for longer can help to boost your testosterone levels.

3. Diet

A nutritious diet is important to keep your body functioning well, and testosterone production is no exception to this.

Healthy fats

Making sure your diet is rich in healthy fats is essential for keeping your testosterone levels healthy. A review from 2021 notes how individuals with low fat diets have lower testosterone levels than individuals with high fat diets.

Foods rich in healthy fats include:

  • oily fish
  • avocado
  • olive oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • eggs

Antioxidants

Oxidative stress is the medical term for the gradual damage of cells in your body that worsens as you age. It can reduce the amount of testosterone in your bloodstream and disrupt the processes that your sex cells carry out, such as sperm production.

Antioxidants are present in lots of food groups and help to protect your body from the effects of oxidative stress.

Research from 2020 demonstrates how increasing your daily intake of antioxidants can increase your testosterone levels within 6 months.

You can increase your antioxidant intake by including the following foods in your diet:

  • leafy greens
  • berries
  • artichokes
  • beans
  • beets
  • spinach
  • drinks like green tea

4. Exercise

If you do not incorporate much exercise into your daily routine, you may be more likely to have lower levels of testosterone.

Increasing the amount of weight training and resistance exercise you incorporate into your routine can increase your testosterone levels. However, this effect decreases with age and if you are overweight.

Exercise helps testosterone levels through weight loss and improved metabolism and glucose levels.

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Other research

You may have heard that certain supplements can help boost your testosterone levels. Research shows that this can be true, but you would need to take them continuously throughout your life, or your testosterone levels will drop again. For this reason, doctors do not recommend these as treatments.

Some research on testosterone-boosting supplements includes:

  • Vitamin D supplements: According to research from 2019, low vitamin D levels have associations with low testosterone levels. Another study of 12 people saw increased testosterone after just 6 weeks of taking vitamin D supplements.
  • Fenugreek supplements: One small study from 2016 shows how taking 600 mg of fenugreek seed extract daily for 12 weeks can increase testosterone levels by nearly 50% in 90% of participants.
  • Ashwagandha supplements: Ashwagandha is a herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies show that taking ashwagandha supplements can increase testosterone levels by nearly 15% after 16 weeks.

Speak with a doctor before taking any of these supplements. They may not recommend them for your treatment.

Things to avoid

There are certain things you should avoid in your diet if you are trying to boost your testosterone levels.

According to a review from 2018, eating a large amount of the following items can lower testosterone levels:

  • alcohol
  • dairy products
  • bread
  • pastries

Benefits and risks of raising testosterone

While it is usual for your testosterone levels to decrease as you age, it can be uncomfortable. TRT can help to take away some of your symptoms. However, if your testosterone levels are typical and healthy, there may be some risks to trying to boost your testosterone.

Benefits

If a doctor diagnoses you with low testosterone levels, known as hypogonadism, then there are plenty of benefits to boosting your testosterone.

For example:

  • decreased fat mass
  • increased muscle mass
  • increased muscle strength
  • improved red blood cell production
  • improved fertility
  • regulation of sex drive
  • improved energy levels

There is a lot of debate as to the effect of TRT on the cardiovascular system, and there is more research needed. Research currently suggests that taking TRT if your levels are low and you have a family history of cardiovascular disease may be beneficial in preventing heart failure.

Risks

Most risks of excess testosterone levels typically come from the use of anabolic steroids.

Some risks that occur in people with artificially high testosterone levels include:

  • low sperm count
  • infertility, which may be permanent
  • liver disease
  • acne
  • prostate enlargement that could cause difficulty urinating
  • mood swings and poor judgment

When first starting TRT, you may notice some side effects as your body adjusts to the new levels. These may include:

  • acne
  • trouble sleeping
  • breast tenderness
  • swollen ankles
  • high blood cell count, which can put you at risk of clots

Summary

As you age, your testosterone naturally decreases. Medications like TRT, supplements, weight training, and a diet rich in healthy fats and antioxidants are different ways you can boost testosterone.

It’s also important to avoid alcohol and other foods that lower testosterone production.

However, increasing testosterone levels, if a doctor hasn’t recommended it, can be dangerous and lead to a variety of health problems like irrational behavior and an enlarged prostate gland.

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