One of the side effects of the ongoing controversy about “steroid abuse” (which, mentioned elsewhere on this site, is a highly inaccurate term) has been an increased interest in methods of increasing testosterone levels that are simultaneously more “natural” and less likely to be shunned by society. Therefore, diet has entered more and more regularly into the larger conversation on maintaining or increasing testosterone levels, and rightly so – a dedication to regular strenuous workouts is much less meaningful without some knowledge of nutrition’s effect on endocrine production.
Rather than merely drafting up a ‘shopping list’ of individual foods that are likely to increase testosterone levels, it would be wise to first mention some common dietary characteristics that have been found to influence these levels. For one, high carbohydrate diets have been shown to be more effective than high protein diets in boosting testosterone levels, and were similarly effective in decreasing the levels of the counter-testosterone agent cortisol. Some readers, who have accepted the huge body of folk knowledge about “high protein diets” being more beneficial to all aspects of masculinity, may find this unusual, however this is another case of faulty or partially true information being repeated until it is almost universally accepted as truth (higher levels of testosterone may be secreted by eaters of super high-protein diets, albeit in the urine, which does not confer the type of benefits we are aiming to achieve.)
The findings about carbohydrate vs. protein diets are interesting for the reason that, according to the Men’s Health and Fitness website, they evince “some tradeoff between eating for health and longevity and eating to maintain one’s male sexuality.” In reality, no more than 0.8 to 1 gram of protein-rich food per pound of body weight is suggested daily. We can add the disclaimer here that many protein-rich main dishes – chicken dishes in particular – may actually aid in testosterone uptake depending on when they are consumed.
Foods containing the amino acid known as d-aspartic acid (which, of course, is available in numerous dietary supplements) have been found to aid in the type of stamina-building routines necessary for higher testosterone production. Though not an ‘essential’ amino acid – in the sense that the body will find ways to synthesize it whether or not it is included in one’s dietary intake – one of the slightly more expensive food items found to have high levels of d-aspartic acid is shellfish (e.g. oysters and scallops), though more economical types of seafood also feature a more than adequate amount. A standard adult serving of a dish as common as yellow fin tuna will, when cooked, yield about 3g of d-aspartic acid, with a similar serving of codfish offering twice as much.
In contrast to d-aspartic acid, zinc is one mineral – perhaps the mineral – found in foods that is crucial not only to testosterone levels, but to most other aspects of bodily health (e.g. immunity to disease.) Whether one wishes to consume a steady supply of zinc from the many supplements that include it, or from food intake, or both, is entirely up to the individual, though there is certainly no shortage of foods that can act as a daily source of such: red meat dishes will probably be one of the more popular choices on this menu (though, again, a food in which the above “tradeoff” for longevity and short-term potency comes into play.) Aficionados of the “cookout”-style meal will also be pleased to know that beans, a common side dish along with hamburgers, also contain zinc.
One dietary consideration that deserves special attention is the relation of testosterone production to alcohol consumption. Male alcoholics, among the other challenges they face in daily life, will find these challenges compounded with all sorts of endocrine-related ailments. Science magazine’s grim roll call of these ailments includes “testicular atrophy, impaired spermatogenesis, impotence and decreased libido, as well as overt abnormalities in the metabolism of testosterone, androstenedione, and the estrogenic steroids estrone and estradiol.”
While some have assumed that the occasional violent outbursts of heavily inebriated drinkers also have some correlation to an increased level of testosterone, this is more properly attributed to numerous other psycho-social factors (and, for what it’s worth, the allegetions that a potent mix of testosterone and alcohol lead to excessive domestic violence on ‘Super Bowl Sunday’ have been debunked.)
Whatever the case may be, the ability of alcoholic beverages to work upon the hypothalamus and pituitary glands (which themselves produce hormones that regulate testosterone production) makes short-term and long-term drinking to inebriation a poor choice for any adult human wishing to keep testosterone levels at an acceptable standard.