Mister, if you’re over 30, your testosterone numbers are declining. 40+? There’s a reason you may be feeling older. Here’s what to know and what to do to boost your testosterone.
Some other guys think it strange that we speak so freely about it, as if a man’s testosterone numbers should be kept as close a guarded secret as… well, you get the drift.
I figure that aging brings an assortment of challenges to one’s door, and you can either respond to the knocking and do something about this uninvited guest, or ignore it as it endeavors to burn your house down.
What the hell am I talking about!?
Well, there is that old saying that,
“Aging is not for sissies.”
Which means to me that aging presents an assortment of unsavory challenges, and either you can ignore and thus succumb to age-based limitations earlier then is necessary, or you can rise to the occasion and fight back.
Sissies don’t fight back.
My compadres and I do. And the one big, age-old villain we fight is declining testosterone.
For men, testosterone and other related hormones begin to decline from age 30 onward at a rate of one to three percent annually. This adds up! By the age of 40, many men complain that they’re feeling “older”.
Aging is just one reason for this decline. There are a host of other contributing and age-related factors, such as:
- Body fat (especially belly fat, and therefore increasing aromatase activity)
- Oxidative damage to tissues responsible for the production of testosterone
- Reduction in testicular testosterone synthesis
- Declining levels of precursor molecules, such as DHEA
- Nutritional status and liver function (Source)
Should Men Care About Declining Testosterone?
The answer to that question depends on what you want out of life. If you’re fine with gradually becoming more passive, physically inactive, sexually inactive, soft-bodied and thin boned… then, no, you don’t need to fuss about testosterone.
In his book, The Life Plan, Dr. Jeffry Life gets specific with some of the signs of low testosterone, where on page 271 he lists these:
Declining sexual and physical energy
Decline in the frequency of early morning erections
Decline in the number of spontaneous erections
Emotional swings, irritability, anxiety, depression
Foggy thinking, memory lapses
Increased cardiovascular issues
Loss of strength
Poor skin tone and saggy, wrinkled skin
Reduced lean muscle, higher body fat
Weak bones, osteopenia, osteoporosis
This seems to be what some doctors assume their male patients are willing to accept from mid-life onward, because the conventional view is that since testosterone naturally declines as men age, why mess with it?
That conventional view presents a recommended range that is lower than ideal.
Let’s use me as an example.
As I wrote in the post, Fellas, How Sturdy Is Your Morning Wood, I recently, and for the first time, had an extensive blood test panel done offered by the Life Extension Foundation (LEF), which is called the Male Comprehensive Hormone Panel.
The blood giving process is simple:
- You go to a (hopefully) nearby blood test lab and have blood drawn.
- The blood is shipped overnight to three labs, each performing a different test.
- The resulting report is then sent to the LEF, which emails and/or mails the report to you.
- You then can spend up to one-half hour reviewing the results with a LEF doctor on the phone who, invariably, will make some suggestions about what LEF supplements can help with whatever needs help.
(There is another method that tests for testosterone and other things via saliva, but I know little about this technique at the moment.
Mike Maher offers a test here, [No longer there]. And read Dr. John Lee’s article too.)
Many years of a nutritious diet, supplementation and exercise helped to get me the sterling blood test results I got for every measure (such as cholesterol, prostrate, blood health, etc.) except one.
Yes, my testosterone was low.
To look at me, this might illicit surprise, for I’m fairly muscular, fairly lean, have enough energy to do what I want to do, and (if the opportunity would ever present itself) am interested and able to frolic in the hay.
These could be attributes you possess as well. And yet, like me, odds are if you’re a Baby Boomer, or close to this generation, you too are low in testosterone-based hormonal levels optimal for you.
It’s hard to definitively know if you are or are not low in testosterone without a test, although the aforementioned Dr. Life says morning erections are one indicator, as I wrote about here.
That said, it would be helpful to know what is the blue ribbon standard for a healthy, manly man’s testosterone range. And that’s where the confusion starts.
Testosterone By The Numbers
So, I went to the lab, spilled my blood into several test tubes, and after about a week, the results were emailed to me.
I scanned three pages of results, checking how each obscure number related to the “Reference Interval” (the Lab Range), which indicates where my number stood in the acceptable range.
Several numbers leaped out in a favorable way because they were so good. But not so for testosterone.
This is what my “testosterone blood panel” measured:
- Testosterone is the principal male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid hormone from the androgen group. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testes of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands.
Testosterone levels peak in a man at approximately the age of 30. By the age of 40, 5% of men are thought by conventional standards to have low testosterone, although specialists in this area assert that the number is very much higher. By the time a man is 70, his testosterone has declined by 40-50%.
- Free Testosterone is the form of testosterone that many specialists in the hormone world believe is the best way to test for testosterone activity because it is the active form of the hormone; it’s freely available in the blood, and thus able to actually “work” on your tissues.
- Pregnenolone is often referred to as the “mother” or “ultimate” hormone because it is like a hormonal building block, given that it’s used to make other hormones such as DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
- Dihydrotestosterone (DHEA) gets secreted by the adrenal glands, is then converted into DHEA-S (S for Sulfate), which then circulates through the body. DHEA is a precursor for many other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, and like many hormones, it declines as you age, about 10% per decade from age 30 for both men and women.
- Estradiol is the predominant sex hormone present in females. It is also present in males, and, surprisingly, exists at a higher level because it is being constantly produced in men. In females it is only produced three out of 30 days of her cycle. Estradiol is produced in the gonads and by precursor hormones. Testosterone is converted by aromatization to estradiol, which, depending on the amount, can put men into androphase, the so-called male menopause.
These hormones are measured in:
“ng/dL” (nanograms per deciliter),
“pg/mL” (picogram per milliliter), and
“ug/mL” (microgram per milliliter).
So, that said, let’s take a look at the testosterone part of my blood panel.
In the table below, I present my test results, the range the lab suggests is appropriate for an adult male, and the more ideal range promoted by the Life Extension Foundation (“LEF”).
|Test||My Test Result||Lab Range||LEF Range|
|Testosterone, Serum||438 ng/dL||348 – 1197||700 – 900|
|Free Testosterone||8.5 pg/mL||7.2 – 24||20 – 25|
|Pregnenolone||70 ng/dL||?*||125 – 175**|
|Dihydrotestosterone||27 ng/dL||30 – 85||30 – 50**|
|DHEA||67.2 ug/dL||51.7 – 295||350 – 490|
|Estradiol||19.3 pg/mL||7.6 – 42.6||20 – 30|
*No Lab Range listed.
**This range was not found on LEF’s site, but was cited by the LEF doctor who went over the blood test results with me.
Regarding the table above, note that:
- My Testosterone, Serum, Free Testosterone and DHEA numbers are within the Lab Range, albeit on the low side, but are well below the lowest number of the range recommended by LEF, which I think are more optimal.
- My Pregnenolone and Dihydrotestosterone numbers are below the range cited by either the Lab or LEF.
- My Estradiol number is near the mid-mark of the Lab range, but just under bottom of the LEF Range. This appears to be quite good.
According to a study cited by LEF, men with serum estradiol levels between 21.80 and 30.11 pg/mL – the ideal range touted by LEF — had the fewest deaths. Those with estradiol levels of 37.40 pg/mL or above experienced death rates 133% above those in the ideal range, and the lowest estradiol group with estradiol levels under 12.90 pg/mL suffered a 317% increased death rate.
So, the conclusion here is that when it comes to Estradiol, a mid-range number is key.
How You Can Improve Your Testosterone Numbers
I’m a bit nervous here because at this point I may have convinced you how important it is to know your testosterone numbers, and, if low, do something about it, but I don’t have some natural, fool-proof, one-size-fits-all “do this” formula for you.
Yes, the standard way to boost testosterone is to go to a doctor who specializes in hormone balancing and choose one of four methods:
- Transdermal gels, creams or patches, each containing a prescribed amount of testosterone;
- Pellets that are surgically implanted into your skin whereby testosterone slowly leaks into your body as the pellets dissolve;
- Human chorionic gonadotropin injections in the abdomen stimulate the testicles to create more testosterone, a method less effective for those 50+; and
- Intramuscular injections done each week.
If your insurance does not pay for this, it may cost you about $200 per month.
Despite my desire to boost my own testosterone-based hormone numbers, I’m going to try to do it “naturally”. Yes, it’s likely to be cheaper than being under a doctor’s care, but it will also be a slower and less proven path. What can I say… I like to do it my way.
Here’s what I’ve done already to boost my testosterone:
- Have lost five of the 10 last pounds steadfastly clinging to my body. Body fat messes with testosterone – less fat, more testosterone is generally true.
- Added High Intensity Interval Training (“HIIT”) to my workouts. HIIT makes the body dramatically increase its production of Human Growth Hormone and testosterone, a subject I write about in the post, How To Boost Your Human Growth Hormone In 20 Minutes.
- Increased my consumption of protein. Since I eat no red meat, and little of any other kind, this meant increasing protein powder consumption. At most meals and snacks, I now use a combination of whey, rice, pea, hemp and various high protein sprouted grains that are pulverized into a powder.
Supplementing with DHEA was the only suggestion made by LEF’s physician who reviewed my blood work. Well, OK, he’s the doctor and so I am doing this, but carefully, because DHEA can augment estradiol as well as testosterone… I’m not ready for those man-boobs yet.
There is a long list of other possible, natural testosterone-boosting supplements that you can read about at PeakTestosterone.com. Just search at that site to your heart’s content.
In subsequent posts, I’ll present the results of my testosterone-boosting endeavor, but this will take a few months… not only to give the workouts, diet and supplements a chance to work, but to take another test to see what the new numbers are.
Speaking of tests, man, without one, you’re running blind. Yes, that morning erection – or lack thereof – may give you a clue, but it’s not exactly a science. So, choose either a blood or saliva test and take it from there.
OK, let’s close out this meandering post.
By now you should have gleaned the following:
- The testosterone-based hormonal numbers cited as acceptable depend on your perspective – do you want to hang with the pack, or optimize? There’s a marked difference between what some doctors deem acceptable and what might be optimal in order for you to richly experience life.
- Testosterone is affected by both behavior (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.) and aging. You can improve your numbers either by either taking pharmaceutically derived testosterone, or doing it via natural supplementation and behavioral changes.
- You can’t determine the journey without first knowing from whence you start, so get a saliva or blood test and know your numbers.
Check out the list of resources below, ask questions, or submit comments in the Comments section below, and have a nice day.
Over and out.
- Men’s Health Supplements for Prostate and Testosterone
- How I’m Boosting Testosterone and Blasting Fat
- Boost Your Human Growth Hormone in 20 Minutes!
Published on August 22, 2012