Bump Up Your Testosterone Numbers: My Story and Your Plan

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.

Testosterone is vitally important for health

Testosterone is the subject of BioHack #5: How To Boost Your Testosterone Naturally and Fast.  It's part of the 12 Ageproof BioHacks coming to you soon. Get on the list... sign-up in that blue box in the sidebar.

A FEW of my male 40-plus aged friends and I regularly talk about how we hope to boost our testosterone numbers, which naturally decline as we get older.

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 than 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 on 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

Disturbed sleep

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 forward, because the conventional view is that since testosterone naturally declines as men age, why mess with it?

The conventional view recommends a testosterone high/low 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:
  1. You go to a (hopefully) nearby blood test lab and have blood drawn.
  2. The blood is shipped overnight to three labs, each performing a different test.
  3. The resulting report is then sent to the LEF, which emails and/or mails the report to you.
  4. 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 have as well.  And yet, like me, odds are if you’re a Baby Boomer, or close to this generation, you too are low in ideal testosterone-based hormonal levels.

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 men and the ovaries of women, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands.

Testosterone levels peak in a man at about 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 called 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 main sex hormone present in women. It is also present in men, and, surprisingly, exists at a higher level because it is being constantly produced in men. In women 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 right 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 ideal.

– 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 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:

  1. Transdermal gels, creams or patches, each containing a prescribed amount of testosterone;
  2. Pellets that are surgically implanted into your skin whereby testosterone slowly leaks into your body as the pellets dissolve;
  3. Human chorionic gonadotropin injections in the abdomen stimulate the testicles to create more testosterone, a method less effective for those 50+; and
  4. Intramuscular injections done each week.

If your insurance does not pay for this, it may cost you $200 per month, or more.

–> Here’s a pitch about the need to know your supplements <–

Despite my desire to boost my own testosterone-based hormone numbers, I’m going to try to do it “naturally” with supplementation and diet.  Yes, doctor-prescribed bio-identical hormonal agents would be a faster and more certain way to go, but I want to see if by providing the raw necessary raw elements, my body can make more testosterone.  This will be a slower, 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 rarely eat red meat (and it’s grass-fed when I do), 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.

– Began consuming the following testosterone-boosting supplements: DHEA, Tribulus Terrestris, Magnesium Oil, Stinging Nettles and Ginseng extracts.

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 later posts, I’ll present the results of my testosterone-boosting experiment, 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.

 

Conclusions

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 consider acceptable and what might be ideal 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.

UPDATE 10/5/14: Since this blog post was written, I've been experimenting with Mike Mahler's Aggressive Strength Testosterone supplement.  I wanted to try it because Mike is a solid, honest character and the testimonials are off the charts (and you can tell that their not BS).  I don't have my data yet (blood test before and after), but it seems to be working effectively.  Suggest you check it out (aff link):

Aggressive Strength Testosterone Booster 

(do read the testimonials)

 

Resources and Further Reading

Male Hormone Restoration

Female Hormone Restoration

DHEA Dosing and Safety Precautions

Important Tools for Disease Prevention

Testosterone is great but Dihydrotestosterone is the king of all male androgens!

PeakTestosterone.com

17 Rapid Fat Loss Tips

Six Best of 2010 — Food, Diet and Nutrition

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Joe Garma
 

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 16 comments
pixelzombie - February 24, 2014

You want to avoid the DHEA capsules if you’re an older gent (bad for your liver from what I’ve read. I have used an OTC cream and I did see some good results.

Reply
Joe - February 24, 2014

I have read that DHEA can negatively impact the liver, but most people aren’t in danger of doing that unless they take excessively high, sustained doses or have liver problems to begin with.

What everyone who uses any testosterone mimic or supplement needs to do is either be under doctor supervision or get their blood checked every six months. Hormones are sensitive creatures and sometimes react poorly or too excessively to supplementation — just like they do to food, by the way.

One can really ruin insulin sensitivity, for instance, by eating too much sugary foods.

Reply
pixelzombie - March 28, 2014

The price for a blood test is more than I was expecting. is there a lower priced alternative?

Reply
Joe - March 29, 2014

Hi.

The price for blood tests vary based on what’s being tested. For instance, a whole female or male wellness “panel” will cost more than a test just for cholesterol. Some things can be tested via urine, hair or saliva, which are typically less expensive.

Reply
Atis - May 4, 2014

Thank you very much for the article. It is really cool and usefull. I’d like to share I got about testosterone.

You can boost your testosterone level by avoiding to trigger serotonin. So you have to avoid: sugar, coffe, cola, watching sexual content even pretty girls, alcohol – anything that creates pleasure. And you have to submit someone you hate :)
And you’ll done – an agressive dose of testosterone will be at your blood after 24 hours. It will fall if you will have sex. But thats ok, just make sex at evening and have breakfast without sugar and coffee.

Reply
Michael Bourne - June 7, 2014

Gidday

I’m a 58 year old personal trainer, with 40 plus years experience, and have been passionate about the subject for a long time.

There is some good info here.

http://www.brinkzone.com/general-health/dhea-supplementation-in-older-adults-good-or-bad/

Brink’s site is good for a blunt assessment of many supplemental T boosters. Its worth noting that his conclusions are only concerned with muscle growth/fat loss. My own experience is that 99.99% are totally useless.

The ashwaganda one is interesting, and at least has positive results in human trials, and one I have begun trying too.

Here’s the exact extract that was used in the fertility based human trials, very cheap also.

http://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-ultra-ultimate-ashwagandha-ksm-66-250-mg-60-veg-caps

Here’s something that I feel is worth taking. If you look you’ll find more about this.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21129941

http://robthoburn.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/boron-increases-testosterone-again/

The dose required is about 10mg daily. Here’s the most utilisable form of boron.

http://www.iherb.com/Vibrant-Health-Phyto-Boron-3-mg-60-Veggie-Caps/13121#p=1&oos=1&disc=0&lc=en-US&w=boron&rc=1122&sr=null&ic=7

Tongat is really noticeable, if enough of the genuine article is used. This is the only one using, not cheap though. 3 caps a day. 2 months on, 3 – 4 weeks off.

http://www.authentictongkatali.com/products/600mg-1-200-strength-tongkat-ali-root-extract-100-pills

I like these too. 2 a day.

http://www.iherb.com/InterPlexus-Inc-Seriphos-Phosphorylated-Serine-100-Capsules/31262#p=2&oos=1&disc=0&lc=en-US&w=phosphatidyl&rc=93&sr=null&ic=31

And these, not very cheap at 4 caps 3 times a day.

http://www.iherb.com/Nature-s-Way-DIM-plus-Estrogen-Metabolism-Formula-120-Capsules/4117#p=1&oos=1&disc=0&lc=en-US&w=dim-plus&rc=2&sr=null&ic=1

The way you train, and recover, has significant effects on hormones. For example look at sprinters, marathon runners. The main difference is intensity, time under tension. Which doesn’t necessarily require moving at top speed.

Luecine, BCAA’s and taurine in gram (3 – 5 gms of each a few times a day, including before and after training)can help build muscle/recover.

Vitamin D3 is important, cheap and easy to supplement.

Low fat diets are suicide for T production. Cholesterol and healthy forms of saturated fat are required to optimise hormone production. Cholesterol is to humans what cellulose is to plants. crucial. Think eggs,pure milk/cream, meat. I don’t eat anything that requires killing, so use milk and cream. Coconut oil is good too.

All the best, Mick.

Reply
Joe Garma - June 7, 2014

Wow, Mick, thanks for taking the time to turn us on to all those resources! Will check them out.

Reply
Kent - March 3, 2015

I work at a wellness clinic in Thailand (www.vitallife-international.com) and have been working on my testosterone level for a couple years now. I have avoided the obvious direct testosterone supplementation route and instead opted for a more diet based approach.

I started taking DHEA (25mg/day) along with 150mg of Zinc each morning. The DHEA is supposed to breakdown into Testosterone, and the zinc blocks further breakdown into estrodiol. After experimenting with this for a year, I didn’t see appreciable change in my testosterone levels. After consulting with the doctors, they agreeded that the effect is small for men, but for women this is an effective testosterone supplementation strategy. I continue taking the DHEA as a general supplement however.

There is also another parameter that you need to be aware of, that is Bio-available testosterone. This is one step further than measuring free-testosterone. In the body, testosterone is either bound or unbound. The unbound is the free-testosterone. , and testosterone can be bound to either SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) or to albumin. Testosterone is strongly bound to SHBG and hence not bio-available, however the testosterone bound to albumin is weakly bound and easy for the body to break the bond and use it just like free-testosterone. So the true measure of your testosterone level is the sum of free + albumin bound = bio-available.

For most men, the level of SHBG is high, so the difference between free testosterone and bio-available is not significant. However, for me personally, I have a low level of SHBG and thus my bio-available is significantly higher than my free-t. So what might look like a problem of low free-t is not really a problem.

However, my desire is to optimize testosterone, not just be satisfied with within normalcy range. Lately, I have been experimenting with significantly increasing my saturated fat (and hence cholesterol – the mother of all hormones). I have done this by drinking “Bulletproof” coffee each morning. This is a recipe famously touted by Dave Asprey of Bulletproof executive. The coffee has grassfed butter and coconut oil added to it. This makes for a sugerfree – good fat rich breakfast. And the results on my testosterone levels has been remarkable.

Results:

My Total testosterone, Free testosterone, and Bioavailable testosterone has been decreasing since the day I started measuring (April 2013), but dramatically increased (50%, 74%, and 67% respectively) in my last complete testing on Nov 11, 2014.

Total testosterone chronological history: 523, 483, 422, 414, 367, 388, 581
Free testosterone chronological history: 90, 92, 82, 74, 72, 125
Bioavailable testosterone chronological history: 216, 211, 200,181, 180, 300

IGF-1

Similarly I experienced an 80% increase in IGF-1 which is a biomarker that is linked to growth hormone production

IGF-1 chronological history: 88.7, 57.8, 59.8, 102

Cholesterol

As expected, my cholesterol did rise in response to the increased saturated fat intake, but the ratio of HDL/LDL remained constant so I think my body is tolerating the saturated fat well: (note the first two readings are from 2008 and 2112 before I joined BI)

Total Cholesterol chronological history: 166, 143, 165, 164, 172
HDL-C chronological history: 54, 48, 59, 57, 60
LDL-C chronological history: 86, 77, 86, 81, 84

LDL/HDL ratio chronological history: 1.6, 1.6, 1.5, 1.4, 1.4

Overall I am quite pleased with the results to date. I plan to retest in the next month or so to see if these results are sustainable.

Reply
Joe Garma - March 3, 2015

Kent, thanks for taking the time to report your protocol and results. You seem to be doing fine with increased consumption of saturated fat, but I don’t think increasing saturated fat would be useful to everyone. In part, it’s do to one’s ApoE genetic propensity for high fat vs high carb diets, as I write about here: http://www.garmaonhealth.com/apoe-genetically-determined-perfect-diet/

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sunny - March 6, 2015

i am sunny from india my age 23 please sir tell me can I use or not testosterone ?

Reply
Joe Garma - March 6, 2015

Impossible to know, Sunny, without at least knowing some things about you, preferably a blood or saliva test for testosterone. Typically, young men have sufficient testosterone. If, however, you’re obese or have a lot of belly fat, are moody (or depressed), lack energy or focus and have no libido, then your testosterone may be low, and you should get it checked.

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