1 Good Fats – Good Testosterone
Often thought as a "physique destroyer," dietary fat is actually one of the most critical players when it comes to optimizing natural testosterone production. It's now recognized as a sure way to increase testosterone levels.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that diets with higher amounts of monounsaturated and saturated fats have been shown to increase testosterone levels.1
In another study, men who switched from a high-fat diet to a low-fat diet experienced significantly lower testosterone production rates and lower circulating androgen levels by 12%.2
Examples of quality monounsaturated fats:
Olive oil, almonds, avocados, peanut butter
Examples of quality saturated fats:
Red meat, coconut oil, egg yolks, dark chocolate, cheese
2 Free weights over machines – compound movements
Just as your diet has a major influence on testosterone levels, so does how you train. Research has proven time and time again that high-intensity weight training (choosing weights so that you reach muscle failure by 10 reps) can stimulate increases in testosterone secretion.
However, you must also choose the right exercises and the right tools of the trade if you want to take full advantage of this natural T boost. Essentially, the more muscle mass you stimulate, the more testosterone you'll secrete.
A study conducted on trained subjects showed that squats stimulated a greater testosterone response than leg presses.4 Another recent study compared the effect of training with free weights vs. machines on muscle mass, strength, free testosterone, and free cortisol concentrations. Results showed that although both groups experienced increases in muscle and strength, the men in the free weight group had a greater increase in testostereone.5
Focus on multi-joint exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts—the kinds of compound lifts that'll help keep your testosterone at peak levels. Since machines isolate a muscle you're working (less stabilizer activity), they're not king but do have their place in a well-rounded training routine.
3 Duration of Training
Another aspect of your training that can influence your testosterone levels is the duration of your workouts. If you're regularly engaging in lengthy, drawn-out workouts with long rest periods or excessive endurance exercise, then your testosterone levels may take a hit.
Workouts lasting longer than about an hour may begin to spike cortisol levels and subsequently decrease testosterone. Additionally, research has demonstrated that a shorter rest period between sets (1 minute versus 3 minutes) elicited higher acute hormonal responses following a bout of resistance training.6 To maximize your testosterone response, keep your rest periods around the 1-minute mark and total workout time to 30-45 minutes.
4 Volume Training
When it comes to resistance training, research has shown that higher-volume training programs tend to elicit the greatest hormonal response. One study showed that the optimal volume was 6 sets when compared to traditional 3-sets protocol and more extreme volume at 12 sets7,8
Stick to protocols that stress large degrees of muscle mass and are moderate- to high-intensity. Additionally, more seasoned gym-goers may want to incorporate forced repetitions periodically into their programs, as testosterone increases have been reported with this type of training. Incorporating other post-failure training techniques such as drop sets or partials may similarly be associated with higher T production.
5 Sleep is Key
A lack of quality sleep can dramatically diminish the amount of testosterone your body produces, thereby reducing muscle growth and fat loss. Research has demonstrated that the amount of sleep you get is associated with morning testosterone levels.
Researcher has shown that sleep restriction (5 hours per night) results in a 10-15% decline in daily testosterone levels in young healthy men.3 I recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night to optimize the testosterone response and to make sure you are well rested for the day ahead.