Stronger and bigger muscles. Less ab flab. More energy. Better sex.
While these promises sound like they belong on a late-night infomercial pitching some kind of miracle pill, they’re actually courtesy of a powerful hormone that’s already pulsing through our bloodstreams — namely, testosterone. And it really is that good. If you have enough testosterone circulating through your body, you’ll get the maximum physique benefits and see a return on all those promises above.
So it’s important that fitness-savvy guys — and girls — work to maintain and even boost levels of the big T. Yes, testosterone is equally important for women, who just have naturally lower levels of the hormone. We assure you — ladies who maximize their testosterone levels are likely to witness improvements in lean body mass but absolutely will not end up looking like a post-spinach Popeye.
What’s the first stop when it comes to naturally ramping up testosterone levels? The grocery store. Emerging science is finding that certain foods contain T boosters that can help take your muscles from neutral to fifth. Here we offer you an alpha-male (or -female) grocery list.
T Booster: Canned Sockeye Salmon
Spin your wheels through the canned-meat aisle and reel in some sockeye salmon. Few foods at the grocery store deliver as much vitamin D as canned sockeye salmon. In fact, a mere 3-ounce serving supplies about 60 percent more than the daily requirement of 600 IU. But what does this have to do with T levels? A study published by Austrian scientists in the journal Clinical Endocrinology reported that men with the highest vitamin D levels also had significantly higher testosterone numbers than their counterparts who were lacking in vitamin D. Further, a recent British study discovered that men with vitamin D deficiency experienced greater rates of hypogonadism — a condition in which the testicles produce insufficient amounts of hormones, including testosterone.
For much of the country, the bleak winter months that lie ahead represent a time when vitamin D production grinds to a halt, making it even more important to seek out foods that supply this testosterone-friendly vitamin so you can keep packing on muscle until beach season.
Sneak more in: Canned sockeye salmon can add a quick shot of vitamin D, protein and ultra-healthy omega-3s to sandwiches, salads or quick tacos. Or try making burgers using canned salmon instead of ground beef.
T Booster: Free-Range Eggs
Cracking open free-range eggs may help hone your physique. Studies indicate that eggs laid by hens allowed to forage in the great outdoors are more nutrient dense. Case in point: A 2014 study in the journal Nutrition discovered that hens that were provided outdoor access produced eggs with significantly higher vitamin D levels than eggs made by birds that were kept indoors. Exposure to sunlight (beneficial for chickens as well as humans) was believed to be the reason. Research in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people with higher blood levels of vitamin D tended also to have stronger upper- and lower-body muscles. The researchers surmise that vitamin D can help give you Herculean strength at the gym by positively impacting testosterone levels. What’s more, the naturally occurring cholesterol in egg yolk can be a precursor to testosterone production.
Unscrambling egg labels can be tricky, so to be sure you’re truly scoring free-range eggs from birds that see the light of day, it’s best to befriend a local egg producer and query him about his egg-producing methods.
Sneak more in:Not just for breakfast, egg tacos, frittatas, poached eggs and even omelets are perfect testosterone-boosting fare for dinner.
T Booster: Avocado
Fatty in a good way, creamy avocado is a leading source of monounsaturated fat; half of one delivers about 10 grams of the healthy fats. While the exact mechanism remains elusive, researchers at Penn State University found that among the healthy men they tested, dietary monounsaturated fat was positively associated with resting testosterone levels. The more natural testosterone you have floating around your body, the easier it will be to gain lean body mass. And don’t overlook avocado oil as a healthy alternative to olive oil. Fully 72 percent of its calories come from testosterone-boosting mono fat. A great buy is the buttery avocado oil from La Tourangelle.
Sneak more in: Sandwiches, salads, scrambled eggs and homemade salsas all benefit from the inclusion of avocado. Avocados also feature prominently in one of the the easiest, most delicious muscle-building desserts imaginable: avocado chocolate pudding. Avocado oil can be used in salad dressings, sauces and pesto recipes. Also use it for sauteing meats and vegetables.
T Booster: Brussels Sprouts
The last place you would probably think to look for items to bolster the big T would be the vegetable aisle, but it’s definitely worth grabbing a bounty of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy and other cruciferous vegetables. These benevolent vegetables contain a group of phytochemicals called indoles that work in the body to stimulate enzymes that make estrogen less effective. This is a definite advantage if you yearn for bigger biceps because it allows testosterone to be more potent.
Sneak more in: Ideally, you should be consuming nutrient-dense cruciferous vegetables at least twice daily, so work them more often into salads, stir-fries and soups. A simple side dish of sauteed Brussels sprouts is a perfect addition to mealtime.
T Booster: Kiwi
The fuzzy fruit was once an exotic item at the grocery store, but now it’s a regular fixture among the oranges and apples. We recommend making kiwi one of your go-to fruits for loading up on vitamin C. In fact, a single kiwi delivers more than a day’s requirement for this antioxidant. That’s an important perk, considering that higher intakes of vitamin C have been associated with reduced levels of circulating cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stressful situations like work deadlines and even intense exercise. Unfortunately, cortisol competes with testosterone, meaning high levels can crowd out the beneficial hormone, thereby reducing its anabolic potential. Cortisol also can encourage testosterone-sapping body-fat storage. So if you’re feeling the pressure at the office and are hitting the gym hard, make sure to load up on vitamin C to help keep cortisol from upending your fitness gains.
Sneak more in: When sliced in half and scooped out with a spoon, kiwi is a great anytime snack. Or try adorning plain Greek yogurt with chopped kiwi and a few nuts. For a quick vitamin C fix, blend kiwi into pre-gym shakes.
T Booster: Cocoa Nibs
Take the whole cocoa beans that are used to make chocolate bars, smash them to bits and you end up with cocoa nibs. It’s basically chocolate au natural.As with dark chocolate, cocoa nibs are a natural source of disease-thwarting antioxidants and saturated fat. While often demonized, one of the main functions of saturated fat in the body is to help in the production of important hormones, including testosterone. So shun saturated fat completely and your T score could take a nose dive. Cocoa is also a good source of magnesium. A study published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research found that subjects with higher intakes of magnesium experienced a spike in testosterone. The investigation found, however, that magnesium was more effective if increased in tandem with exercise. Magnesium is needed for hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body, so T production is likely one of them. You can find crunchy and pleasantly bitter cocoa nibs at many natural food stores or load up at navitasnaturals.com.
Sneak more in: For a shot of T-friendly sat fat and magnesium, sprinkle generous amounts of cocoa nibs on your oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese and even salads. They also can be blended into smoothies.
Booster: Wheat Germ
While oysters are the famed zinc powerhouse, it’s not likely you’ll be making daily trips to the oyster bar to slurp back the crustaceans. That’s why you should be seeking out other zinc-rich foods — like wheat germ — that can more easily become a dietary staple. Wheat germ is essentially the isolated germ of the wheat kernel and is the most vitamin- and mineral-rich part of the grain. Among its nutritional highlights, which include healthy levels of protein and B vitamins — are praise-worthy amounts of zinc. The mineral zinc is a cofactor for thousands of different enzymatic reactions in the body, including those involved in testosterone production. A study out of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit found that men with inadequate zinc intakes had lower blood testosterone concentrations.
Sneak more in: Wheat germ can work its way into all sorts of foods you probably already eat, including protein shakes, oatmeal and pancakes.
T Booster: Icelandic Yogurt
If you’re now comfortable with Greek yogurt, it’s time to try the version that comes from the home of Björk and fermented shark meat. Like Greek yogurt, Icelandic yogurt (called skyr)is traditionally made by straining away the whey in milk, leaving behind a velvety-thick yogurt that is chock-full of protein and calcium. Its protein is especially rich in branched-chain amino acids, which can help blunt the testosterone-lowering impact cortisol can have during periods of intense training. These aminos also have a direct impact on your buff factor by stimulating muscle protein synthesis. Turkish researchers found that training-induced increases in testosterone levels in men were even greater if accompanied by high intakes of calcium. Go with plain versions of skyr to avoid excessive intake of gut-busting added sugars.
Sneak more in: A bowlful of skyr is a virtuous snack option, especially when topped with other testosterone boosters like cocoa nibs and kiwi. The Scandinavian yogurt is also a great alternative to sour cream or mayonnaise in recipes.
If you’re looking for ways to boost your testosterone levels, certain supplements can help get you there.
Cod Liver Oil
Vitamin D’s role in elevating T levels and muscle strength should not be taken lightly. Yet many people have inadequate levels during the winter gloom. Not only does cod liver oil deliver a wallop of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, it’s also a top-notch source of vitamin D. Try a teaspoon a day to help keep your vitamin D topped up.
Research continues to back up the belief among muscle men that whey is the gold standard postworkout supplement. A recent study by researchers at the University of Connecticut found that resistance-trained men who supplemented with whey, which is especially rich in branched-chain amino acids, experienced lower levels of testosterone-sapping cortisol during recovery from lifting weights.
Found in the pituitary gland and testes, D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that plays a role in the synthesis and release of testosterone. An Italian study determined that men supplementing with a daily dose of D-aspartic acid for 12 days experienced an uptick in testosterone. The recommended dose is about 3 grams daily.
There’s a reason why ZMA remains popular with bodybuilders and strength athletes — it delivers two essential minerals for testosterone production: zinc and magnesium. It’s also used to encourage a more restful sleep, and poor sleeping habits are a known testosterone killer. For best results, take the recommended dose on the bottle 30 to 60 minutes before bed on an empty stomach.
Derived from an herb native to Asia, Tribulus may help elevate your physique by stimulating the release of luteinizing hormone, which acts in the testes to boost testosterone production. Try taking two to three doses each day, including one about 45 minutes before working out.