It’s not true. Whatever you have heard, whatever you are thinking about giving up on being lean and healthy—it’s simply not true. “Dad bods,” “beer guts,” or more eloquently stated, “excess abdominal fat,” is not the inevitable plight of the middle-aged man.
This is exactly why I deplore the media and consistently warn my clients to stay far away from trendy fitness, weight loss and nutrition information they read in articles or see on TV. The more you read, the more you’ll be confused, overwhelmed and misled. There are a few professionals out there who’s information that can be trusted, but as a rule you’re better off not learning from the so-called gurus that have hidden agendas, usually in the form of selling supplements or exercise gadgets. I need to stop here because if you get me going on this topic, I’ll go on for hours and it’s not worth it.
As you age, you have a distinct opportunity to care for your body, preserving bone density, muscle mass, and, yes, your hormone levels. Billboards and internets ads keep telling you that you need testosterone via testosterone therapy. Article after article describes the “natural decline of testosterone” that occurs as men age, which is true—if you don’t take care of your body.
A study of more than 1,800 men found that waist circumference was the single strongest predictor of low testosterone levels in men. The study observed men between the ages of 40 and 79 for more than nine years and discovered that being overweight or obese contributed to the largest declines in testosterone compared to normal weight men. The other symptoms to follow include low libido, erectile dysfunction, moodiness, low energy, and impaired physical performance.
Bottom line; the bigger your waist line, the lower your testosterone. The lower your testosterone, the lower your sex drive, energy and physical performance.
Testosterone is the primary driver behind a healthy metabolism, maintaining a lean body mass, and overall health in men. Recent research has found that low testosterone levels can be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
When you give your body the fuel it needs to function optimally (i.e., maximal nutrients from high-quality whole foods) and maintain your muscle mass and bone density with routine workouts that include weight training, your body will continue to produce what is necessary for you to look and feel your best.
Did you know that lifting weights actually increases testosterone production naturally? As does eating a balanced diet—one that is rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats, zinc, and balanced amounts of quality proteins and unrefined carbohydrates.
Exercise Boosts Testosterone Levels Naturally in Men
One study found that men who engaged in routine physical activity over a period of three months increased levels of growth hormone and testosterone in male subjects aged 23 to 63 years. The same study observed the effects of individual bouts of physical activity on growth hormone and testosterone, finding only insignificant changes after a single workout session. These results suggest that ongoing, routine exercise is the most effective for promoting healthy hormone levels in men. Also of note, the younger subjects saw greater improvements in hormone levels than older subjects, meaning it is never too late to get started, but the sooner, the better.
In 2007, a similar study observed the effects of a high-interval strength program on subjects aged 23 to 69 years of age. Again, the results showed that of increasing levels of strength endurance boosted hormone levels, including testosterone, cortisol, and growth hormone across all age groups.
If you haven’t started a strength training regimen—one that effectively improves muscular strength and endurance—you are limiting the functioning of your body. Strength training is not just about looking good; it improves your overall health dramatically in many ways.
Bottom line; strength training with weights is the best way to exercise for increasing testosterone and that’s one of the reasons why it’s the only type of training I promote.
Boosting Testosterone with Balanced Nutrition
According to a research analysis published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, men who followed a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (a diet rich in plant-based foods and fish) in conjunction with resistance training experienced increases in steroid hormone levels, including testosterone. This study also highlighted the results of previous studies that found men who reduced fat intake from 40 percent of their diet to 20 percent experienced improvements in hormone levels.
There are studies that date back more than 20 years that show adequate levels of zinc in the diet support healthy testosterone levels in men. Zinc is found in foods such as oysters, crab, lean cuts of beef, poultry, and yogurt. Nuts, such as cashews and almonds are also rich sources of zinc. I’m not saying this so that you go out and buy a zinc supplement because there’s no need for that. If you eat a diet that any of these foods, your zinc levels should be fine. Taking a supplement is NOT the answer to low zine levels, modifying your diet is the best insurance against zinc deficiencies.
While knowing what to eat to boost testosterone is important, what not to eat should be equally noted. Loading up on fish and zinc-rich foods will not be of much help, if you are not giving up the processed foods, sugar, alcohol, or soy-based products. These foods can have a toxic effect on the body, not the least of which is increasing fat stores and causing a conversion of testosterone to estrogen.
If you have ever struggled with “man boobs” then you understand the effects estrogen can have on a man’s body. This condition in men and even young boys can be so psychologically damaging to males that I devoted an entire article to this topic which you can read here.
High levels of estrogen can also affect your ability to lose weight, gain muscle, and even tank your energy and sex drive.
Top Habits for Natural, Healthy Testosterone Levels in Men
If you want to keep your “T” levels in check and enjoy all the benefits of a lean, high-functioning body, you have to put in a little effort. However, a little effort can go a long way. Here is what you can do right now to boost your testosterone levels and stave off the trademark belly fat associated with middle-age:
- Weight train. Vigorous weight training sessions mixed with limited amounts of cardio on a routine basis optimally boost production of growth hormone. Improving muscular endurance enhances testosterone levels. Make weight training programs that progressively improve strength and endurance part of your lifestyle.
- Get quality sleep. Recovery is important to health, especially quality sleep. Anything less than six to eight hours of quality sleep each night can tank your testosterone levels by as much as 15 percent, according to a 2011 study.
- Booze less. Alcohol speeds up the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, impairing your efforts in gaining muscle and losing fat. Keep alcohol intake to a minimum to keep testosterone levels adequate.
- Banish BPA. Almost everyone knows the dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A), the endocrine-disrupting chemical found in may plastics and linings of aluminum cans. These can raise estrogen levels in the body as well. Aside from switching to glass and stainless steel eating and drinking containers, be on the lookout for containers that are marked with recycling numbers 3, 6, or 7 and avoid them.
- Eat right. Nutrition is your greatest asset for naturally boosting and maintaining healthy testosterone levels. Make sure that you are eating enough calories daily to support your activity level. However, make sure your meals and snacks are high-quality, whole foods including zinc-rich foods. Depending on what your goals are, consume about 2 grams of carbohydrates (unrefined) for every 1 gram of protein ratio. This carb to protein ratio has been linked to optimal testosterone balance. Optimally, about 20-25 percent of your diet should be fats, mostly from mono and polyunsaturated fats.
Middle-aged weight gain is not inevitable. You can take control of your health and your hormone levels with a few simple lifestyle changes.
My New Year’s gift to all of my middle-age subscribers that are likely suffering from low testosterone levels is the following:
I’m going to make a deal with all of my male subscribers that seriously want to take action and start a weight training routine to help increase lean muscle mass.
If you’re already a member at a gym or have weights at home yet don’t know what exercises to perform or how many sets and reps to do, shoot me an email at Phil@hoffmanfit.com and I’ll help you get started with a routine. I may have just shot myself in the foot with this offer but I will do my best to help as many of my subscribers as possible.
Understand, I have hundreds of male subscribers and I respond to all emails myself. Please do not include additional questions in your email because I’ll never be able to get through it all. I cannot explain anything beyond giving you a routine because it would take me forever and wouldn’t be fair to those who pay for my customized workout services. I’m simply giving you a routine to get started and take action.
I wrote a previous article that will help you understand the importance of performing the exercise movements for building muscle quicker. The article can be viewed here.
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Philip J. Hoffman
Certified Sports Nutrition
Certified Fitness Trainer
Expert Fat Loss Coach