If we asked you what testosterone does, you’d undoubtedly mention things like building strength and muscle mass, improving sex drive—in short, all the attributes we’ve come to equate with masculinity, especially when we’re at our peak in our late teens and early 20s. So, not surprisingly, when you no longer feel like the man you were and start to ask why, low T is often the culprit.
WHAT IS TESTOSTERONE?
As men mature, testosterone plays a critical role in sex drive, production of red blood cells and sperm, fat distribution, and—drumroll, please—the maintenance and increasing development of muscle mass and strength.
SIGNS OF LOW T
Testosterone doesn’t just get up and leave the body on a whim. Instead, the side effects sneak up on you, first causing you to question how good you used to feel in the sack or in the gym. Then you start to notice your muscle-mass gains are nonexistent, and you’re actually getting smaller and weaker.
Fatigue and a growing lack of interest in sex, training, and sports are the next indication that something’s just not right. Before you know it, you’re crying at movies and dog food ads.
GETTING BACK TO NORMAL
The good news: Low testosterone doesn’t have to happen to you…or keep happening to you. There are steps you can take to eliminate the symptoms and get at the core of the issue. It starts with diet and exercise.
Among the foods that can improve your natural testosterone production are oysters (rich in zinc), fatty fish such as salmon and tuna (vitamin D), and eggs (which contain cholesterol, the building block of testosterone). Other good foods to binge on for increased T levels include onions and garlic, spinach, and broccoli.
In the gym, intense workouts involving large muscle groups, heavy resistance, and minimum rest between sets are the best prescription for T production. Compound movements such as squats, deadlifts, bentover rows, and the bench press should be used in place of leg extensions, the pec deck, and hyperextensions. It is critical that you stress your body to get the biggest hormonal surge, and isolation movements just don’t cut it.
Finally, sleep is a critical part of the low-T conundrum.
If you don’t get eight hours of sleep per night, your body becomes catabolic. First, your body is unable to adequately recover from hard training sessions. Second, reduced sleep causes an increase in the manufacture of cortisol. This burns up muscle tissue, increases fat deposition (especially in the belly), and reduces testosterone production.
DO YOU HAVE LOW T?
To find out, tally up how many of the following you’ve experienced:
1. Low sex drive. Any reduction is bad; a drastic drop-off signals problems.
2. Difficulty achieving erection. If you depend on Viagra or Cialis, that’s not good.
3. Significant loss of muscle mass.
4. Increase in body fat.
5. Fatigue and lack of energy. If you’re sleeping seven to eight hours a night yet feel sluggish, something’s wrong.
6. Lack of enthusiasm. The inability to get excited about life in general is a sign of low T.
7. Mood changes. Are you irritable or depressed most of the time? It could be hormonal.
8. Low semen volume. A noticeable decrease in ejaculate isn’t normal.
9. Hair loss. It could be on your head, but also on your face and body.
10. Shrinkage of testicles. If your gonads feel smaller or softer to the touch, be cautious.
If you answered “yes” to three or fewer of the above symptoms, you’re in pretty good shape. If you are in the four to six range, you may have low-T trouble brewing. It’s time to look closely at your diet and exercise program. Finally, if you are experiencing seven or more of the symptoms, low T is the likely cause.