Reviewed by Peter J. Stahl, MD
Written by Nicholas Gibson
Testosterone is an important male sex hormone. It does a lot for your body, and it wears several different hats. From your bone strength and muscle mass to your sex drive and mood, research has linked testosterone to just about every major aspect of male health.
Unfortunately, finding reliable information online about how to increase your testosterone levels naturally isn’t the easiest task.
Like with many other health-related topics, if you search for “how to boost testosterone” online, you’ll likely run into blog posts, videos and e-books that are far heavier on hype and anecdotes than they are on real scientific evidence.
However, there a few natural ways to increase testosterone that do appear to work, including:
Minimizing your stress levels
Getting lots of healthy sleep
Maintaining a healthy weight
Eating a testosterone-boosting diet
Using certain vitamins and supplements
Limiting your alcohol consumption
Checking the medications you use
Below, we’ve gone into more detail about each of these methods — from how you can make use of them to the latest scientific research on how they may boost testosterone levels.
We’ve also busted several common myths about boosting testosterone, including a few you've probably seen around the web.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, or androgen, responsible for producing male sex characteristics.
Testosterone plays a key role in the physical development of your male features (such as your genitals). It’s also involved in the development of secondary sex characteristics, like your body type, voice, hairline and many others.
Not only does testosterone affect your physical appearance, but it also has a significant effect on your sexual health. Testosterone regulates your sex drive and helps you get and maintain an erection when you feel like having sex.
Your body produces testosterone in numerous places, with your testicles producing the largest share. It’s a complex process, with several parts of your body — from the brain to your pituitary glands — all playing a part.
It’s common for your testosterone levels to decline as you get older. As this happens, many men develop symptoms such as a decrease in muscle mass and bone strength, a reduced interest in sex and an increase in their body fat percentage.
Normal testosterone levels can vary by a significant amount. According to a study of more than 9,000 men, the normal testosterone range for healthy, non-obese men is typically between 264 and 916 ng/dL.
Testosterone levels below this range could indicate that you have testosterone deficiency. This can occur for a variety of reasons, from getting older to medical conditions, certain medications and even aspects of your lifestyle.
You can increase your testosterone levels naturally by making small-but-consistent lifestyle and habit changes.
Here are eight natural tips that you can use to increase your testosterone levels:
We all know hitting the gym regularly has its benefits — from helping you look and feel better to disease prevention. But did you know it also overlaps with testosterone production?
While any type of exercise is better than none, research also suggests that resistance training, or strength training, might be the most effective way to boost testosterone levels with exercise.
For example, a study published in 2012 found that physically active men had higher levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) than sedentary men.
Exercise also offers several other benefits, from assisting with weight loss (an important factor for your hormonal health) to strengthening your bones and muscles, improving your mood and lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes and countless other chronic diseases.
Excessive or chronic stress can affect your body in numerous ways, including by reducing your testosterone production.
Research shows that elevated levels of cortisol — the hormone responsible for managing your body’s response to stress — may cause your body’s testosterone production to decline.
In short, stress can be a major testosterone killer, as well as something that you should try to limit for your general well-being.
While reducing stress isn’t something that always happens overnight, making a few changes to your habits and lifestyle can have a big impact over the long term. Try to reduce stress by:
Practicing meditation. Meditation is a simple yet rewarding activity that can help you control stress and anxiety. It’s also easy to incorporate into your daily routine in just a few minutes each day. Read more about the connection between low testosterone and anxiety here.
Staying active. Physical activity can help to reduce stress. As we noted above, staying physically active is also an important habit for maintaining optimal testosterone levels.
Avoiding things that trigger your stress. These could include certain people, settings or activities that make you feel anxious or worried.
Your body produces and releases most of its testosterone while you’re sleeping, making good sleep hygiene essential for maintaining healthy testosterone levels and good overall health.
While there’s no specific research on the optimal amount of sleep for testosterone, you can use the CDC’s recommendations of seven or more hours each night as a baseline figure for healthy sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours for young adults.
If you're one of the 50 to 70 million American adults dealing with some type of sleep disorder or you're just not getting enough Zs, it can definitely screw up your test production.
For example, a small study published in 2011 found that young men who underwent a week of sleep restriction (five hours per night) had daytime testosterone levels 10 percent to 15 percent below their normal levels. A potential 15 percent reduction just by not getting the right amount of sleep every night, guys.
Of course, it’s worth noting that research on this topic is still developing, which accounts for the very small sample sizes in many hormone-related sleep studies.
If you feel like you need more or less sleep, you can adjust your sleeping schedule accordingly based on how you feel during the day.
Ugh. We know. Dieting kinda sucks. But fellas, the verdict is in: those extra pounds hanging out in your mid-section may mean trouble for your testosterone levels.
Research tends to show that men who are overweight or obese have slightly lower amounts of testosterone than their peers.
In a review article published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, researchers found that obesity is associated with lower total testosterone levels in men.
The same review also concluded that low testosterone is itself linked to weight gain, which could create a self-perpetuating cycle for obese men with low testosterone levels.
Another study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology also found that young, obese men had testosterone levels 40 to 50 percent lower than healthy males in the normal BMI range.
Losing those extra pounds and leaning out a bit doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. In fact, in many cases, making small changes to your habits and lifestyle can have a big impact.
They say you are what you eat. We don't know about that, but we do know that some foods may help give your body some of the tools it needs to produce testosterone. They won’t completely kickstart your testosterone production, but they may help.
These include foods rich in healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and other important nutrients.
To keep your body in an optimal testosterone-producing state, try prioritizing the following foods and ingredients:
Vitamin-enriched dairy products
As we’ve discussed in our guide to foods that boost testosterone, many of these popular foods have been linked to increased testosterone levels in scientific studies.
We also have a blog on food that kills testosterone for more research on this.
While the vast majority of supplements marketed as testosterone boosters are more hype than substance, a few vitamins and minerals promoted as testosterone supplements are backed up by studies that suggest they may help increase your natural testosterone production.
Ashwagandha. Also known as withania somnifera, ashwagandha is an herb that’s often used in traditional Indian medicine. Research suggests that ashwagandha can increase testosterone levels, as well as lean muscle mass and strength in men.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a precursor hormone that’s used to produce other hormones, including testosterone. While research is mixed, some studies suggest that DHEA for men may help to increase testosterone.
For example, one study found that DHEA elevated free testosterone in middle-aged men when used during exercise recovery. DHEA is a prohibited substance by WADA, which means you’ll need to avoid this supplement if you compete in sports.
Other supplements may help to increase testosterone, but aren’t quite as strongly supported by scientific research. These include:
Vitamin D. Scientific research suggests that vitamin D may be linked to higher levels of testosterone in men, making a vitamin D supplement worth considering if you’re looking to increase your testosterone levels.
Zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral that’s linked to immune health and optimal metabolic function. Studies of its effects on testosterone have produced mixed results, with some research showing increases and other studies showing no significant effects.
Magnesium. Similarly to zinc, research suggests that magnesium supplementation may help to increase testosterone levels if you have a magnesium deficiency — an issue that affects an estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of the population.
In a 2011 study, researchers found that magnesium levels were closely linked to testosterone levels in older men. However, it’s unclear if magnesium itself increases testosterone levels in men without a magnesium deficiency.
Fenugreek. While evidence is mixed, some research has found that the herbal product fenugreek might increase testosterone levels. For example, severalstudies have found that fenugreek appears to increase testosterone levels and improve sexual function.
However, other research has found that fenugreek increases sexual desire, but doesn’t have a significant impact on testosterone levels.
Tribulus. Like fenugreek, the evidence for tribulus is mixed. Some research shows that it’s effective as a testosterone booster, while other studies show little or no improvement when it’s used by men with normal testosterone levels.
D-aspartic acid. Like fenugreek and tribulus, there’s some evidence that D-aspartic acid may boost testosterone, in this case by stimulating the release of luteinizing hormone — a precursor hormone for testosterone.
The study linked involved both human and rat subjects. As for human research, a study in the journal PLOS One found that men who took D-aspartic acid over the course of 12 weeks did not show any significant improvements in testosterone levels.
Hey… Just so we’re clear here, we see absolutely nothing wrong with a good strong drink from time to time. In fact, we’d argue that it’s downright medicinal.
Still, research shows that alcohol use is associated with low testosterone and other negative effects on your sexual function and reproductive health.
If you drink alcohol often and have noticed any symptoms of low testosterone, it could be worth cutting back on the sauce.
This doesn’t mean quitting drinking altogether, of course. Instead, try aiming for a moderate alcohol intake if you’re normally a frequent drinker. According to the US Dietary Guidelines, for men, this is up to two servings of alcohol (for example, two 12-ounce beers or glasses of wine) per day.
This is a single-day guideline, not an average, meaning one wild night out a week after several alcohol-free days still exceeds the guidelines.
Some common medications, such as statins, may be associated with lower testosterone levels in men.
It’s important to take medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. However, if you’re prescribed medication and feel worried about your testosterone levels, contact your healthcare provider for a quick chat.
If you have symptoms of low-T, your healthcare provider might suggest switching to a different medication or making other changes to your routine.
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There are lots of myths about testosterone out there, including “tips” for increasing testosterone levels that aren’t effective.
Many of these myths sound accurate, but aren’t actually supported by any scientific research or other empirical evidence. These include ideas like:
Soy products can reduce your testosterone levels.
Eating steak and eggs can help you make more testosterone.
Cold showers can boost testosterone production.
Plastic food packaging is bad for your manhood.
To help you avoid wasting your time on techniques that don’t work, we’ve busted each of these myths below.
If you spend any time browsing online fitness communities, you may have heard that soy-based products, such as soy-based meat alternatives, miso and soy milk, can lower your production of testosterone and affect your health.
The reality is that there’s very little scientific evidence to show that soy products have any effect on testosterone levels in healthy men. In fact, multiple scientific reviews have found that normal amounts of soy have no impact on testosterone or a “feminizing” effect on men’s hormones.
Life isn't a Spaghetti Western. Although Wild Bill might have credited a steady diet of steak and eggs with his success in the Old West, when it comes to testosterone production, the research is mixed at best.
While there is some evidence to suggest that diets rich in fat may have a positive effect on your ability to produce testosterone, there’s also research showing that fat-heavy food might reduce testosterone levels.
Put simply, the jury is still very much out on this one. While steak and eggs can taste great and are definitely rich in protein, there’s no real evidence that eating this type of meal frequently will help you generate more testosterone.
You may have heard that products packaged using plastic can lower testosterone by passing on chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S (BPS) into your body.
Exposure to BPA definitely isn’t good for you. However, the link between plastic packaging, BPA and testosterone levels isn’t quite as clear as many blogs and other sources of information may make it seem.
There is some research showing that BPA may be linked to reduced testosterone. For example, a study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2013 found that men exposed to BPA in the workplace had lower sex hormone levels.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that eating food from plastic containers will impact your testosterone production. This is because the quantity of BPA in food containers is much smaller than the amount of BPA a worker may be exposed to in an industrial setting.
In short, the jury is also out on BPA and testosterone. Avoiding plastics is a good idea whenever possible, but the theory that not eating canned food or avoiding plastic meal prep containers could boost your testosterone isn’t yet supported by solid science.
This myth is another online rumor mill favorite. The idea behind it is simple — that taking a cold shower keeps your testicles at an optimal temperature, helping your body produce testosterone more efficiently.
Currently, we don’t have any reliable research that shows a strong relationship between cold water exposure (or temperature in general) and how well your testicles produce testosterone.
Although there’s some evidence that testicular temperature may be linked to things like sperm production and protein synthesis, there’s no reliable research showing that showering cold is linked to any changes in testosterone levels.
In fact, one study from the early 1990s concluded that cold water stimulation actually reduced testosterone levels. But hey, who knows.
Testosterone has a significant impact on your health and well-being, regulating everything from your sex drive to many aspects of your physical strength.
When it comes to getting a natural testosterone boost, you’ll get the best results by:
Living a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet and keeping your body weight in the normal BMI range.
Getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, since your body produces most of your testosterone while you’re asleep.
Limiting your consumption of alcohol and, if appropriate, using supplements to improve your testosterone product.
As for approaches like eating steak and eggs, taking cold showers or avoiding soy-based food, there isn’t any reliable evidence that these have a significant impact on testosterone levels, sex drive or overall men’s health.
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You can also learn about improving your sexual function in our detailed list of habits to improve your sexual performance.
Dr. Peter J. Stahl is the Director of Male Reproductive and Sexual Medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and Associate Professor of Urology at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, and subsequently attended medical school and completed his urology residency at New York Presbyterian-Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
Following residency, he completed two years of fellowship training in male reproductive medicine, and microsurgery at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Microsurgery at Weill Cornell and received additional training during a fellowship in male sexual medicine and penile reconstructive surgery at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Stahl is a recognized leader in the medical and surgical treatment of sexual disorders that affect men. He has published more than 45 articles in peer-reviewed medical literature, serves as a reviewer for several major academic journals and is a member of numerous professional associations — including the American Urological Association and the Sexual Medicine Society of North America.