No doubt by now you’ve already heard me speak of what I call the ‘fountain-of-youth’ hormone, Growth hormone, simply known as GH or hGH. This hormone is primarily secreted during our deepest phase of sleep and is responsible for things like tissue repair and growth, and promotes lean body mass. It literally heals your body, and combats aging. There is also another hormone that promotes muscle repair and growth, lean body mass, enhances physical performance, and increases libido. If you haven’t guessed already, I’m talking about testosterone. Primarily produced in the testes, of course we men have significantly higher levels than women, but, women also make testosterone by way of their adrenal glands, (Just like men also produce estrogen). And, testosterone is in fact, what causes increased sexual desire in both men and women, so both can benefit from testosterone production. But testosterone is very much a part of why we are so different from women, physically and psychologically. Not only do men produce much higher levels of testosterone, but we have many more T-receptor sites in our bodies as well, whereas women have many more estrogen receptor sites.
There are many other hormones produced by the body that play a role in physical performance and musculature, such as DHEA, Luteinizing hormone, Insulin and Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGF-1), and Adrenaline (epinephrine), but in order to limit the scope of this article, I will focus on Growth Hormone, and Testosterone, which are by far the most significant players, having the most direct positive effects on musculature, performance, and libido.
As we age, especially after age 30, unfortunately all of our hormone levels decline. We are all aware of menopause in women, when estrogen levels drop off significantly and women are no longer fertile. Well men take note! Did you know that we can experience the same type of rapid drop-off in our testosterone levels as we approach middle age? Some doctors are even calling this down turn of testosterone, ‘male-menopause’, with symptoms including decrease in stamina, loss of libido, muscle atrophy, decrease in lean body mass, and enlarged prostate, among a myriad of other symptoms – rather vague I know, and sounds like the way most of us feel after flying a redeye and then commuting home - “Sorry honey, not tonight”.
Combine the physiological effects of decrease in GH and testosterone, compounded with chronic elevated levels of stress hormones, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a ‘body-by-Budweiser’, without even factoring in diet and exercise! But read on, because I will provide you with the knowledge you need to know in order to boost GH and testosterone levels naturally. These simple tips really work, and while they require some effort, they are much better than the alternatives, such as injecting prescription cadaver hGH at $1000 per shot, or taking black market mystery steroids from Mexico. By the way, just in case you were considering the latter, repeated anabolic steroid use side-effects include liver damage, testicle shrinkage, elevated estrogen levels and gynecomastia (male breast tissue), decreased libido, irritability (‘roid-rage’), baldness, acne, and higher blood pressure.
Growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland in short spurts primarily at night during our deepest phase of sleep, but also during intense physical activity. GH is directly involved in all tissue repair, muscle growth, protein synthesis, fat burning (lipolysis) and decreased adipose tissue, among many other restorative physiological processes. Testosterone as we all know is primarily produced in the testicles, but also by our adrenal glands and various other mechanisms, and our levels naturally peak about 5 AM each morning. Testosterone greatly enhances physical performance, causes protein synthesis by muscles, promotes lean body mass, and, is the primary hormone behind sex drive. (Luteinizing hormone, which stimulates sperm production also drives libido). Contrary to what you may have heard, testosterone is NOT the cause of male-pattern baldness, acne, or enlarged prostate. These are related to a different metabolite of testosterone known as Di-Hydro-Testosterone, DHT. Also, elevated levels of estrogen in men have been associated with enlarged prostate, (More on estrogen later). Testosterone when created naturally by the body’s own processes is a good thing and we should encourage it.
We’re talking about testosterone here, the ‘manliest’ of all hormones, so why the need to talk about T’s antagonistic and feminizing hormone – estrogen? I’ll tell you why. A big secret to boosting your own testosterone levels is by minimizing your estrogen levels. Yes – all men make some level of estrogen, via the adrenal glands, and, for some sad reason, our own liver will convert some of our precious testosterone into estrogen, via an enzyme known as Aromatase. I guess Mother Nature thought we men needed some estrogen so that we didn’t kill each other off, or blow up the earth. Anyway, it is not just low testosterone levels that cause symptoms of male-menopause, but higher estrogen levels as we age past 40. Estrogen abounds in obese men because extra body fat/adipose tissue seems to promote more of the aromatase enzyme, converting much of your T into estrogen. This is why many obese men look like the have ‘man-boobs’…they have actually developed breast tissue. High estrogen levels also promotes higher body fat, so it is a vicious cycle, not to mention estrogen is now being linked to enlarged prostate along with DHT.
Okay, enough hormone physiology. Let’s get to the crux and figure out how we can boost testosterone and growth hormone naturally, as promised. Coincidentally, many of the things you can do to boost T will also boost GH. Like I said some effort is required, but it is not complicated:
- Intense exercise, but especially weight lifting, causes both a testosterone and growth hormone release. I told you some effort is required! Keep your weight lifting and more intense work-outs to an hour or less. Lifting much longer than this and your hormone levels start to drop off. The key here is intensity – this is what triggers these muscle building, anabolic hormones to be released. Obviously, use good technique and don’t go so heavy to injure yourself, but strive for a rep. range where your muscles ‘fail’ around your tenth rep, and poundage that is 85% of your one rep. maximum. Ideally, rest periods between sets should be less than a minute for this method of working out. If the weight room just isn’t your thing, you can achieve the same effect through any means of intense strength training, such as sprint work or plyometrics.
- Strength train in such a manner as described above, consistently for two years or longer and you can actually reestablish a higher testosterone level baseline.
- Avoid ‘low-fat’ diets. This is good news, right?! But before you go over board, I better quantify this amount. 25 to 40% of your daily calories should come from healthy fats, as in fish, nuts, avocado, and fresh unsaturated oils. The biggest reason for this is that testosterone is created from cholesterol. A low fat diet may equal lower than normal testosterone levels.
- Eat a steak occasionally. I realize that steak has saturated fat in it, but eating red meat and beef in moderation has been associated with higher testosterone levels, and higher Creatine levels. There are plenty of lean cuts to choose from.
- Get a good night of sleep. The major release of growth hormone is at night during deep sleep. If you’re not sleeping deep and soundly, you’re not maximizing your growth hormone.
- During your post work-out, recovery meal, consume a shake that is ¾ simple-carbs (sugar or juice), and ¼ whey protein. Shoot for about 20 grams of whey protein. This will not only expedite muscle repair, and glycogen replenishment, but the whey will help maximize growth hormone levels.
- Shed some body fat/adipose tissue. This helps increase your free testosterone levels in your blood by lowering estrogen levels. The cold, hard, reality is that excess body fat promotes excess aromatase enzyme and consequently will convert valuable T into unwanted, body-softening estrogen. That is the main reason why obese men look like they have breasts instead of pecs.
8. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day. More than this and your testosterone levels will rapidly decline. Incidentally 1 to 2 standard size drinks per day helps prevent heart disease by boosting HDL, (good), cholesterol levels.
Now I will mention several OTC supplements you can purchase from any vitamin store, that serve as natural testosterone boosters, and two that are Prohormones that were not reclassified as steroids by the FDA. Speaking of the latter, don’t expect any dramatic results from any of these. After all, they are legal and OTC…not steroids! If you genuinely suspect you have low testosterone and you’re over age 40, your primary care physician or FAA doctor should be able to give you a blood or saliva test to check you, and if you’re low he can prescribe some testosterone creams or patches that absorb through the skin, making you feel like the young stud you once were.
- Tribulus Terresteris. This is a natural plant extract that stimulates that production of Luteinizing Hormone increasing sperm production. It also stimulates the interstial cells in the testes to produce testosterone. It is primarily used as a libido enhancer, but also for all around increased stamina. Bodybuilders often use this post-steroid cycle, to help revive their natural testosterone production.
- Zinc. 25 mg of Zinc before bed is not only good for your immune system, but it plays a major role in testosterone production, and prostate health. There is also a more expensive supplement available called ‘ZMA’, which is a blend of zinc and magnesium. Lab results have shown that this significantly boosts testosterone levels when taken before bed.
- Yomibe/yohimbine. This plant extract has been linked to testosterone production.
- Soy products contain ‘weak’ plant-based, phyto-estrogens and isoflavones that will bind to your body’s estrogen sites, in effect blocking stronger more harmful estrogen. Soy isoflavones have also been shown to block aromatase hormone, and promote prostate health. In other words, if you have gynecomastia, supplementing with soy isoflavones will help shrink them, and at the same time increase your free testosterone levels. Note: Take in moderation with less than 40 mg daily of isoflavone. Whole soy foods are better utilized by the body than isoflavone supplements.
- Saw Palmetto. Is not directly linked to increasing T, but is very beneficial for prostate health by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT.
6. Pumpkin Seeds. Eat them raw!
7. Prohormone: DHEA. DHEA is known as the ‘Mother hormone’ because it converts into so many others in the body. Produced naturally in the adrenal glands, when taken in supplement form your liver will convert into whatever adrenal hormones you seem to need at the time, but some will convert into testosterone. It can be purchase OTC at any vitamin store, but I recommend you do your own thorough research on it before you start taking it. Again, some pro bodybuilders use DHEA as part of their post-steroid recovery cycle.
- Prohormone: Pregnenalone. Pregnenalone works in supplement form in much the same way as DHEA does, converting into many different hormones, but a big boost in testosterone.
Note: All Prohormones need to be cycled in their use, because over time, you can suppress your body’s own hormone production. Also, they require some metabolizing by the liver, so liver health needs to be a consideration. Additionally, most Prohormones will partially convert into estrogen as well.
Hopefully you now feel empowered to master your own testosterone production and feel young and manly again. As always your own genetics play a major role. If nothing else gained, at least you’re now aware of the symptoms of ‘male menopause’ and can use this to get some sympathy from your wife.