Testosterone plays an important role in many aspects of your health, from sexual function to disease risk. Learn how actions such as lifting weights can help you improve your testosterone levels naturally.
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone. People assigned female at birth also have small amounts of it.
It’s a steroid hormone that’s mostly produced in the testicles and ovaries. The adrenal glands produce small amounts too.
During puberty in people assigned male at birth, testosterone is one of the main drivers of physical changes like increased muscle, a deeper voice, and hair growth (1).
Having optimal levels is also important throughout adulthood.
In adult males, healthy levels are important for general health and just about everything else, including disease risk, body composition, and sexual function (
Additionally, increasing your testosterone to optimal levels may result in greater muscle mass and strength (6,
Interestingly, testosterone also plays an important role in female health and sexual well-being (
Here are eight evidence-based ways to increase your testosterone levels naturally.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent many lifestyle-related diseases. Not only that but it can also boost your testosterone levels.
One 2015 study involving men with obesity found that increased physical activity was more beneficial than calorie restriction for increasing testosterone levels (
According to one literature review, the effects on testosterone levels can vary based on several factors, including the type of exercise and the training intensity (12).
Resistance training, such as weightlifting, has been shown to boost testosterone levels in the short term (
High intensity interval training (HIIT) can be very effective as well, although all types of exercise should work to some extent (
All forms of exercise may increase your testosterone levels, especially weightlifting and high intensity interval training.
What you eat can affect levels of testosterone as well as other hormones (16).
Additionally, constant dieting or overeating may disrupt your testosterone levels (
Eating enough protein can help you maintain healthy testosterone levels and can aid in fat loss, which may be beneficial too (19).
Consuming plenty of healthy fats may also help support testosterone levels and hormone balance. Some research shows that a low fat diet could actually decrease testosterone levels (20).
Therefore, a nutritious, well-rounded diet based mainly on whole foods is best. A healthy balance of protein, fat, and carbs can help you optimize your hormone levels and support your overall health.
Following a nutritious, well-rounded diet with balanced amounts of protein, fat, and carbs may help support healthy testosterone levels.
Research often highlights the dangers of long-term stress, which can elevate levels of the hormone cortisol (21, 22).
Sudden elevations in cortisol can quickly reduce testosterone. These hormones often work in a seesaw-like manner: As one goes up, the other comes down (16).
Stress and high cortisol can also increase food intake, weight gain, and the storage of harmful body fat around your organs. In turn, these changes may negatively affect testosterone levels (
For both optimal health and hormone levels, try to manage your stress levels. Staying active, getting plenty of sleep each night, and practicing some stress-relieving techniques may be beneficial.
Chronic stress can negatively affect health and reduce testosterone levels.
Vitamin D is a micronutrient that plays a key role in many aspects of health (
Despite its importance, it’s estimated that up to 1 billion people worldwide are deficient (26).
Some research shows that low levels of vitamin D may be linked to lower testosterone levels (27,
Additionally, a 2017 study involving 102 men with a vitamin D deficiency found that taking a vitamin D supplement increased testosterone levels and improved erectile dysfunction (29).
More research is needed, as other studies have turned up conflicting results (
To maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, try to get regular exposure to sunlight or consider taking a vitamin D3 supplement as directed by a healthcare professional.
Some studies have found that low levels of vitamin D could be associated with decreased testosterone levels. However, more research is needed to determine whether supplementation may be beneficial.
Although the potential benefits of multivitamins are hotly debated, certain supplements may be useful for supporting healthy testosterone levels.
In one study, zinc supplementation increased testosterone levels and improved sexual function in postmenopausal women with low blood levels of zinc (
According to another review, zinc supplementation could also be beneficial for men with low testosterone levels and infertility, particularly if they have a testosterone deficiency (33).
Older studies suggest that several herbal supplements could also help support healthy testosterone levels, including saw palmetto, ginger, and ashwagandha. However, more research is needed (34, 35, 36).
If you decide to add any supplements to your routine, be sure to talk with a healthcare professional first, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.
Zinc supplements could support healthy testosterone levels, especially for people who have a testosterone deficiency. Other herbal supplements like saw palmetto, ginger, and ashwagandha may also be beneficial, but more studies are needed.
Getting good sleep is just as important for your health as diet and exercise (37).
Sleep quality may also have major effects on your testosterone levels. In fact, one study involving 2,295 teenage boys and men found that impaired sleep could be linked to lower levels of testosterone (
The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but a small 2011 study found that sleeping only 5 hours per night was linked to a 10%–15% reduction in testosterone levels (
Interestingly, one study involving older men found that increased sleep duration of up to 9.9 hours was associated with increased testosterone levels. Conversely, sleeping more than 9.9 hours was actually tied to lower testosterone levels (
Although some people seem to do fine with less sleep, most research recommends aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep every night (41).
It’s important to get plenty of high quality sleep to maintain healthy testosterone levels and optimize overall health.
There are several other factors that may affect your hormone levels.
For starters, a healthy sex life plays an important role in regulating your sex hormone and testosterone levels (42).
High exposure to estrogen-like chemicals may also affect testosterone levels. Try to minimize daily exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens, and other chemicals found in some types of plastic (43,
Reducing exposure to estrogen-like chemicals can positively affect your testosterone levels and health.
The relationship between alcohol and testosterone is complex.
Some research suggests that excess alcohol consumption can decrease testosterone levels (
Testosterone levels may drop as quickly as 30 minutes after you drink alcohol. Heavy alcohol use can lead to reduced testicular function and testicular atrophy (46).
Interestingly, studies involving adolescent boys and young men have found that testosterone levels can be used to predict alcohol dependence or onset of alcohol use. Higher levels in the saliva or blood are associated with heavier use of alcohol and a younger age at the onset of alcohol use (
Alcohol and testosterone have a complex relationship. It’s best to moderate your alcohol intake since excessive consumption can have a negative effect on your testosterone levels and testicular health.
Testosterone levels in males peak at 19 years and naturally start to decline with age. They decrease by an average of 1%–2% each year after age 30 years although they may stabilize in your 40s or beyond (
This decline is of concern because strong research shows a link between low testosterone and obesity, increased disease risk, and premature death (49,
Healthy testosterone levels are also important for people assigned female at birth, along with other key hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
Following a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle using some of the tips outlined above can help optimize testosterone levels while also promoting overall health.