Many people want to know how they can naturally increase testosterone. It is commonly assumed that lifting weights and strength training is the only way to increase testosterone; however, running also increases testosterone. Keep reading to learn about the basics of testosterone and why it’s important for athletic performance.
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone is mostly known as the male sex hormone. However, everyone has some amount of testosterone inside them. Sex primarily dictates how much the human body produces. People with penises produce testosterone in the testes, while those with vulvas produce smaller amounts of testosterone in their ovaries. This is important to keep in mind as different physiologies will benefit from different testosterone increasing activities.
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for stimulating facial and pubic hair growth, lower voice and packing on muscle. For females, too much testosterone can lead to balding.
Testosterone Research and why It’s a Popular Steroid
To understand the effect of testosterone, consider the following study by a research group under the supervision of Shalender Bhasin, M.D., published in The New England Journal of Medicine:
The study group consisted of 43 male subjects who engaged in recreational exercise and had previous experience with weightlifting. They were asked to follow a standardized strength training program.
One group was given a specific quantity of testosterone once a week. After only ten weeks of training, the subjects’ lean body mass increased by approx. 6 kg. Their bench-press max increased by 22% and their leg-press max by 38% compared to their pre-test values.
The placebo group’s lean body mass only increased by 1.9 kg. Their bench-press max increased by 11% and their leg-press by 21%.
Another test group was given testosterone but did not participate in the training program. In spite of this, their lean body mass increased by 3.2 kg. Their bench- and leg-press maxes were almost identical with those of the group who did the training program but did not receive testosterone.
Testosterone doping usually results in massive muscle gain. In endurance sports, testosterone is also used as a performance enhancing drug because it speeds up the body’s recovery. However, there is a major downside to doping…
7 Side Effects of Abusing Testosterone and Other Steroids
- Testicular degeneration
- Hair loss
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Behavior changes
But, of course, there are natural ways of increasing your testosterone levels:
Running Increases Testosterone Naturally
If you think it takes herculean efforts to make your testosterone level rise, then think again. Moderate endurance training is perfect for boosting your body’s production of testosterone. Also, short, intense interval workouts have been found to significantly increase testosterone levels.
Testosterone is important for retaining bone mass in males. Estrogen plays a similar role for females. Bone mass is critical for runners to avoid injury. High-volume running, such as training for a fast marathon time or an ultramarathon, can lead to stress fractures. Stress fractures are more likely to occur if bone mass is low, which is a symptom of low testosterone.
Testosterone also helps increase red blood cell count. Higher red blood cell count is one of the primary determinants of endurance performance. A higher red blood cell count essentially means your heart can pump more oxygen to muscles. Obviously, this is important for running performance! This is another reason endurance athletes use testosterone as a doping agent—it gives a huge competitive advantage (but consider the risks above)!
However, the opposite effect can occur in runners who are training for an ultramarathon and running extremely long distances. Extreme endurance workouts over a long period of time have been shown to lower the production of testosterone. Therefore, endurance athletes training at very high volumes should have their testosterone levels checked on a regular basis.
In fact, low testosterone levels can be a sign of overtraining. Why is this? Because testosterone is responsible for reproduction. When in an overtrained state, the body essentially deprioritizes reproductive function (decreases testosterone production). If the body is not able to even take care of itself (overtraining), it cannot reasonably expect to successfully reproduce; thus, testosterone production decreases. This can also be seen in female athletes with a condition known as amenorrhea, where the body suspends the menstruation cycle (also part of human reproduction).
Another reason runners and endurance athletes could be suffering from low testosterone is that the body releases the stress hormone cortisol when engaging in difficult endurance training. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning that it reduces lean muscle mass and upregulates substrate utilization (i.e., the body breaks down protein, carbohydrate, and fat more effectively at the expense of building muscle). Consider the following example:
In prehistoric times, what set humans apart was their ability to outlast their game essentially. Think of following a mammoth for a very long time—it’s so big the only way to take it down is to wait until it is too tired to fight back.
What is more important as a human for that event? A big, heavy-muscled body that takes lots of calories to go anywhere? Or a leaner body that needs less energy to move and utilizes its energy more efficiently? Of course, the leaner human makes more sense from a survival perspective!
Bodybuilders don’t win marathons (usually).
Strength Training Also Increases Testosterone Naturally
Short, intense strength workouts also cause the body to release higher amounts of testosterone. Total body training, in which you work all the major muscle groups, is perfect for this. Strength training is better suited to building muscle. One of those reasons is that strength training stimulates more testosterone production compared to running (especially long distances as noted above).
It may seem obvious, but consider why strength training is more effective at building muscle. It is not only the load placed on the muscles; it is the fact that bodies (primarily the bodies of people with penises) respond to this demand by producing more testosterone. Essentially, strength training sends a stimulus to the body that it needs to recruit more muscle to pick up or push a heavy object (like doing a squat or pulling a mammoth carcass in prehistoric times). The body responds by releasing a hormone that tells the muscles to grow to meet the demand (and ideally exceed the demand for next time). This is what is happening on a molecular level inside the body.
Squats release tons of testosterone! Try these squat variations to boost T levels today!
Sleep is Key to Increasing Testosterone, Building Muscle, and Recovery
Stress is an absolute testosterone killer. The best defense against stress is plenty of good-quality sleep. This helps your body recover more quickly and it lowers your stress level.
Vitamin D Stimulates Testosterone Production
Recent studies have shown that there are similarities in the seasonal fluctuation of vitamin D and testosterone. Furthermore, there is evidence suggesting that taking supplemental vitamin D can also boost the production of testosterone in the testicular cells.
Check out the best foods for runners for more running-related nutrition tips!
Bottom line: There are natural ways of increasing your testosterone level. Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways of benefiting from the positive effects of testosterone. Increased testosterone not only improves your athletic performance, but it is good for your libido, too. A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health with 30,000 subjects found that men who exercise regularly have a 30% lower risk of impotency than those who do not exercise.
Head to adidas Training and do a challenging muscle-building workout to boost your T and your body!