First things first, when thinking about maximizing you testosterone naturally and safely one must understand the general math of how your hormones work. We each have a combination of hormones constantly produced by our body that all work together in a very specific and delicate balance. One of the key reasons behind maximizing your testosterone naturally in the first place is to avoid disrupting this delicate balance which, quite literally, direct you cells and major bodily operations.
By introducing synthetic exogenous hormones into your body like injectable testosterone, we disrupt this balance internally in sometimes incredible and sometimes disastrous ways. That being said, perhaps the real question is ‘Do you want to still be you?” I say this because pushing hormones well beyond your natural genetic state often has drastic impacts on not just your physiology but also your personality. My point here is that by going about things naturally to boost your free testosterone, you avoid the many pitfalls inherent in introducing a foreign anabolic into the body.
Below is a basic equation that, while perhaps an oversimplification, gets you thinking about a couple key relationships in your test levels:
– SHBG-bound T
– Albumin Protein-bound T
Man's true anabolic state
Of course, the actual biology of ‘free testosterone’ is more complicated, but the important lesson is that in order to maximize your ‘free testosterone’ that you feel and experience you must simultaneously manage or limit your estrogen levels and especially your cortisol levels.
While future blogs will delve deeper into the many natural techniques available to boost testosterone, this comes after you have first taken measures to manage and lower your detracting cortisol levels. No sense boosting testosterone so it can all be converted to estrogen or depleted by cortisol! Cortisol is the ‘stress hormone’ in the body and directly limits your free testosterone levels by filling valuable hormone receptor sites instead of testosterone.
Top 3 Tips for Reducing Cortisol:
- Manage your daily stress
- Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night
- Avoid over training
1. Manage your daily stress
Stress boosts your cortisol levels and greatly diminishes your T levels. While there are many books out there on stress management and reduction, I will share two tips that really changed my life. First, learn and practice saying “no” more in your daily life. It is indeed the most powerful word in the human language!
Saying “no” more in your life, even if that includes saying no to yourself at moments, is a huge step in setting the boundaries necessary to preserve your energy and, ultimately, self respect. Saying “no” more is also a fail safe way to find out which relationships in your life are healthy and productive versus those that suck your energy, time, and resources.
My second major tip for reducing stress levels and, hence, cortisol levels in the body is to adopt some form of daily mediation practice. There are countless ways to meditate, but if you are new I recommend trying the popular phone ap Headspace to get you started.
Another option is to play one of the thousands of guided meditations available on YouTube to help you relax.The goal is to start with just 5 minutes a day and grow it to at least 20 minutes each day. It is not complicated--simply sit in a comfortable position, set a timer, and pay attention to your breath for a while. Trust me, it works if you stick with it.
2. Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night
While sleep in and of itself is huge for boosting your natural testosterone levels, it is also key in reducing the cortisol levels in the body.The more quality sleep you get, the less cortisol is released into the bloodstream. Likewise, reduced sleep results in the body pumping out more cortisol and reducing one's anabolic potential. I will blog more on this topic in the future, but let me say that “quality sleep” means complete darkness in the bedroom free of the ‘blue light’ of electronics or other lights coming into your bedroom. This allows proper secretion of melatonin to ensure deeper sleep cycles. Investing in some serious blackout shades is one of the best investments you can make for you general health.
3. Avoid over-training
After many years of the “every day is 100%” attitude of my teens and early 20’s, I finally learned that proper rest & recuperation is every bit as important as exercise and nutrition on your endocrine health. If you are wanting to boost your natural testosterone levels, you must be limiting your workout sessions to 60-75 minutes per workout and incorporating at least two solid days off each week.
An even bigger culprit in over training is the ‘Chronic Cardio Syndrome’ where people treat everyday like a triathlon, grinding their bodies and hormonal secretion to nil. Don't get me wrong, Cardio is great but I strongly recommend keeping it to under 2 hours per week in total if peak hormone output is a priority. You may love running for an hour every day, but the most recent research is revealing some pretty potent effects on hormone levels in the body.
Also, learn to vary the intensities of your workouts throughout the week. Have easy, medium, and hard days planned in your schedule to prevent you from ‘Going 110%’ every day of the week. Personally, I like 3-4 lifting days per week with varying intensity and a couple HIIT cardio days here and there to keep the heart and lungs healthy. Lastly, I incorporate yoga and other “active recovery” practices like stretching, foam rolling, and myofascial work.
If you are interested in an optimal program that incorporates everything listed above, check out my Testosterone-180 & Testosterone-365 programs. They emphasize building lean, dense muscle and shedding fat through research-backed training principles that naturally maximize testosterone and GH secretion.
There you go, the ‘Big 3’ in cortisol reduction to help you reduce internal stress levels and allow more of your total and free testosterone to be bio-available, thus creating as anabolic a state as possible so our training and hard work generates the results we want.