[UPDATED 8-20-2018] Google the word, “testosterone,” and 37,800,000 results will show up. It’s without a doubt one of (if not the) most popular topics among men of all ages, and it’s also one of the most misunderstood.

Testosterone (T) plays a huge role in determining the quality of a man’s life. When a man’s T levels are excellent, he feels invincible—ready and willing to take on any challenge, but when they’re low, all kinds of things begin to go wrong.

The amount of science surrounding this topic is enough to give a person brain damage, so I’m not going to delve too far into that end of it. Rather, I’m going to touch on some of the general components of testosterone, as well as sharing some actionable strategies that will begin boosting your testosterone levels so that you can perform at the highest possible level—physically, sexually, cognitively, and emotionally.

Healthy levels of testosterone will:

  • Decreases body fat
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Increase libido
  • Increase bone density
  • Increase cognitive function
  • Increase endurance
  • Fight depression
  • Increase confidence
  • Increase motivation

*It’s important to know that this article is intended for men over the age of 20. The information will not fully align with kids, adolescents, teenagers, or women.

Testosterone 101

Testosterone is produced primarily in the testes of men, and to a lesser extent, in the ovaries of women. Testosterone has received a bad rap for decades. It has been associated with haughty, aggressive, and even violent behavior, but the truth is that optimal T levels are conducive to a man’s success—helping him to thrive in all areas of life. Often, low testosterone is the cause of depression and anger, resulting in a life that’s anything but fulfilling.

Testosterone has received a bad rap for decades.

We can experience a surge of testosterone when our favorite NFL team scores a touchdown, or when we break a personal record on the bench press. Our T levels can even rise when we experience some quality sleep. Testosterone is also affected by our sense of self, our mindset, and our lifestyle habits. When we overcome a challenge, our testosterone increases, but when we fail, it drops. When T levels plummet, the stress hormone: *cortisol rises simultaneously—wreaking havoc on our mental and physical state of well-being.

There are (3) primary male testosterone biomarkers:

  1. Free testosterone
  2. SHBG-bound testosterone
  3. Albumin-bound testosterone


Free testosterone (Free T), is the measurement of both free testosterone and albumin-bound testosterone in your body. These are the bioavailable T’s for which the body can actually use. Free T is sometimes difficult to measure accurately because it makes up such a small percentage of your total T’s. This is why many physicians will focus on total testosterone—because it’s easier to interpret. But total T only shows us part of the picture.

It’s crucial for a man that’s climbing into his late 30s to know where his total (and free) testosterone levels lie. When these numbers are off, life is off. But there are many lifestyle adjustments that we can apply to balance these numbers—naturally. Read on and learn.


SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin) is a protein produced primarily in the liver, as well as the testes and brain. It transports androgens (testosterone) and estrogen to sex hormone receptors throughout your body—acting as a master regulator. Simply put, SHBG regulates a healthy balance between a man’s testosterone and estrogen levels. [2]

As we age, SHBG levels begin to rise and bind to our sex hormones—reducing their bioavailability to cells in our body. Elevated levels of SHBG in the blood can cause testosterone to be less available to healthy tissue—resulting in poor sexual performance, diminished libido, cognitive decline, chronic fatigue, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). [3]

On the flip side, having SHBG levels that are too low can result in conditions that include obesity, insulin resistance, chronic high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome (pregnant man belly)!


Albumin is another protein that’s produced by the liver, testes, and brain. It plays numerous roles in the body, but its key role is to prevent plasma from leaking out of blood vessels and into surrounding tissues. It also acts as a carrier for steroids, including testosterone.

The important thing to know is that low albumin levels can be a sign of kidney or liver disease, (or) an indication that the body is deficient in vital micronutrients (e.g., vitamin C, B12, B6, D3, etc.)

What is Total Testosterone?

Total testosterone is a standard biomarker that physicians often look at to determine a man’s hormonal health, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s only part of the story. Total T is basically the combination of free testosterone; (SHBG and albumin) combined.

Let’s dig a litter deeper as to why this test (in itself) is not always an ideal marker for your hormonal health.

Total testosterone alone doesn’t always provide us with the data we need to identify optimal hormonal health.

Let’s say that your SHBG levels are high (which isn’t a good thing), and your albumin levels are really low (which is also not a good thing). This could theoretically equate to a “normal” total testosterone reading—although there’s some bad stuff happening behind the scenes.

Total testosterone alone doesn’t always provide us with the data we need to identify optimal hormonal health.

What Are “Normal” Testosterone Levels?

Google “normal testosterone levels” and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with contradictory opinions, numbers, and statements on this topic. From my own research, I’ve seen 348 – 1197 ng/dL as a commonly total T range, but there’s a 2017 study that provides a new guideline for testosterone levels:

On April 1, 2017, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism performed a cohort study of 9,000 healthy (non-obese) men, ranging from ages 19 – 39. They concluded that a normal range of total testosterone was 264 to 916 ng/dL (nanograms per deciliter). [1]

I’ll give you some perspective so that these numbers make more sense to you. At the time of writing this article, I’m 43 years old and my total testosterone is 560 ng/dL. My energy levels are high, I feel strong, I have little to no joint pain, and my libido is on point. But this number could mean something very different to another man. Remember, if your SHBG or Albumin levels (which make up total testosterone) are imbalanced, it can mess with your “free” testosterone—resulting in a “normal” total T number, even though your physical performance is declining.

I still need to test my free, SHBG, and albumin testosterone levels to get the full picture. I’ll share my results with you when I get them.

What You Should Test For

It’s important to have (all four) T levels tested; SHBG, albumin, total, and free testosterone. If not specified, your doctor will probably give you some push-back. Typically, they only want to perform a standard “total T” test.

It’s crucial to test your T levels every three to six months while on a new diet and exercise program.

It’s crucial to test your T levels every three to six months while on a new diet and exercise program. As you begin to see your T levels progress for the better, your confidence will grow—motivating you to keep going!

Testing Methods

Let’s talk about T-testing methods.

Whether you’re a high-performing businessman, a stay at home dad, or an athlete, you should have a clear picture of your overall hormonal health. A man’s quality of life is determined by his testosterone. If you’re over 35, you should consider having all four T biomarkers tested:

1. Total Testosterone
2. SHBG levels
3. Albumin levels
4. Free Testosterone

  1. Total Testosterone Testing
    There are (2) methods to test your total testosterone:

    1. LC/MS Method
    2. ECLIA Method

    LC/MS Method
    Short for (liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry). This test has become the gold standard for total T testing. It’s a little more expensive than ECLIA method testing and takes a bit longer to get back test results.

    ECLIA Method
    Short for (Electrochemiluminescent Immunoassay). This is an affordable lab test that measures total testosterone. However, it’s said that the ECLIA test is somewhat inaccurate in comparison to the LC/MS test.
  2. SHBG Testing
    SHBG is a little trickier to test. Many physicians will try and discourage you from testing SHBG. Traditionally, they are only interested in the “total” testosterone results, but this is outdated thinking. As I mentioned earlier, your total T can be in a normal range, but (low, or high) SHBG levels can be causing you problems behind the scenes, so it may be wise to order this test in addition to a total testosterone test.
  3. Albumin Testing
    Once you’ve gotten over the hurdle of convincing your doctor to test your SHBG levels, testing your albumin levels is simple; as it’s often included alongside the SHBG test.
  4. Free Testosterone Testing
    You can test your “free” testosterone by itself, or alongside your total SHBG, and albumin. This test is a good example. They also use the LC/MS method of testing, which is supposed to be more accurate.

Testosterone Boosting Hacks

Now, let’s get to the juicy part; testosterone hacks! Once you’ve been tested and you know where you stand regarding testosterone health, you can begin to manipulate your T levels (in your favor) by applying some (if not all) of these natural hacks.

Hack #1: Eat More Fat

By now, you’ve heard about the numerous health benefits of a high-fat diet. If you haven’t, that’s OK, but the research is out there, and it’s undeniable. A high (quality) fat diet can benefit brain, heart, and cellular health. But did you know that consuming the “right kind” of fats on a daily basis can also increase testosterone levels in men? [4]

You might remember the low-fat diet craze that overwhelmed the 80s and 90s. Chicken breasts, egg whites, brown rice, and skim milk were the staple of just about every bodybuilding regimen in existence—and unfortunately, these dated concepts are still being practiced by many fitness enthusiasts and pros today.

MCT oil, coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, extra virgin olive oil, wild-caught salmon, and sardines are just a few examples of testosterone-boosting fatty foods.

Hack #2: Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting increases mental performance, reduces inflammation, improves digestion, and promotes longevity. The list goes on and on. But it’s also near the top of the list of natural testosterone boosting hacks. [5], [6], [7]

The important thing to know is that it has nothing to do with “starving” yourself.

If you don’t know much about intermittent fasting, it’s OK. The important thing to know is that it has nothing to do with “starving” yourself.

Fasting for 12 to 18 hours a day (or every other day) is an amazing tool to balance out a man’s hormones (as well as his overall health).

If you’re a beginner, a simple approach to intermittent fasting is to consume your last meal of the day at around 7pm. Don’t eat anything else (or drink sugary liquids) until 10am. That’s a 15-hour fast! When you wake at let’s say 6am, make yourself a quality fat, creamy coffee by adding some grass-fed butter and coconut oil — but with little to no creamer. The quality fat (sugar-free) coffee will easily curb your hunger for the remaining 4-5 hours, and by sidestepping the sugar, you won’t break your fast.

The ketones that are produced from intermittent fasting will increase your testosterone health for the better.

You’ll also notice a new level of mental performance and clarity!

Hack #3: HIIT Training

High Intense Interval Training has a powerful impact on testosterone. [8] Unlike prolonged exercise, which has little to no positive effects on testosterone, intense, short workouts of 20 to 30 minutes with very little rest in between sets will give you an incredible surge of testosterone!

It’s important to know that HIIT training can be used beyond the weight room. Sprinting, swimming, hiking, and even pushups can be used as HIIT tools. Just find what you enjoy doing and slowly work your way up to multiple sets of short bursts and intense effort with little rest in between.

Hack #4: Sleep Like A Gangsta

How many times have you found yourself skimming Facebook, or finishing up an episode of Game of Thrones before bed? A lack of sleep (especially quality sleep) has been shown to decrease testosterone in men.

In a 2011 Journal of American Medical Association study, they concluded that there was a 10% to 15% decrease in testosterone among male participants that slept 5 hours per night for (1) week. [9]

Also, after reading renown health and wellness expert, Shawn Stevenson’s best-selling book; Sleep Smarter, there’s no doubt that the quality of sleep we get impacts our health and testosterone in powerful ways.

Try This: Try taking magnesium and sip on some chamomile tea before bed to help you reach some of that amazing REM sleep.

Hack #5: Vitamin Therapy

Vitamins and minerals are not just vital for longevity, but they play a role in testosterone health as well.


Vitamin D deficiency is a big problem in the United States, as well as many other regions around the world, mainly because people just aren’t spending enough time in the sun.

Vitamin D deficiency is a big problem in the United States, as well as many other regions around the world.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that can increase testosterone levels in men. [10] Sun exposure is by far the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels, but as a last resort, Vitamin D3 supplementation is necessary.


Zinc is a mineral that plays an important role in hormone production, including testosterone health. The effects that zinc has on testosterone levels are not fully understood.

Foods rich in zinc include grass-fed beef, cashews, pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, spinach, chicken, chickpeas, cocoa powder, and lamb.

If your diet isn’t on point, supplementation is a necessary option.


Magnesium is another mineral that’s associated with testosterone. It’s supposed to increase the bioavailability of testosterone—allowing the body to utilize it more efficiently. [11]

Foods rich in magnesium include spinach, avocados, chard, almonds, pumpkins, yogurt, dark chocolate, black beans, and bananas.

If your diet isn’t on point, supplementation is a necessary option.

Hack #6: Supplements

The testosterone boosting supplement industry is huge, and the choices are endless, but here are a few options that you could try before you turn to hardcore T-boosters or TRT (testosterone replacement therapy).


There are numerous scientific studies that support creatine monohydrate’s legit muscle-building benefits, but there’s also evidence that suggests that it also has positive effects on testosterone levels! [12], [13], [14]

Add a serving of creatine monohydrate to your pre (or post) workout concoction for endurance, muscle growth, recovery, and testosterone-boosting benefits.



Ashwagandha is an herb that has been shown to have an adaptogenic impact on testosterone health in men. Although some of the claims can be over-the-top, ashwagandha can reduce stress, anxiety, inflammation and cortisol levels—which in an of itself can increase T levels. [17]

Ashwagandha can reduce stress, anxiety, inflammation and cortisol levels.

Ashwagandha may also improve thyroid and adrenal health.

Dosage and servings: Some experts recommend 500mg 1-2x daily.

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Maca root is an adaptogen and a member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli and Brussels Sprouts. This superfood is usually found in powder form and is loaded with nutrients. It’s not typically seen as a testosterone booster, but studies show that Maca may increase libido, so I thought it was worth mentioning. [16]

More Maca benefits include hormone balance in both men and women, fertility, energy, mood, memory, and immunity.

Dosage and servings: According to experts, there is no particular recommended serving size of maca. However, most people seem to feel best when starting with about one tablespoon daily (in powder form) and possibly working their way up to 2-3 tablespoons.

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According to research, Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) may increase testosterone levels, especially when taken with strength training. [15]

If your diet is already rich in grass-fed beef, wild caught salmon, and hormone-free chicken, BCAA supplementation might not be necessary.

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Hack #7: Lose Weight

The research is pretty clear. There is a relationship between weight loss and increased testosterone. [18]

Poor sleep, stress, refined sugars, processed grains, conventional (hormone-packed) meat and a lack of exercise can all hurt your efforts to lose body fat—ultimately resulting in decreased testosterone.

The median BMI (body mass index) for a 40-year-old man is said to be roughly 26, but I would aim for 15 to 18 — being that 30+ is considered to be obese. You don’t even want to be in the 20s if you can help it.

Hack #8: Ditch the Sweets

This is one that people just don’t like to hear. I get it. Sugar is SWEET! (pun intended). The average American is said to consume up to 12 teaspoons of refined sugar a day; about two tons a year!

The average American is said to consume up to 12 teaspoons of refined sugar a day!

The truth is, if you can’t get your sugar intake under total control, YOU WILL NEVER reach your health and fitness goals. I know that’s a pretty frank statement, but I’m not investing hours of my time writing this post to waste yours.

I also don’t need to go into the science of sugar and the effects it has on the body. You’ve heard most of it.

Remove as much sugar (as well as artificial sweeteners; e.g., Splenda) from your diet as possible. Artificial sweeteners will only intensify your cravings for the real thing.

Hack #9: Relax

Stress and testosterone don’t play well together. Period.

We have to allow our bodies to rest. We need to find ways to disconnect from the stressors of life.

On a physiological level, chronic stress causes cortisol levels to spike, which in turn impairs DHEA production—causing testosterone to plummet.

Healthy habits that help me to deal with stress include running, hiking, weight training, reading, writing, watching football, family time, laughter, prayer, meditation, playing my acoustic guitar, and traveling.

Vitamin B6 has been shown to help with stress (as well as; brain function, joint pain, sleep, heart health, and anxiety).

Hack #10: Consume More Salt!

Salt might possibly be the most negatively-hyped topic of almost every conversation. Well, not in my circles. Even the most non-biased functional medicine physicians I know lean on the side of greater salt intake. Because one thing is certain; when our bodies enter a salt-deprived state, all kinds of negative things begin to happen — including a drop in testosterone.

There’s deeper science behind this, but simply put, salt restriction causes us to crave more sugar. A low-sodium diet also causes us to become more insulin-resistant — resulting in an even greater blood glucose spike when we down that caramel latte! If this throws you for a loop, I highly recommend Dr. James DiNicolantonio’s book: “The Salt Fix.” It’s a required read for any health advocate.

Aim for sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt.


Masculinity isn’t a concept; it’s a rite of passage. Being a man can be challenging. Our families depend on us to provide and protect. Our employers expect us to perform and produce. And at any given moment, our dormant primal instincts can be awakened by unexpected calamity.

Testosterone is key to a man’s mental fortitude and physical ability. It reinforces his unremitting drive to overcome obstacles and persevere in the presence of almost any challenge.

Unhealthy lifestyle habits will undoubtedly affect our body’s production of testosterone; resulting in unpleasant, and even dangerous consequences that may include depression, feelings of hopelessness, and even suicidal thoughts.

Testosterone is no laughing matter and should be at the top of our list of priorities.

Don’t wait for negative symptoms before you begin monitoring your T levels.

Guard it and honor it, gentlemen.

PUSHTHROUGH shares information on health, nutrition, supplementation, fitness, and biochemistry topics for the general public. The information is made available with the understanding that the author is not providing medical, psychological, or nutritional counseling services on this site. The information should not be used in place of a consultation with a health care professional (preferably a functional medicine or naturopathic specialist).

The information on this website does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, and interactions. It is not intended as nutritional or medical advice for individual problems. Liability for individual actions or omissions based upon the contents of this site is expressly disclaimed.


// photo credit: Artem Sapegin

[1]: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2016-2935 [2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/6462 [3]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24670886 [4]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6538617 [5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622429/?report=classic [6]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17078771 [7]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4257368 [8]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28794164 [9]: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1029127 [10]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195 [11]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20352370 [12]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19741313 [13]: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0765159711001171 [14]: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0765159715000039 [15]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20300014 [16]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12472620 [17]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3863556 [18]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3955331