When most young men decide to get in shape, the dream of becoming a bodybuilder is lodged firmly in their mind.
Building large biceps, a massive chest, and having legs that require specially designed trousers all have huge appeal.
But after training for a few years it becomes apparent that if you really want to be a bodybuilder then you’ll probably need to consider taking steroids.
Professional bodybuilders attain such incredible size due to hard work, dieting, and lots of anabolic steroids.
Testosterone is one of the most commonly taken anabolic steroids. It has many benefits, increased protein synthesis, increased strength and size gains, improved recovery, and many more.
But it also has some negatives, the biggest of which being that taking unprescribed testosterone is illegal in most countries.
Because of this, natural bodybuilding (where contestants avoid steroid use) has become very popular. But natural bodybuilders still need to build muscle, increase strength, and improve recovery, or their results will be poor.
Instead of taking anabolic steroids, natural bodybuilders look for ways to naturally increase their testosterone levels.
The purpose of this article is to look at several ways for you to effectively increase your testosterone, particularly if you are currently suffering from low levels.
Increasing Testosterone with Diet
Your diet can make a big difference to your testosterone levels, in two very different ways.
The first and most obvious way that diet can increase testosterone is when it leads to weight loss.
The more body fat you are carrying, the more aromatase your body produces. This is an enzyme that converts testosterone into oestrogen. Not a great idea!
By reducing your body fat, you will reduce aromatase production and allow your testosterone levels to adjust as a result.
Lowering your weight will also help improve sleep, exercise, and stress, so create a calorie deficit through diet and see an increase in testosterone.
Another, more direct way to increase your testosterone levels through diet is to consume foods that can help increase testosterone.
Drinking black coffee has been shown to help increase testosterone levels  as has red meat and eggs. Cruciferous vegetables such as kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are known to reduce aromatase, the enzyme mentioned earlier that converts testosterone into estrogen.
Excessive alcohol consumption, and eating lots of foods containing soya can also lower testosterone.
Reducing your intake of these foods will make a big difference to your testosterone levels long-term.
Reducing your average alcohol intake will also help lower calories, which will lead to weight loss and a boost in testosterone levels.
You can see that a lot of these dietary changes have multiple effects on your testosterone.
Increasing Testosterone Through Sleep
The importance of sleep to hormonal health cannot be understated, if you are not getting enough sleep then you will see a negative impact on your testosterone levels.
You will also see an increase in appetite and a reduction in non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).
This leads to a reduction in calories expended during the day and an increase in calories consumed (well usually – you can consciously prevent both of these from occurring of course). This would eventually lead to weight gain as you would see a shift in your metabolism.
A reduction in exercise and increased weight gain will both lead to lower testosterone levels on their own. But bad sleep can also lead to increased stress – which leads to enhanced cortisol levels. This can also affect testosterone.
A 2010 study by Goh & Tong found that men who slept less had lower testosterone levels than men who received adequate sleep each night .
Increasing Testosterone Through Exercise
Exercise can make a big difference to your testosterone levels, depending on your current physique and activity levels.
Increasing muscle mass, training hard, and losing weight can all help you to increase your testosterone production.
Many intense exercises can instantly elevate testosterone levels, kettlebell swings for example, can increase both testosterone and growth hormone levels immediately afterwards .
As with diet and sleep, regular exercise tends to lead to improvements across the board. It can improve your sleep and reduce stress, it can lead to reduced body fat, and it also helps raise your metabolism. All of these contribute to higher testosterone levels.
Basically, exercise can directly raise testosterone and indirectly raise it too.
Increasing Testosterone Through Stress Management
The relationship between testosterone and stress in a complex one, small amounts of stress can be beneficial for testosterone.
Cortisol is NOT a bad hormone, and it is necessary for a healthy life. Exercise is a form of stress, and we know that exercise can help to increase testosterone. However, long-term stress (lasting a few days) can have a negative impact on your testosterone levels.
It’s all very well telling you to reduce stress, but this is unhelpful advice.
If you work in a stressful job, are in the middle of a divorce, have a sick child, or are in the middle of a long running argument with your neighbours then it’s not exactly possible to remove stress from your life.
However, it may be possible to improve how you react to stressful situations, learning better strategies for conflict resolution, seeing a therapist, taking up yoga, going for massages, meditating each night, or a combination of all of the above can help lower your stress levels. This can prevent a reduction in testosterone levels.
Increasing Testosterone Through Supplementation
Natural testosterone boosters are very popular at the moment, and are often seen as a perfect alternative to steroids.
Sadly, they are nowhere near as effective as androgenic steroids. That does not mean that they are useless though. For men who suffer from low testosterone, a natural testosterone booster can help them hit their required levels.
Some natural testosterone boosters are better than others, they certainly are not all equal. Vitamin D supplementation for people who are deficient could lead to an increase in testosterone  as can zinc and magnesium .
Most of the strategies mentioned in this article will help you to maintain optimal levels of testosterone and will be particularly effective at improving the lives of men suffering from low testosterone.
If you already have high levels of testosterone, then you shouldn’t expect to see a massive difference by taking testosterone boosters etc … but you will at least know that you’re doing as much as possible to improve your health.