Tackling male menopause with diet and exercise – BradKing,MS, MFS
- Two of the hallmarks of male menopause are an enlarged waist circumference and a decline in your once jovial mood.
- When it comes to a man’s ability to produce healthy levels of testosterone, diet is vital.
- The best vegetables for protecting testosterone levels are the cruciferous vegetables.
- Healthy cholesterol levels are so important to healthy testosterone production.
- Diets higher in fat are most effective in raising testosterone levels when accompanied by proper exercise such as weight resistance.
- Some exercises contribute to an increase in the body’s production of testosterone.
If you are over a man over the age of 40, whether you like it or not, you have already begun to experience a drastic decline in your male hormones. In fact, this decline actually begins in a man’s thirties, and most men can expect a loss of almost 10 percent each decade thereafter, especially if they don’t take the necessary steps to deal with it.
This drop in hormone levels, primarily the male hormone testosterone, has been well known for over 60 years by the medical establishment, yet few doctors will admit it exists. The “it” is referred to as male menopause or andropause. I prefer to call it the beer belly blues since two of the hallmarks of male menopause are an enlarged waist circumference and a decline in your once jovial mood.
As men’s testosterone levels start to dwindle a noticeable loss of muscle mass can be expected, and in the process, overall metabolism declines since muscle is one of the primary mechanisms for controlling the body’s ability to burn fat. Belly fat is also a good indicator of estrogen levels in men. Actually, belly fat houses an enzyme called aromatase that is responsible for converting testosterone into estrogen.
Men become so efficient at producing estrogen (estradiol) from testosterone that many become estrogen dominant. In fact, estrogen levels are so closely linked to excess belly fat that a large waste circumference, 100 cm (40 inches) or more, can often be a determining factor of low testosterone and high estrogen levels. It is high estrogen that is often responsible for abdominal obesity, loss of energy, low moods, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, prostate disease, and the dreaded man-boob syndrome.
When it comes to a man’s ability to produce healthy levels of testosterone, diet is vital. Your mother was really on to something when she told you to eat your veggies so you would grow to be a strong and healthy man. The best vegetables for protecting testosterone levels are the cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. These foods are rich in indoles, which can lower excess estrogens in your system and stop them from competing with your testosterone.
Eat fat to maintain testosterone
Unfortunately, the majority of aging men are told over and over again to greatly reduce their dietary fat and cholesterol consumption, especially if they want to reduce their risk of heart disease. The research, however, does not support this advice.
In 1990, researchers from South Carolinapublished results from a survey in the Journal of Nutrition that found absolutely no correlation between blood cholesterol levels and a high saturated fat intake.And according to a body of research reviewed by Mary Enig, PhD, from the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, saturated fats and cholesterol do not increase heart disease. In fact cholesterol is actually used as a substance to help repair damage to the arteries.
When one thinks of maintaining optimal testosterone levels, one has no other choice but to understand how important cholesterol is in this equation. Not only is cholesterol a major component of all cell membranes, which is why the body deems it important enough to manufacture nearly 1,000 milligrams every day, it also happens to be the major building block of testosterone as well as other sex hormones.
What is most interesting is that that low-fat, low-cholesterol advocates will tell you that cholesterol is bad for the arteries and yet never make a single mention of how important testosterone is to a healthy cardiovascular system. Research presented in the Journal of Coronary Artery Disease, showed that low levels of free testosterone may be the real culprits in the development of premature coronary artery disease.
The Rotterdam Study, one of the largest population-based studies to date, looked at testosterone levels in relation to cardiac health in 504 men aged 67 to 75. According to results of the study, men with the highest levels of free bioavailable testosterone also showed the lowest levels of coronary artery disease. And since healthy cholesterol levels are so important to healthy testosterone production, does it really make sense for men should to cut out all the fat?
Although a clear link between low-fat diets and lower testosterone levels has been made when it comes to healthy diet it’s generally true that too much of virtually anything is unhealthy, including saturated fat. A diet that contains approximately 30 percent fat seems to be appropriate for maintaining healthy testosterone levels and anything more may actually contribute to a bigger belly.
Researchers from PennStateUniversityconfirmed that not only is dietary fat positively linked with testosterone levels, but the effect of dietary fat on testosterone levels depended on the kind of fat consumed. The researchers found that monounsaturated and saturated fats were able to raise testosterone levels, but polyunsaturated fats—contained in corn oil, nuts, and seeds—were not.Monounsaturated fats are also the ones associated with many of the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. The best choices for these testosterone-supporting fats are avocados, olive oil and walnuts.
Finnish researchers discovered diets higher in fat are most effective in raising testosterone levels when they are accompanied by proper exercise such as weight resistance. That takes us into the next discussion.
Studies by some of the world’s leading exercise physiologists have shown that some exercises, more than others, contribute to an increase in the body’s production of testosterone. As I explain in my book Beer Belly Blues: What Every Aging Man and the Women in His Life Need to Know (Abundant Health Systems, 2010), the more resistance on the muscle, the greater the stimulus for testosterone production. Also, compound exercises, those that include large muscle groups, seem to be more effective at generating an elevated level of testosterone.
Resistance exercise supports lean body mass, also known as muscle, and greater lean body mass supports elevated levels of testosterone. A ground-breaking study presented in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that performing three sets of a given exercise stimulates the most testosterone. In the study, the three-set group of men had significantly higher testosterone levels than the men doing a single-set workout—by as much as 20 percent. The take-home message is clear: if you want to improve your testosterone status, lift weights three to four times per week and be sure to include compound exercises—those that require the involvement of two or more joints and the activation of several muscle groups as opposed to isolation exercises that require single joint movement—such as squats, dead lifts, lunges, bench presses, and pull-ups in sets of three. As a side note, try to perform between 8 – 12 repetitions per set—that is starting with lower weights and higher repetitions and adding weight each set until you can perform no more than 8 repetitions without compromising your form—as lower rep ranges usually target strength more than lean body mass.
Testosterone may be just a hormone to some, but to men who lack it in the proper levels, it can mean the world. Resisting the normal aging process and its less palatable side effects is more than possible when you take a healthy approach to diet and exercise. While the foods and exercises in this article are recommended for helping to maintain healthy testosterone levels, it’s important not to go overboard. Remember the old adage: everything in moderation. [END]
Sample testosterone-supporting meals
Breakfast: Omelette (two whole organic eggs plus two egg whites), cook over low heat in a skillet with 1-2 tsp of olive oil. Top the omelette with half a sliced avocado.
Lunch: Mixed organic green salad sprinkled with walnuts and olive oil vinaigrette dressing. Top with 4-6 ounces (125 to 200 grams) of fresh shrimp.
Dinner: Chicken breast with basil pesto (no cream) served along side steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Cover chicken with enough organic chicken or vegetable broth to cover bottom of dish. Bake in oven-proof dish at 350 F (180 C) for 25 minutes. For the final three minutes of baking, cover chicken with basil pesto. On the stove top, steam vegetables to your liking. The healthiest way to steam is to ensure your vegetables maintain a crunch to them. Drizzle with olive oil and you’re your favourite fresh herbs.
Testosterone and the protein connection
Sufficient protein intake has also been shown to support healthy testosterone levels by lowering sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). This is a hormone carrier that binds to testosterone, making it unavailable to exert its effect on the body. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that elderly men who consumed a diet low in protein had elevated SHBG levels and experienced a decreased in the effects of testosterone.