How I nearly doubled my testosterone levels naturally
I increased my testosterone levels from 296 to 539 ng/dL in 3 months, here's why you should care.
[Note from Realize Me] Tim Caron has trained elite athletes in football programs from Georgia Tech, USC, and West Point, co-founded Allegiate Gym, and more recently founded pH Podcast, where his book Strength Deficit is available for order. Check out more of his content to learn from one of the greatest minds in fitness as he dives into the foundational principles of performance and health.
I am a 41-year-old male. I own and operate a couple of businesses, and I have two young children, so stress is a huge aspect of my life. The bigger issue is age does not serve performance in the gym well. Stanworth (2008) stated, “Total testosterone levels fall at an average of 1.6% per year whilst free and bioavailable levels fall by 2%–3% per year.” This is amplified by a stressful lifestyle, as you will see with my testosterone results.
My levels had always been good (700-800 ng/dL Total, 125-150 pg/mL Free). I had the opportunity to test my testosterone and other labs, specifically cholesterol, at the beginning of 2022 through Realize Me and was in disbelief. My levels tanked to 296 ng/dL and 30.7pg/dL:
In case you are unfamiliar with the Total Testosterone test, it is a test that measures free testosterone and testosterone that's attached to proteins. Whereas the Free Testosterone test measures only the "active" form of testosterone. The general idea is you have enough testosterone to begin with, and you are using the amount you have effectively. If both are low, that is a problem.
I train really consistently and I eat really well, however, that was not enough. I ran into a brick wall of age and stress that resulted in low Testosterone levels. In some ways, this was inevitable: almost two decades of really poor work-life balance, not sleeping enough, caffeinating too much, not taking enough time away from work, etc. At the end of the day, males in their 20s and 30s take for granted their resilience. It is not until we lose something that we really value it.
The big question was, what do I do about my low testosterone? I often wonder about my purpose and how it is tied to my personal actions. I am an S&C coach, and with that comes a certain level of responsibility to others. A large part of our job is to push people in areas they struggle with, such as personal discipline, consistency, and execution. I ask others to at least try adjusting basic things like training, lifestyle, and nutrition before doing anything rash; asking something of them that I could not or would not do myself is the ultimate hypocrisy as an S&C coach.
I want to pause and give my stance on TRT (testosterone replacement therapy). It is critical to a lot of people, such as the immunocompromised, and it holds a ton of value. However, males in my age bracket are the most vulnerable demographic to starting TRT, even when they aren’t ideal candidates for this treatment. When you start TRT, it becomes a commitment for life. You begin to lose the ability to produce testosterone and the efficiency of using the testosterone you have.
The psychological effect of someone with low testosterone starting TRT is easily the most potent aspect. Confidence through increased libido, recovery from stress, and positive response to training make TRT intoxicating. The desire to maintain that feeling will keep a strong psychological hold on continuing. Even if one were to utilize a taper following with a great post-cycle therapy, it would be hard to leave behind the feeling.
With that being said, it was not off the table that I should use TRT as a method to restore my testosterone levels. However, as I stated earlier, I am a coach, and my responsibilities to others should be extended to myself. So I started inventorying my life and what exactly I could do about this.
Phase I was getting to averaging 7-8 hours of sleep a night, committing to getting three days of resistance training a week, and two days of cardiovascular fitness a week. That was it! I do well with nutrition and hydration, so I was not overly concerned there to start. But with the stress and overall workload, I lost motivation to train. I really wanted to get that back and find that interest in training again.
A key feature was doing a cohort with Realize Me. It was structured training, it was goal based, it was community, it was igniting. Each week we had our program, we tracked weekly, and we compared results - it was exactly what I needed. Sleep, on the other hand, with two little children and a wife who works full time as well… we had to get creative. My biggest thing was establishing circadian rhythms.
Most of the time, I cannot control when my kids want to relent and go to bed, and even more importantly, stay asleep. I can control what kind and how much light I expose myself to. At night I wore blue light blocking glasses, put red filters on all screens, and used red light for reading. This allowed for natural melatonin production and the hormone cascade that happens when we sleep. In the morning, I got outside immediately, limited cell phone and tv usage, and got my feet on grass/soil to ground. This allowed for natural elevation in cortisol and created natural rhythms. All this led to getting better quality of sleep (tracked through Oura) and actually led to longer sleep over time.
Phase II was utilizing supplements to improve testosterone levels. I supplemented it with Tongkat Ali and Fadogia Agrestis. Tongkat is a herb that is known to assist with increasing testosterone production (Ang, 2001). 400mg of Tongkat is something that I plan to take every day and establish the relative impact from energy and training drive. Fadogia is a botanical that is shown to increase testosterone in several trials (Yakubu, 2005). Fadogia was not a permanent solution, as you can develop a plateau to its benefits my plan was to take 600mg for 1-2 months after I established Tongkat as my baseline supplementation, like multivitamins or magnesium.
The results speak for themselves. I was able to take my total testosterone from 296 to 534 ng/dL and free testosterone from 30.7 to 75.5 pg/dL. My energy was up, my confidence was up, I look and feel better.
When changing your testosterone levels, one common thread is its relationship with cholesterol. Part of the issue is that cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone, so if we are doing TRT, we will not use the cholesterol for one of its natural outcomes. The other issue is that TRT makes you more efficient from a muscle-building perspective, and you gain more latitude with stress and nutrition. As you can see, my cholesterol went down:
My hope in writing this was to show that it is possible to raise your testosterone levels naturally. There are a lot of us out there who are facing their 40s and 50s with the realization that we do not have the same latitudes we once had. We hope we can hold on as long as we can, but time is inevitable. While the drop in testosterone levels is unavoidable, the causes (and therefore, options that are available) vary from person to person. Solutions such as TRT may seem easy to reach for, but the most important aspect in determining a long-term solution is to make data-oriented decisions and focus on the least extreme actions first.
Ang HH, Cheang HS. Effects of Eurycoma longifolia jack on laevator ani muscle in both uncastrated and testosterone-stimulated castrated intact male rats. Arch Pharm Res. 2001;24(5):437-440. doi:10.1007/BF02975191
Stanworth RD, Jones TH. Testosterone for the aging male; current evidence and recommended practice. Clin Interv Aging. 2008;3(1):25-44. doi:10.2147/cia.s190
Yakubu MT, Akanji MA, Oladiji AT. Aphrodisiac potentials of the aqueous extract of Fadogia agrestis (Schweinf. Ex Hiern) stem in male albino rats. Asian J Androl. 2005;7(4):399-404. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7262.2005.00052.x
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