Which Foods Hurt Testosterone the Most?
If you are worried that your testosterone levels are a bit low, you might want to consider some foods contributing to low T and need to go!
If you have been hitting the gym for a decent period of time, the chances are you know how important testosterone is. This androgenic male sex hormone is essential for muscle growth and general well-being.
The higher the level of this hormone in your body, the better your body synthesizes protein.
When you hear people complaining about “bad genetics,” often they are referring to the fact that they do not naturally produce as much testosterone as some other lifters. Testosterone also actively combats the uptake of fat in your body; it creates more androgenic receptors too, which increases fat burn.
Asides from the benefits of the gym, testosterone also plays its part in several other functions that are imperative to your health.
In your brain, it enhances your mood and controls your sex drive, as well as increases your memory ability.
In your heart, testosterone increases the rate you can pump healthy oxygenated blood around your body.
Regarding your bones, the miracle hormone increases your bone growth speed as well as density.
Finally, testosterone is directly linked to your skin quality and hair growth.
Before we get started on the various testosterone-affecting foods, I must disclose that I'm not a doctor. This article and advice are purely based on my nutritional education and experience with clients over the years.
Ok, let's jump in!
How Do I Increase My Testosterone Levels?
There are lots of ways to increase testosterone levels in your body. Some more drastic measures include taking anabolic steroids. I'm not suggesting you go that route -- however, I'm not against it either.
Another way to increase your testosterone levels is to take specially formulated supplements. There are some excellent testosterone supplements that can help.
The healthiest way to maintain and boost your testosterone levels is through a well-balanced diet.
Eating foods containing the right hormones or nutrients that create the right hormone response is one of the key pillars to eating your way toward better test levels.
It is especially important to regulate foods containing phytoestrogens. This study in the German Medical Science Journal shows that foods containing phytoestrogens may impact your hormone balances.
Two other important nutrients that have been shown to boost testosterone are Zinc and Vitamin D -- both precursors for creating testosterone.
Foods that are high in these nutrients include:
- Egg Yolks
Foods that Hurt Testosterone Levels
The chances are you already know about the foods that are important for increasing and regulating testosterone. You probably eat a healthy diet full of the right foods.
Unfortunately, what many do not realize is that some of the foods we eat every day may have a negative impact on our testosterone levels. Let's dive into foods that negatively affect testosterone levels.
According to studies, food containing trans fats has a drastic impact on your testosterone levels. This means that if you want to stay on form in the gym, you need to ditch the fried food. Fried food and take-out food contain incredibly high levels of trans fats.
If the effect on your testosterone levels were not enough to turn you away from your Friday night burger and fries, there are more negative effects associated with trans fats. Studies published in the Oxford Journal suggest that eating trans fats lowers your sperm production and even reduces your testicular function.
I'm sure staying away from trans fats is already on your radar, but make sure to check if that "healthy" popcorn or other products you're using might have them. Quite simply, if the food is packaged, you probably want to stay away from it.
Everyone knows that drinking excessive quantities of alcohol is a surefire way to ruin your health. You may have even heard that a small amount of alcohol consumption, like a glass of wine a day, is actually good for you.
Well, this is a case of misinformation. Although studies show that a glass of wine a day may increase anti-oxidant levels in the blood, it is not so clear-cut.
There are numerous studies like this one published suggest that people who drink alcohol regularly usually have a lower testosterone hormone level.
The research is based on the fact that drinking alcohol leads to higher levels of estrogen in the blood. Drinking alcohol also causes the body to create cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has been proven to lower testosterone synthesis.
I don't drink and recommend you don't, either. Period.
Usually, store-bought dairy products contain a high level of specific synthetic hormones. These hormones have a direct effect on testosterone levels. However, science has not proven why the studies are clear. In both studies carried out, the results were conclusive. Men who consume a higher quantity of dairy products were found to have more of the female hormone estradiol.
Estradiol lowers the production of testosterone. In addition to these hormones, store-bought dairy that hasn’t been grass-fed has usually been fed on a feed that is high in Soy. I will talk about Soy and its impact on your body in a minute. As for your dairy intake, look for grass-fed milk products.
Soy and Soy-based products are naturally high in a specific phytonutrient called phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogen works in the same way that the normal female sex hormone estrogen does. In animal studies, two groups of animals were tested.
One group was raised on a feed containing soy, and the others were grass-fed. The results were clear. The group that was fed the soy-based feed all had a significant reduction in testosterone levels.
Everybody knows that sugar is a massive health risk. You are bombarded with information that sugar will make you fat and raise blood sugar levels. Less discussed, however, is the effect that sugar has on your testosterone levels.
Simple carbs, like the ones found in cookies and donuts, contain high levels of trans-fats. As you now know, high levels of trans fats lower testosterone and decrease sperm count. Further studies conducted connect high levels of sugar and desserts to reduced muscle mass and more body fat.
Either way, sugar is not part of my daily intake. However, I do eat fruits and honey.
Poor Quality Meat
You can probably connect the dots here. Research shows that low-quality meat is usually pumped full of synthetic hormones to encourage growth. These animals are then usually fed on a feed high in Soy. This leads to a chemical concoction that is terrible for your natural testosterone levels.
Swapping your store-bought hormone-stuffed meat for grass-fed organic meat will give you a much better chance at avoiding these horrible chemicals.
Fish, although naturally safer than beef, chicken, and lamb and containing high levels of omega-3, which is excellent for your body, still comes with a risk attached. In farmed fish, in fact, scientists have found high levels of heavy metals, such as mercury, in their tissue. This heavy metal is terrible for your liver, so finding fish that comes with a mercury-free promise is crucial.
Processed Carbs & Grains
If your diet contains high levels of grains, studies show that your blood glucose levels will sit at a higher level than a person who consumes a much lower amount. This increase in blood glucose levels is proven to affect several important hormones. In particular, high blood sugar leads to insulin problems and a negative effect on testosterone production.
As mentioned above, just stay away from the processed food category altogether.
Surprising Foods that Decrease Testosterone
Although much less studied, there is some research out there that points to mint as a culprit for lowering testosterone levels in healthy men. If you use mint a lot in your cooking, try making the swap to ginger or lemongrass.
Maybe, re-think the gum and mints -- which are double-whammy with the sugar.
Often found in candy and herbal medicine. Licorice is often supplemented for its anti-inflammatory properties. There has been research conducted. However, that points towards a decline in testosterone levels after prolonged periods of licorice consumption. If you are currently using licorice for its anti-inflammatory benefits, try eating a high-fiber diet instead.
High in lignans, this "touted" super-food will bind to testosterone and pull it from the body. I didn't know this and used to sprinkle it in my shakes -- not anymore, and I mostly eat real food instead of blended shakes these days.
In addition to the food I mentioned above, there are several additional factors related to a lower testosterone level, which include:
These have all been proven to affect your hormone levels. So, if you smoke, stop smoking. If you are not exercising regularly, it's time to start. With hormone levels declining naturally as you age, it is important to do what you can to give your body a fighting chance.
Most people who have been training for long enough have probably thought about their testosterone levels.
If you are worried that your testosterone levels are a bit low and you are guilty of eating the above foods, try cutting them out.
Symptoms of low testosterone include low sexual function (libido), erectile dysfunction, hair loss, and trouble with sleep. If you are concerned your androgen levels are excessively low, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor. Make sure any blood test you take also includes "free testosterone" markers. Estrogen levels should also be checked, as both hormones are symbiotic towards your overall health.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you are equipped with the knowledge to make better dietary decisions. By regulating or avoiding food that has been proven to lower your testosterone levels, you should see an increase in energy and see better results from your training.
Thanks for reading, and remember -- each day is an opportunity to improve. Take it.
Tony Lee, MS, RD
Tony Lee, RD, MS, is a highly qualified and accomplished Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Arizona State University. Tony brings over two decades of experience in dietetics, specializing in sports nutrition. Interests include studying all aspects of wellness, fitness, genetics, and peak health performance.