Restoring Testosterone to Youthful Levels

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by Nils Osmar. Updated August 31, 2022

When we’re young, our testosterone levels are high. High T levels make it easy to build muscle and are associated with an improved quality of life.

As we age, our levels begin declining by around 1 percent a year, making it harder to maintain muscle mass or make gains in the gym. Lower testosterone is associated with a loss of muscle mass, resulting in even basic things like moving around our homes without falling becoming more difficult.

T Levels are Declining

Young men’s levels are declining also worldwide, for reasons that aren’t yet totally clear but appear to be linked to environmental factors. Men in their twenties have a small fraction of the testosterone their fathers and grandfathers took for granted.

Whether low levels are caused by aging or by pollutants, are there things we can do to both boost our testosterone levels and build muscle later in life (or raise our levels to what they are supposed to be when we’re young)? The answer is yes.

Exercise Can Help

Exercise of the right kind(s) can make a difference in both increasing testosterone and pushing back against the aging process. According to a Science Daily article called “Progressive resistance training can build muscle, increase strength as we age“:

“Resistance exercise is a great way to increase lean muscle tissue and strength capacity so that people can function more readily in daily life,” says Mark Peterson, Ph.D., a research fellow in the U-M Physical Activity and Exercise Intervention Research Laboratory, at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Through resistance training adults can improve their ability to stand up out of a chair walk across the floor, climb a flight of stairs — anything that requires manipulating their own body mass through a full range of motions.

Normally, adults who are sedentary beyond age 50 can expect muscle loss of up to 0.4 pounds a year. “That only worsens as people age. But even earlier in adulthood — the 30s, 40s and 50s — you can begin to see declines if you do not engage in any strengthening activities,” Peterson says.

“Our analyses of current research show that the most important factor in somebody’s function is their strength capacity. No matter what age an individual is, they can experience significant strength improvement with progressive resistance exercise even into the eighth and ninth decades of life,” he says.

So it’s been established that exercise has a potent anti-aging effect. But it’s not a panacea. If it’s all we do, our testosterone levels may not increase and gains will be more difficult. According to this article:

For men who have low testosterone, exercise alone probably won’t raise their levels enough to make a difference in how they feel, says endocrinologist Scott Isaacs, MD, of Emory University. But he says for men whose testosterone level is on the borderline between normal and low, “I think it’s going to have a much more potent effect.”

My Experience: Supplements and Exercise Do Work

This recent video shows my changes since I added the T-boosting supplements and started working out. I’m not yet taking testosterone injections, but will do do if the supplements should stop working,.

What Worked for Me

In January of 2020, my testosterone was in the mid 300s. (I was 67 years old at the time.) My sex drive was waning and I was showing signs of muscle wasting. My doctor assured me this was “fine and normal” for my age, “nothing to worry about.” He suggested that working out might help “a little,” then went back to “You’re aging, It’s normal. There’s really nothing you can do about it.”

I didn’t like his response, so I decided to try fixing one problem I could address, my T levels. By the fall of 2021, at the age of 68, I had raised them from around 350 ng/dL to 926 ng/dL.

This was partly due to taking herbs and other supplements. My levels began increasing when I started taking the products I’ll be describing below. They increased further when I began working out in a home gym and doing resistance training three days a week.

As shown on this page, in the last year and a half, since focusing in on testosterone and weight training, I’ve gained some muscle and lost some fat. I made greater gains than my doctor had implied I could. I’m not saying that I’m unique; lots of people build muscle when they work out; but I surprised at how fast the gains took place. I’m not yet to where I want to be; my gains have slowed a bit in the past few months. But I feel like I’m going in a good direction.

My Protocol

My current routine involves eating a specific diet, taking supplements, and working out three times a week, aiming for a full-body workout. I rest up on the other four days to give myself ample recovery time.

Speaking anecdotally, what worked for me was the combination of (1) exercising, (2) supplementing and (3) making sure I was eating enough protein on my gym days.

On my workout days, I take some supplements, then work out fasted, then have a high protein meal. I try to eat one gram per pound of ideal body weight on exercise days, with a preference for animal-based foods high in leucine, which also activates mTOR, the so-called growth pathway.

On my non-exercise days, I either fast or eat just one meal a day, a more plant-based meal with about 60 grams of protein. I take supplements 6 days a week (every day but Sunday).

I should clarify that I take lots of supplements, not just testosterone boosters. For a list of everything I’m taking, see this page. For my testosterone boosters, scroll down.

My Testosterone-Boosting Supplements

  1. DHEA: DHEA first came to my attention when it was used an ingredient in the first TRIIM trial, a study which reversed epigenetic aging 2.5 years over a one year trial period. See article: “First hint that body’s ‘biological age’ can be reversed“.

    DHEA is a pro-hormone, a precursor to testosterone (though it can also turn into estrogen). People who take DHEA should do so with an abundance of caution and study the possible side effects first, which can include more likelihood of cancer. It has clear anti-aging benefits, but its relationship with cancer is ambiguous, with some studies suggesting that it increase our odds of cancer, but others suggesting that it’s protective against cancer. See article: “Is DHEA safe?” I was taking 100 mg/day for a few months; I’ve since lowered it to 25 mg/day of LifeExtension DHEA.

    I’m taking 25 mg of DHEA a day, in the mornings.
  2. 7-Keto DHEA: 7 Keto is a metabolite of DHEA which is not anabolic and doesn’t affect testosterone, but I like taking them together I take 100 mg of Jarrow 7-Keto DHEA.
    1. Tongkat Ali, also known as Longjack. I’m currently searching for an ideal source for this supplement. The one I’m currently taking is Double Wood’s Tongkat Ali Complex, which combines it with Tribulus, another testosterone-boosting herb. I’ve found the combination to be effective and fast-acting.
  3. Male Libido (Gaia Herbs): The recommended dose is 1 capsule, but I get more immediate results when I take 2. It contains numerous herbs found to boost testosterone in lab animals.
  4. Ashwagandha and Astragalus (both from Gaia Herbs) Both astragalus and ashwagandha are powerful anti-aging adaptogens good for anti-aging and testosterone and raising T cells. (Caution: Don’t take them during a prolonged (3-5 day) fast because they can prevent the body from finding and killing off senescent cells.) I take one capsule of astragalus on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and one capsule of ashwagandha on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, then take Sundays off.
  5. L. Reuteri 6475 (BioGaia Osfortis): Many men who are trying to raise their T levels take it because it increases size of testicles in lab animals, significantly increasing the production of testosterone. Women may want to take L. Reuteri 6475 too, as it improves bone strength and density, particularly in elderly women. Other strains of L. Reuteri have not been shown to have these benefits. I take L. Reuteri with some organic Inulin Powder from Micro Ingredients because probiotics use prebiotics for food, If you take probiotic supplements without prebiotics on fasting days, they’ll die off; they need food.
  6. Fish oil and krill oil. I take fish oil these for brain health, heart health, testosterone levels, and testicular health. It increases blood levels of Omega 3. Like L. Reuteri 6475, it increases testosterone and increase testicular size. Krill oil contains less omega 3 but it appears to be better absorbed. I’ve stopped taking fish oil because eat either sardines. mackerel or anchovies every day.
  7. Boron: I take 5 mg of Nutricost every day. Boron is essential but be careful not to overdose – too much can be deadly.
  8. Selenomethionine (Thorne) 200 mcg. Boosts T levels. Improves sperm health and motility. Counteracts the toxicity of heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and thallium. Do not overdose; it can be toxic.
  9. Astaxanthin (Bioastin) (4 four-mg. capsules) Prevents sunburn if taken internally. Increase T levels if taken with saw palmetto, according to one study.
  10. Saw Palmetto (Organic) (Wild Mountain Thyme) – See my note above about astaxanthin. Interestingly, some studies suggest that saw palmetto may have a depressive effect on testosterone levels. But others show that in conjunction with astaxanthin it can increase it.
  11. D. Aspartic Acid (Jacked Factory) – a recent addition. Four capsules provides 2660 mg total.
  12. Niacin has many uses, including increasing testosterone levels and regulating cholesterol levels and raising NAD. I add it to my stack occasionally. Caution: Niacin can cause flushing (temporary red/prickly/itchy skin) and can raise blood glucose. The sustained release kind can cause liver damage if taken in large amounts. I take 500 mg of the instant release kind along with a little chromium, which helps counteract niacin’s tendency to raise blood glucose. I take it toward evening because it makes me sleepy.

What About Women?

Like men, women can sometimes benefit from raising their testosterone levels. In an article called: “Boosting women’s testosterone can increase muscle mass and endurance“, the authors detailed a study in which women were given testosterone injections. According to the article,

“The normal female range of circulating testosterone is 0.1 to 1.8 nmol/L and the normal male range is 8 to 30 nmol/L, so there is no overlap at all,” Hirschberg said in an email. “In our study, the testosterone group reached a mean testosterone level of 4.3 nmol/L, which is higher than the normal female range, but still lower than the male range.”

Endurance in the testosterone group was significantly higher: running time to exhaustion on the treadmill was 21.17 seconds longer – an 8.5% increase – in those with higher levels of the hormone. Women in the testosterone group also ended up with bigger increases in lean body mass: 923 g versus 135 g.”

So women can benefit, like males, from increasing their testosterone. But do supplements like the ones I’m taking work for women? It’s harder to find information but there are some promising studies. According to the article “Tongkat Ali as a potential herbal supplement for physically active male and female seniors–a pilot study“,

Treatment resulted in significant increases in total and free testosterone concentrations and muscular force in men and women. The increase in free testosterone in women is thought to be due to the significant decline in sex hormone-binding globulin concentrations. The study affirms the ergogenic benefit of TA through enhanced muscle strength.

So at least some of the above supplements may be of value to women trying to rebalance their hormones and push back against the aging process.

Testosterone and Prostate Cancer

If we raise our testosterone, are we increasing our odds of succumbing to cancer? Some decades-old studies suggested this was true, but more recent ones suggest that higher testosterone levels are actually protective against cancer. From a Healthline article:

“In recent years, research has challenged the link between testosterone and prostate cancer. Some studies have contradicted it, finding a higher risk of prostate cancer among men with low testosterone levels.

“A 2016 meta-analysis of research found no relationship between a man’s testosterone level and his risk of developing prostate cancer. Another review of studies showed that testosterone therapy doesn’t increase the risk of prostate cancer or make it more severe in men who have already been diagnosed”

According to a 2015 review in the journal Medicine, testosterone replacement therapy also doesn’t increase prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels. PSA is a protein that’s elevated in the bloodstream of men with prostate cancer. Whether testosterone therapy is safe for men with a history of prostate cancer is still an open question…

So, short answer: No one knows. Nothing in this article is intended as medical advice. If I had a history of prostate cancer, I would consult with my doctor before raising my levels.

Supplements to Avoid

Many people take turmeric as an anti-inflammatory and melatonin as a sleep aid. According to Dr. Andrew Huberman, it may be wise to avoid both supplements, or minimize their use, you’re trying to increase your sex hormones. Quoting Huberman:

“Turmeric is a very potent DHT inhibitor … I think turmeric in moderate amounts might be okay, but you don’t want DHT too low because DHT is the major androgen in humans. It’s the one that’s going to have the most action in terms of strength, recovery from exercise, libido, etc. … Things like melatonin and turmeric you have to approach with some caution.”

Other familiar compounds that inhibit DHT include EGCG (found in green tea) and caffeine (found in tea and coffee). Should you therefore avoid all of these? What you take is up to you, but I can report that in my case, I drink coffee every morning, drink tea most afternoons, and my T levels are still very high. So I’m not worried about supplements such as these having a slightly dampening effect.

Image by Herolind08 from Pixabay

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