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How to Increase Testosterone: A Complete Guide

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 11/22/2020

Testosterone is an important male sex hormone. It’s responsible for everything from regulating your sex drive to helping you maintain a normal sperm count, a healthy level of bone strength, muscle mass and more.

It also has a significant effect on your wellbeing, with research indicating that low testosterone may be associated with mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

While overly high levels of testosterone can cause side effects, the importance of testosterone for optimal male health and wellbeing is very significant.  

Unfortunately, finding reliable information about how to increase testosterone isn’t the easiest task. Like many other health-related topics, many “how to” guides about tactics for increasing testosterone production are much heavier on hype than they are on real scientific evidence.

In the guide below, we’ve dug into the scientific data to separate the hype from scientific reality, with a detailed list of techniques that you can use to increase your testosterone through habits and lifestyle choices, food, supplements and more.

We’ve also busted several common myths about increasing testosterone, including a few that you may have read about elsewhere.

We also want to say, before we dig in, that you’ll notice a lot of the research on many of these methods is thin, as it’s still on-going. We’ve done our best to find the most reliable and up-to-date information available, while also making sure we call out various shortcomings in these studies or clinical research — like the use of animal subjects, small sample sizes, etc. — to make sure you’re as informed as possible.

Testosterone 101: What It Does and How It Works

Testosterone is a type of male sex hormone, or androgen. It’s the primary hormone responsible for producing male sex characteristics

As a man, testosterone plays a key role in the physical development of male features, such as your genitals. It’s also responsible for the development of your secondary sex characteristics — features that include your body type, voice, hairline and many others.

Both men and women produce testosterone, although women produce only a small fraction as much testosterone as men.

Your body produces testosterone in numerous places, with your testicles producing the largest share. The process is a complex one, with different parts of your body — from the brain to your pituitary glands — all playing a part.

It’s common for your testosterone levels to decline as you get older. As this happens, many men notice symptoms such as a decline in muscle mass and bone strength, as well as an increase in the fat percentage.

Science-Backed Ways to Increase Testosterone

Normal testosterone levels can vary by a significant amount. According to a study of more than 9,000 men, the normal testosterone range for healthy, non-obese men is generally between 264 and 916 ng/dL.

If you’d like to increase your testosterone levels, making small changes to your habits and daily life can often have a major impact. Below, we’ve shared eight tactics that you can use to boost your testosterone production, from dietary changes to exercise, supplements and more. 

Exercise More Often

Exercise has a lengthy list of benefits, from improving your physical fitness to helping to prevent certain diseases.

It’s also closely linked to testosterone, with research suggesting that working out regularly may be a factor that’s associated with healthy testosterone production in men.

For example, one study from 2012 found that men who are physically active had higher levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) than men who are sedentary.

While any type of exercise is better than none at all, additional research seems to suggest that resistance training, whether with free weights or machines, may be the most effective option for boosting testosterone.

In one study, researchers looked at the effects of lower body resistance training on testosterone and other hormone levels in men and women. They found that both sexes showed an increase in testosterone after six to eight weeks of training.

A different study also concluded that strength training can induce the release of testosterone in men, albeit with a greater effect in young people.

Of course, exercise also has many other benefits, from helping you control your weight (an important factor for hormonal health) to strengthening your bones and muscles, improving your mood and lowering your risk of certain diseases.

In short, if you’d like to increase your testosterone levels, working out regularly is a good option not just for your hormonal health, but for your general wellbeing. 

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Take Steps to Minimize Stress

Stress can have numerous negative effects on your physical and mental health, from disturbing your sleep to affecting your immune function, cardiovascular health and sexual wellbeing. 

Many of these factors are closely linked to testosterone production (as we’ve explained in more detail below), making it important to keep your stress levels under control if you want your body to produce as much testosterone as possible.

For example, research shows that elevated levels of cortisol — the hormone that’s responsible for mediating your body’s response to stress — may cause your body’s testosterone production to decline.

Research has noted a direct link between high cortisol levels and a reduction in testosterone.

In short, stress is a serious testosterone killer, as well as something that you should try to limit for your general wellbeing. 

While reducing stress isn’t something that always happens overnight, making a few changes to your habits and lifestyle can have a big impact over the long term. Try to reduce stress by:

  • Adding meditation — something that’s highly effective for reducing stress — to your daily routine.

  • Staying active. Physical activity can help to reduce stress. As we noted above, it’s also an important habit for maintaining optimal testosterone levels.

  • Maintaining good sleep habits. We’ve explained how you can do this, as well as its vital importance for optimal testosterone, production, below.

  • Avoiding or reducing things that trigger your stress, asserting yourself and making sure to maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem.

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Focus on Getting Healthy Sleep

Your body produces and releases most of its testosterone while you’re asleep, making optimal sleep essential for maintaining healthy testosterone levels. 

An estimated 50 million to 70 million American adults have some type of sleeping disorder. If you’re one of the many people who find it hard to sleep, or simply don’t get enough hours per night, it could have an effect on your testosterone levels.

For example, a small study published in 2011 found that young men who underwent a week of sleep restriction, sleeping only five hours per night, had daytime testosterone levels 10 percent to 15 percent below their normal levels. 

A different study from 2005 found that testosterone levels increase while sleeping and decrease while awake. In short, getting sufficient sleep each and every night is essential for maintaining optimal testosterone production. 

It’s worth noting that research on this topic is still developing — which accounts for the very small sample size in the previous two studies.

While there’s no specific research on the optimal amount of sleep for testosterone, you can use the CDC’s recommendations of seven or more hours each night as a baseline figure for healthy sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours for young adults.

If you feel like you need more or less, you can adjust your sleep time accordingly based on how you feel during the day. 

If you’re the type of person that struggles to fall and stay asleep, making small changes to your lifestyle can have a surprisingly big impact.

If You’re Overweight or Obese, Try to Lose Weight

Research tends to show that men who are overweight or obese have slightly lower amounts of testosterone than their peers.

For example, a scientific review published in the Asian Journal of Andrology found that obesity is associated with decreased total testosterone levels in men, noting that insulin resistance is a potential culprit.

The same review also noted that low testosterone by itself is linked to weight gain, creating a self-perpetuating cycle for obese men with low testosterone levels.

A different study also found that young obese men have testosterone levels 40 percent to 50 percent lower than men with in the normal BMI range. 

Beyond low testosterone, there’s also a notable link between obesity and sexual performance issues in men, including erectile dysfunction.

If you’re obese and want to increase your testosterone, try to aim for a healthy body weight in the normal BMI range. Losing weight and becoming leaner isn’t as difficult as it can seem — in many cases, making small changes to your habits and lifestyle can have a big impact.

Eat a Testosterone-Boosting Diet

The internet is full of information on “testosterone-boosting” foods, many of which aren’t backed up by much in the way of research. Despite this, certain foods do appear to have characteristics that may make them more helpful for testosterone production than others.

Now, it’s important to explain this in context. Very few foods are going to cause a major increase in your testosterone levels on their own. However, certain foods may help your body to produce testosterone as part of a balanced diet.

To keep your body in an optimal testosterone-producing state, try prioritizing the following foods and ingredients:

  • Leafy green vegetables. Many leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, have high concentrations of magnesium. Research shows that magnesium deficiency is common and often associated with reduced testosterone levels.
    Other foods with high levels of magnesium include many lentils, nuts, whole grains and seeds. You can also avoid magnesium deficiency using a magnesium supplement — a topic we’ve covered below.

  • Oysters. Oysters are rich in zinc, a mineral that’s linked with production of testosterone and other hormones. Animal studies suggest that oysters and other shellfish may have a direct effect on testosterone levels, although currently no human research is available.

  • Legumes. Beans, chickpeas and other lentils are all rich in zinc, which is one of several important hormones for producing testosterone. They’re also rich in fiber, making them a great addition to your diet if overall health is your priority.

  • Beef. Although certain cuts of beef are far from ideal from a health standpoint, beef — and particularly beef liver — is a great source of important minerals such as vitamin D and zinc, both of which may be  associated with testosterone production.

  • Fatty fish. Fish rich in healthy fats are great for both testosterone production and heart health. Tuna and salmon — especially wild salmon — contain plenty of vitamin D, as well as a significant amount of protein.

Use Vitamins and Supplements

While many supplements marketed as testosterone boosters are more hype than substance, a few vitamins and supplements may help to increase your testosterone production and could be worth adding to your routine.

The following vitamins and supplements are backed up by real scientific evidence showing that they may contribute to healthy testosterone levels:

  • Vitamin D. Scientific research suggests that vitamin D may be linked to higher levels of testosterone in men, making a vitamin D supplement worth considering if you’re looking to increase your testosterone levels.
    In one study, researchers found that men with relatively low testosterone who used a vitamin D supplement for a year had a significant increase in total, bioactive and free testosterone levels compared to men in a placebo group.
    Another study found that levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (a prehormone produced from vitamin D) were associated with higher levels of testosterone in men.
    Vitamin D also has numerous benefits beyond its effects on testosterone. You can get your vitamin D in one of two ways — via a supplement (a popular option if you live in an area with little sunlight), or by spending more time out in the sun.

  • Ashwagandha. Also known as withania somnifera, ashwagandha is a herb that’s often used in traditional Indian medicine. It’s also a popular natural supplement for increasing testosterone.
    Several studies have looked at the link between ashwagandha and testosterone. In one, researchers found that ashwagandha increased muscle mass, strength and testosterone levels in men aged 18 to fifty.

  • Zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral that’s linked to immune health and optimal metabolic function. There’s also evidence that zinc plays a major role in testosterone production, although research into its testosterone boosting effects is limited.
    In one study, men who were deficient in zinc showed higher levels of testosterone after using a zinc supplement. In a separate study, men with normal zinc levels who used a combination supplement containing zinc didn’t show any increase in testosterone.
    In short, while zinc is clearly related to testosterone, using a zinc supplement may only be helpful for increasing testosterone if you’re deficient in zinc.

  • Magnesium. Similarly to zinc, research suggests that magnesium supplementation may help to increase testosterone levels if you have a magnesium deficiency — an issue that affects an estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of the population.
    In a 2011 study, researchers found that magnesium supplementation increased free and total testosterone in both sedentary and active men. Of these groups, the men who exercised showed the largest increase in testosterone levels.

  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a hormone that’s produced naturally by your body. It’s a precursor hormone that’s used to create other male and female sex hormones.
    While research is mixed, some studies show that DHEA for men may help to boost testosterone in men. For example, one study found that DHEA elevated free testosterone when used by middle-aged men recovering from exercise.
    It’s worth noting that DHEA is listed as a prohibited substance by WADA, meaning you’ll need to avoid this method of increasing testosterone if you compete in sports.

Other supplements may help to increase testosterone, but aren’t quite as strongly supported by scientific research. These include:

  • Fenugreek. While evidence is mixed, some research has found that the herbal product fenugreek may boost testosterone.
    For example, in one study, men who took fenugreek and exercised over an eight-week period had a slightly higher increase in testosterone than those given a nontherapeutic placebo. A different study found an increase in testosterone and sexual function.
    In contrast, a study from 2011 concluded that while fenugreek may have a positive effect on the physiological aspects of libido, it doesn’t appear to increase testosterone beyond the normal reference range.

  • Tribulus. Like fenugreek, the evidence for tribulus is mixed. A few studies show that it’s effective as a testosterone booster, while most show little improvement when it’s used by men with normal testosterone levels.
    For example, one study found that androgen-deficient men who took tribulus had higher testosterone levels following treatment.
    However, several other studies have found that tribulus doesn’t have any clinically significant impact on testosterone. It’s worth noting that in the latter study linked in the previous sentence, the study observed only two women.

  • D-aspartic acid. Like fenugreek and tribulus, there’s some evidence that D-aspartic acid may boost testosterone, in this case by stimulating the release of luteinizing hormone — a precursor hormone for testosterone. It’s worth noting that the study linked involved both human and rat subjects.
    However, evidence is mixed on D-aspartic acid’s effectiveness. For example, one study found that while men who used D-aspartic acid became stronger over 28 days of weight training, their free and total testosterone remained unchanged.

Avoid Drinking Alcohol Excessively

While a drinking beer or glass of wine occasionally isn’t likely to dent your testosterone levels by any noticeable amount, research shows that alcohol use is associated with low testosterone and other reproduction-related issues.

Because of this, if you drink alcohol often and have noticed any symptoms of low testosterone, it may be worth cutting back on your alcohol consumption.

This doesn’t mean quitting drinking altogether. Instead, try aiming for a moderate alcohol intake if you’re normally a frequent drinker. According to the US Dietary Guidelines, for men, this is up to two servings of alcohol (for example, two 12-ounce beers or glasses of wine) per day.

It’s worth noting that this is a single-day guideline, not an average, meaning one wild night out a week after several alcohol-free days still exceeds the guidelines.

Take a Look at the Medications You Use

Some common medications, such as statins, may be associated with lower testosterone levels in men.

It’s important to take medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider. However, if you’re prescribed one or several medications and feel worried about your testosterone level, it’s often best to have a quick chat with your healthcare provider about their effects on testosterone.

Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend taking a testosterone levels test to check if you’re affected.

Common Myths About Increasing Testosterone

Like with many other health-related topics, it’s easy to come across inaccurate, outdated or just plain wrong information about increasing testosterone. Myths about testosterone are numerous and information that sounds good often travels further than information that’s reliable.

To help you avoid wasting time with techniques that don’t work, we’ve busted several common testosterone-related myths below.

Products Containing Soy Reduce Testosterone

If you spend time on message boards or Facebook groups, particularly ones focused on fitness, you may have heard that products that contain soy, such as soy-based meat alternatives, miso, soy milk and others, can reduce your body’s production of testosterone.

The reality is that there’s very little scientific evidence to show that soy products have any effect on testosterone levels in healthy men. In fact, multiple scientific reviews have found that normal amounts of soy have no impact on testosterone or a “feminizing” effect on men’s hormones.

In short, eating a normal amount of soy-based products shouldn’t reduce your testosterone, nor will it increase your estrogen levels. As such, there’s no need to worry too much if you drink the occasional glass of soy milk or enjoy other soy-based foods. 

A “Steak and Eggs” Diet Increases Testosterone

This is another message board and Facebook group favorite — the idea that eating a diet that’s heavy on steak and eggs can increase testosterone production. 

While there’s no denying that steak and eggs is a conventionally masculine food, there isn’t any real, empirical evidence to show that eating steak and eggs (or any other “manly” foods, for that matter) is a reliable way to increase testosterone.

Now, with this said, there is some evidence to suggest that diets rich in fat may have a positive effect on testosterone production. However, there’s also research showing that fat-heavy food might reduce testosterone levels.

Put simply, the jury is still very much out on this one. While steak and eggs can taste great and is definitely rich in protein, there’s no real evidence that eating it often will help you generate more testosterone.  

Eating Food in Plastic Packaging Reduces Testosterone

You may have heard that products packaged using plastic can lower testosterone by passing on chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) or bisphenol S. 

This is one of those myths that’s partly true, yet not quite as clear as it seems. Essentially, there is research showing that BPA may be linked to reduced testosterone. For example, a study from 2013 found that men exposed to BPA in the workplace had lower sex hormone levels.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that eating food from plastic containers will impact your testosterone production. This is because the quantity of BPA in food containers is much smaller than the amount of BPA a worker may be exposed to in an industrial setting.

In some cases, other research has also shown the opposite effect. For example, a 2010 study of Italian men found that a higher concentration of BPA in urine was associated with a higher average total testosterone level.

In short, the jury is also out on BPA and testosterone. While avoiding plastics is definitely good for the world as a whole, the evidence that eating food from a plastic container or using plastic items in the microwave affects testosterone is limited and far from conclusive. 

Cold Showers Boost Testosterone

This myth is another message board favorite. The idea behind it is simple — that taking a cold shower helps to keep the testicles at an optimal temperature, helping your body to make more testosterone.

Although there’s some evidence that testicular temperature may be linked to things like sperm production and protein synthesis, there isn’t any reliable research showing that showering with the temperature set to cold has any effect on your testosterone levels.

In fact, one study from the early 1990s concluded that cold water stimulation actually reduced testosterone levels. In short, while a cold shower might help you to wake up, there’s no real scientific evidence that it helps to increase testosterone. 

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In Conclusion

Testosterone has a significant impact on your health and wellbeing, regulating everything from your sex drive to many aspects of your physical strength. 

As such, it’s understandable to want to keep your testosterone levels high. From the food you eat to your use of supplements, the quality and quantity of your sleep, how often you exercise and more, a variety of factors all work together to help your body produce testosterone.

If you’re worried that your testosterone levels are lower than they should be, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. Low testosterone, or “Low-T, is a real medical condition, and testing and treatments are available to help you if you’re affected.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.