Have you been wondering if intermittent fasting will affect your testosterone levels? Many guys do. Here is an introduction to intermittent fasting and how it could actually help your testosterone levels.
Testosterone is the hormone typically associated with “manliness”. This hormone is responsible for regulating sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm. As much as guys would like to think that there is an endless supply of the stuff, your testosterone levels peak at about age 30. According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health “A small amount of circulating testosterone is converted to estradiol, a form of estrogen. As men age, they often make less testosterone, and so they produce less estradiol as well. However, changes often attributed to testosterone deficiency might be partly or entirely due to the accompanying decline in estradiol.” ((Wein, H. (2013). Understanding How Testosterone Affects Men. NIH Research Matters, Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-how-testosterone-affects-men)) Whether your 18 or 80, trying to build up and salvage as much testosterone as you can help you to age gracefully and with dignity.
So what can you do to stop this dreaded decline? Diet and exercise are still the staple solutions to prevent testosterone levels from plummeting but how you eat can also play a huge role. According to the latest studies, intermittent fasting has been shown to boost your testosterone and human growth hormone levels. ((Sutton, E. F., Beyl, R., Early, K. S., Cefalu, W. T., & Ravussin, E. (2018). Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes. Cell Metabolism, Clinical and Translational Report, 27(6), 1212-1221,e3.))
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting isn’t just for health nuts anymore. Intermittent fasting, or I.F., involves restricting your food intake during a set time of the day and night. How long are we talking here? The average fasting time is between 16 to 24 hours, although there are some hardcore fasting junkies that go even longer. We’re taking baby steps here though. For the purposes of this article, we will review the benefits and instructions for the 16 to a 24-hour timeline.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
The majority of information related to intermittent fasting has been related to dieting and weight loss. It has been found to have additional health benefits such as controlling blood pressure, regulate blood sugar and according to researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, it can possibly ward off neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood. ((Sugarman, J. (2016).Are There Any Proven Benefits to Fasting? Johns Hopkins Health Review, 3(1). Retrieved from https://www.johnshopkinshealthreview.com/issues/spring-summer-2016/articles/are-there-any-proven-benefits-to-fasting))
Intermittent fasting can also boost testosterone levels. As Dr. Mercola explains, ((Peak Fitness. (2012, July 27). 9 Body Hacks to Naturally Increase Testosterone. Retrieved from https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/07/27/increase-testosterone-levels.aspx))
“By increasing the expression of satiety hormones including insulin, leptin, adiponectin, glucagon, colecystokinin and melanocortins, all of which are known to potentiate healthy testosterone actions, increase libido and prevent age-related testosterone decline.” (“9 Body Hacks to Naturally Increase Testosterone.” 2012. Para. 3)
You’re probably wondering: Has this been tested? Of course. Studies on rats have been performed for years. Recently though, human studies have been conducted and the findings were rather consistent. ((Ng Tang Fui, M., Hoermann, R., & Grossmann, M. (2017). Effect of Testosterone Treatment on Adipokines and Gut Hormones in Obese Men on a Hypocaloric Diet. Journal of the Endocrine Society, 1(4), 302–312. http://doi.org/10.1210/js.2017-00062)) A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded “The amount of testosterone required to maintain lean mass, fat mass, strength, and sexual function varied widely in men. Androgen deficiency accounted for decreases in lean mass, muscle size, and strength; estrogen deficiency primarily accounted for increases in body fat; and both contributed to the decline in sexual function”. ((Finkelstein, J. S., Lee, H., Burnett-Bowie, S.-A. M., Pallais, J. C., Yu, E. W., Borges, L. F., … Leder, B. Z. (2013). Gonadal Steroids and Body Composition, Strength, and Sexual Function in Men. The New England Journal of Medicine, 369(11), 1011–1022. http://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMoa1206168))
As for other human studies, it has repeatedly been confirmed that eating a meal, regardless of the nutrient content, will temporarily lower testosterone and growth hormone levels. As Ali Kuoppala points out, “Dozens of studies conclude that when doing Intermittent Fasting, this happens less often because you’re not eating multiple small meals throughout the day.” (“Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting” 2014. Para. 21) ((Anabolic Men Site. (2014, February). Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting. Retrieved from http://www.anabolicmen.com/))
What About My Muscle Mass?
Your body likes to store fuel. This is a primitive trait that has allowed us to live for so long. Our ancestors went days before their next meal and the body learned to adapt to conserve. With that said, despite the easy access to nutrition, your body has so graciously put aside fuel in the form of fat for a fasting day. It’s basic nutrition: when you eat an excess of calories, your body turns the leftovers into glycogen. From there, it’s wheeled up to the liver and there it stays until it can be used. ((Slavin, J., & Carlson, J. (2014). Carbohydrates. Advances in Nutrition, 5(6), 760–761, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.114.006163)) A perfect example of this is during a long run, you burn through your ingested calories, forcing your body to look elsewhere for fuel. Where does it turn? Your fat stores.
Not convinced your muscles are safe and sound? Your body releases large amounts of human growth hormone during exercise and fasting. ((Vendelbo, M. H., Jørgensen, J. O., Pedersen, S. B., Gormsen,L. C., Lund, S., Schmitz,O & …. Møller, N. (2010). Exercise and Fasting Activate Growth Hormone-Dependent Myocellular Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription-5b Phosphorylation and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I Messenger Ribonucleic Acid Expression in Humans. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 95(9), E64–E68. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2010-0689)) Chances are that you’ve heard of HGH and it has quite a few benefits that include: muscle building, increasing metabolism, and aiding muscles everywhere during a fast.
“A study presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans showed that during 24-hour fasting periods, human growth hormone increased an average of 1,300% in women and nearly 2,000% in men.” ((Intermountain Medical Center. (2011). Routine periodic fasting is good for your health, and your heart, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 29, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110403090259.htm))
Keep in mind that we are talking about 16 to 24 hours of fasting. If you go for an extended period of time, such as a full week without calories, then the results may be a bit different. You may force your body to burn through its fat stores and then move on to the muscles.
How To Fast?
Now that you’re convinced intermittent fasting is a great way to increase testosterone, let’s review how to go about getting started. As mentioned above, we will be focusing on a period of time of 16 to 24 hours for the fast. There are two very popular methods that go along with this timeline:
1.) The 16-hour Fast
This method hit the spotlight thanks to Martin Berkhan. It is the method we recommend starting out with as attempting to fast for 24 hours may be far more difficult.
This fast may be used several times per week if you so desire. Here is the breakdown:
- Choose a time to start. 8:00 p.m. seems to be a popular and convenient choice.
- Fast for 16 hours. Food is forbidden until the 16 hours are over but beverages such as coffee, tea, and non-caloric beverages are acceptable.
- If you start at 8:00 p.m., once noon arrives you have an 8-hour eating window.
- Your meals should be a balance of your macronutrients, with an emphasis on protein.
- When it comes to your workouts, make sure you consume a larger amount of carbohydrates on training days.
- Don’t forget about that post-workout nutrition!
2.) The 24-hour Fast
Maybe you’ve tried the 16-hour fast and you’re looking to graduate to the next level. Brad Pilon, founder of Eat-Stop-Eat has been promoting the 24-hour fast for years. This fast is recommended for once or twice a week. Again, if you’re just starting out, we recommend the 16-hour fast first so you can adjust. Here is the breakdown:
- No food for 24 hours. Non-calorie beverages are allowed.
- A good time to start is 6:00 p.m.
- When the time is up, resist the urge to eat everything. Eat a normal meal that is well-balanced with macronutrients.
- Focus on protein and carbohydrates during training days.
Intermittent Fasting Tips & Tricks
1.) Eat Clean
Jumping into a fast when your diet consists of Pop-Tarts and fried food spells certain doom. Before you begin, do yourself and your body a favor and start eating right. Avoid the processed stuff, forget about sugar, and get acquainted with vegetables and fruit. Once your eating habits have changed then you will be better prepared to fast.
2.) Fast On Sunday
There’s nothing worse than dealing with your annoying boss and ridiculous co-workers while restricting yourself of calories.
You hear it all the time but if you’re going to try to fast, it’s time you start listening. Make sure you are sleeping for 6 to 8 hours each night (an emphasis on the 8 hours). The maximum amount of human growth hormone and testosterone are released during your R.E.M. cycles while your cortisol levels stay down. ((Tuck Sleep (2018). Sleep and Human Growth Hormone. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from https://www.tuck.com/sleep-hgh/))
If you truly have a concern about your testosterone levels, seek assistance from a medical professional who will be able to test how much you currently have. Keep in mind that testosterone levels like to jump around all day so a blood test is one of several factors that you can take advantage of to see just how much juice is left in the battery.