I have been on a mission—a MOFO Mission—to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life and age gracefully instead of quickly as is the norm today. Accordingly, I’m highly focused on optimizing the primary male hormone of testosterone.
Some disturbing details about the epidemic decline in testosterone today: studies reveal a 1% decline in average male testosterone globally per year since the 1980s!
Please understand this is not the “decline” of testosterone as you get older–this is about today’s men having lower testosterone than their dad or grandpa did at age 35, 45, 55, and so on. This decline is the real deal and has been validated by numerous studies across the world. There are similar trends from American, Japanese, and Danish research. The decline is attributed to the global obesity epidemic, the influence of environmental endocrine disruptors, and increasing stress factors like overworking, under-moving, overtraining, and too much screen time. Research from Israel shows that sperm counts have declined 50% in a single generation and that the planet is on pace to become sterile in 2045!
There is a ton of hype and confusion on the issue of testosterone optimization today, and I want to cut through this confusion with practical tips, a focus on natural testosterone optimization, and a view of hormone replacement as a last resort after striving to optimize all lifestyle factors.
The “secrets” of testosterone optimization are not that slick or exotic. But we have a ton of momentum against us in modern life. Yes, the environmental estrogens (plastic containers, skincare, home chemicals, etc.) are disturbing, but so are excess artificial light and digital stimulation after dark, and so are overly-stressful workout patterns that tank testosterone instead of boosting it.
Following are five areas you can address immediately to naturally optimize testosterone:
1. Testosterone is strongly boosted by competition.
You can see this across all species in the game of life! Ashley Merryman, B.rad podcast guest and co-author of Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing, calls testosterone the “social status hormone.” Testosterone improves performance in any area you wish to excel in, not necessarily physical aggression per common oversimplification. Merryman cites research that testosterone levels skyrocket while chess masters are in tournament competition. Place yourself in competitive settings to be the best you can be (even if it’s self-competition). Andrew Huberman said on his Huberman Lab podcast: “Testosterone reduces the threshold for anxiety and enables males to persevere in pursuit of a mate and/or a novel adventure.”
2. Having sex affects testosterone.
In general, research has found there to be a positive association between health in middle age and later life with sexual activity, quality of sexual life, and an interest in sex. Many studies have also looked at the connection between sexual activity and testosterone—a connection that appears to be quite nuanced. One study from 2003 found that testosterone levels could actually be more influenced by a lack of sex, rather than by sex itself. However, another study confirmed that participating in sexual activity results in a greater testosterone boost than merely observing sexual stimuli/activity (which does also result in a testosterone boost).
Interestingly, one study that focused on the connection between men’s testosterone levels and their number of sexual partners found that a man’s number of sexual partners is negatively related to his testosterone levels—-the more sexual partners, the lower the testosterone level. Basically, if you play around too much, it may backfire!
There is also a prominent Japanese study revealing that ejaculating once every 7 days optimizes testosterone to consider. Less frequent than weekly sex can cause a decline (the use it or lose it principle…), while more frequently is thought to have a depleting effect. Although, Andrew Huberman cites research on his show that ejaculation may not trash testosterone as is widely believed (e.g., pre-game sports superstitions and centuries-old Taoist doctrine about depleting one’s “jing” or life essence with too frequent ejaculations). Indeed, the authors of one study concluded that sexual activity seems to have a protective effect on men’s health after their research revealed that men who have orgasms only once a month have double the mortality rate than men who have frequent orgasms (defined in the study as two or more per week). Their findings were also validated by another study that found higher mortality rates among men who had stopped having sex at earlier ages.
An important note: In his podcast episode #15, Dr. Huberman also emphasizes that the relationship between sexual activity, testosterone, and libido is nuanced. I’ve discovered the same in research about testosterone blood testing at the many misconceptions we have. For example, high SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) can actually be indicative of healthy testosterone status, that free testosterone is likely a less valuable marker than total testosterone, and much more. For example, did you know that testosterone and libido are not necessarily directly correlated? It’s possible to have healthy testosterone and poor libido, due to the many psychological influences on libido.
3. Inflammation and Lifestyle—Diet.
In the duh category, both acute illness and long-term chronic inflammation from adverse lifestyle practices can trash sex hormone levels. The accumulation of belly fat, aka visceral fat, in particular, promotes chronic, system-wide inflammation and is known to promote “aromatization”—the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. This is the ultimate competitive battleground for the aging male because the accumulation of a little belly fat begets adding more belly fat.
Also in the duh category: eating nutrient-dense foods supports healthy testosterone. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men who followed a high-fat, low-fiber diet for 10 weeks had 13% higher total testosterone than subjects who ate low-fat and high-fiber. Because of the phytoestrogens present in many plant foods, it is important to minimize our exposure to many of the plant-based, so-called super nutrients that happen to be high in phytoestrogens or mycoestrogens. These include the flavonoid family, which has been lauded for its high antioxidant levels, but also contains high levels of estrogen-mimicking molecules. One example is sulforaphane—a sulfur-rich compound that is concentrated in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. It’s been lauded as a wonder agent with profound anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and broad anti-aging and cognitive disease protection properties, but has also been shown to have estrogenic properties, much like other supplement superstars like quercetin and epigenin. Then there’s soy and flax—two big offenders with over 100,000 micrograms of estrogens, while most plants have under 1000 micrograms.
I also cannot overestimate the importance of consuming grass-fed meat because of how much an animal’s feed affects its body. According to Dr. Ray Peat, “Corn and soybeans… cause the animals’ fat to be chemically equivalent to vegetable oil. In the late 1940s, chemical toxins were used to suppress the thyroid function of pigs, to make them get fatter while consuming less food. When that was found to be carcinogenic, it was then found that corn and soy beans had the same antithyroid effect, causing the animals to be fattened at a low cost. The animals’ fat becomes chemically similar to the fats in their food, causing it to be equally toxic, and equally fattening.” Because of how sensitive sex hormones are to long-term chronic inflammation, choosing only grass-fed meat is a must.
4. Inflammation and Lifestyle—Fitness.
Lifestyle modification, particularly when it comes to exercise, can have a profound effect on your testosterone levels in a short time—I know this from experience. It only took six months from my testosterone reading below the normal and healthy range (equating with a clinical diagnosis of hypo) to get myself into the 99th percentile reading for my age group. I achieved this primarily by minimizing workout stress since I already had the diet part pretty dialed in. To learn how I doubled my testosterone naturally in just six months, click here.
I also go into more detail in another blog post, “The Best Ways To Workout To Optimize Testosterone.”
5. Environmental estrogens.
One consequence of high-tech modern life is the constant exposure to an ever-increasing assortment of estrogenic compounds in our food supply, water supply, personal care products, and plastic packaging. These compounds (phytoestrogens from plants, xenoestrogens from plastics and water-borne chemicals, mycoestrogens/mycotoxins in molds) are absorbed into your bloodstream and mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Because these foreign agents are difficult to metabolize, they can gradually accumulate in the fat cells and disturb the extremely delicate interplay between estrogen and testosterone in your body.
Over time, environmental estrogens can promote an accelerated decline in testosterone levels. We are coming to accept this as routine aging, but this assertion can be aggressively challenged. We have never before in the history of humanity had to contend with a nonstop assault of these chemicals, and mounting science is validating the widespread destruction to human health—not just males losing their mojo, but for women, developing estrogen dominance and increasing their risk of reproductive and other cancers.
Therefore, your devoted efforts to eat, supplement, exercise, and sleep like a MOFO must also include aggressive efforts to minimize exposure to estrogenic influences in your environment.
Sources Of Environmental Estrogens:
Food. Soy products and flax products have the highest levels of phytoestrogens, and they are also found in grains like corn and wheat, legumes, seeds (such as sesame seeds), vegetables, and some fruits (like peaches).
Plants: Speaking of phytoestrogens, watch out for lavender oil—one of the most commonly used essential oils added to body care products like soap, body wash, lotion, and hand sanitizer. Studies have found lavender oil (as well as tea tree oil) acts as a major hormone disrupter, linking abnormal breast growth in young boys (aka prepubertal gynecomastia) with regular exposure to lavender or tea tree oil, since key chemicals in these common, plant-derived oils act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Another plant to watch out for? Marijuana. Studies on the connection between marijuana use and testosterone found men who did not smoke weed had an average testosterone level that was close to double the amount compared to men who smoked weed. Further research also shows smoking one joint—just one—can cause testosterone levels to drop for 24 hours or more.
Plastic. We should all strive for zero tolerance with plastic water bottles or food containers and use glass or stainless steel instead. Plastic water bottles are often considered the worst offenders because the xenoestrogen molecules can leach into the water, particularly when they are exposed to heat, but plastic food packaging and food storage containers used at home are just as bad since compounds leach off the plastic containers and into your food or drink. According to Justin Boucher, an environmental engineer at the Food Packaging Forum (a non-profit research organization based in Switzerland): “We know that these substances migrate into food you eat. It’s clear, direct exposure.” Interestingly, this is even more likely when food is fatty, salty, or acidic, according to a 2021 review in the journal Foods, with some research even suggesting that PFAS levels are higher in people among people who regularly eat out.
Also, keep in mind that even if a plastic container is labeled “BPA-free”, it can still contain other harmful agents known as phthalates. These are known as PA analogs.
Industrialized farming. For example, mold in the corn feed consumed by CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) animals get passed to humans.
To read more about the MOFO Mission, click here. And if you want to reclaim your manhood and maintain energy, passion, and competitive intensity throughout life, try the Ancestral Supplements Male Optimization Formula with Organs—a whole food dietary supplement made entirely from nutrient-dense animal organs in a pure freeze-dried state, like testicle, prostate, heart, liver, and bone marrow from 100% grass-fed New Zealand cattle.
It may sound weird to be swallowing cow balls and more, but this nose-to-tail consumption of the most nutrient-dense foods available on earth is a centerpiece of the evolutionary health model that has been disregarded and disrespected in today’s culture. To read success stories about the effectiveness of MOFO, click here, and if you want to order MOFO and get started on the first step of your MOFO Mission, click here.