Is Protein a Friend or Enemy to Testosterone?

November 2, 2017

If you’re serious bodybuilder, then you undoubtedly have considered the relationship between protein and testosterone.


However, a lot of people don’t realise that the connection between protein and testosterone is not as beneficial as they would assume.


It would seem like common sense to assume that protein and testosterone are friends, right? unfortunately, this is not the case.


The relationship between protein and testosterone is not as simple as the friendship between two bros and their gym memberships.

Managing Protein and Testosterone

You might be shocked to hear that you might have to reconsider your protein intake to prevent risking damage to your hormonal health.  


This isn’t to say that protein isn’t important, because it certainly is. Muscle growth is reliant on protein, so it is vital that you get a lot of it. However, getting a disproportionate amount of protein compared to the amount of testosterone you have is not good.


A lot of athletes and bodybuilders believe that protein is directly responsible for the creation of testosterone. This could not be farther from the truth.


It’s also important to understand that having very high levels of protein in your body can actually be a detriment to your testosterone levels.


What’s more important than getting extremely high levels of protein is striking a balance between the different nutrients.


Balance Your Intake of Nutrients

A lot of bodybuilders develop diet plans that are extremely high in protein, and low in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. Makes sense, right?


Protein is necessary for muscle building, and fat just gets in the way of your appealing muscular physique.


Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Cholesterol is required for the synthesis of testosterone. Sacrificing cholesterol for protein means that you will be sacrificing your body’s ability to produce high amounts of testosterone.


Many will be surprised to learn that research has shown many instances of high protein diets causing low levels of testosterone. Athletes who have a high protein to carb ratio (consuming significantly more protein than carbohydrates)  are shown to have lower levels of testosterone.


Conversely, those who ate diets high in carbohydrates and lower in protein were shown to have higher levels of testosterone.


Surprisingly, it seems that carbohydrates alone are more responsible for an increase in testosterone than protein. The benefits of a high-carbohydrate diet don’t stop here, though.  


Athletes will also be interested to know that people who eat a high-carbohydrate diet will have a lower level of cortisol. Cortisol, if you don’t already know, is known as the stress hormone and is pretty much a bodybuilder’s worst enemy.


Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which is the opposite of an anabolic hormone, like testosterone. Anabolic hormones are responsible for improving muscle growth. Catabolic hormones do the opposite, helping the body break down excess muscle to use as energy.


Fat is Good for Testosterone


One study confirms this in earnest. This study followed 12 men who already had lots of experience training. These subjects had different diet preferences, and they were to be compared at the end of the study.


The study had them train twice weekly over 17 days.  The exercises included were either jump squats or bench presses.  They were analyzed to observe the blood levels of cortisol and testosterone around the time they worked out.


Of course, the study confirmed that testosterone levels increased after a workout. However, the dietary choices of the subjects had an impact on their testosterone levels even before working out.


Those who ate a diet that was high in fat showed significantly higher levels of testosterone before they even hit the gym. Their anabolic boost following the workout was, naturally, higher than those who did not eat a high-fat diet.


We can assume that their motivation and energy levels were higher during the day, which would allow them to exert themselves more intensely and get a more effective workout.


However, most of these results apply to younger men. Studies have shown that older men respond better to diets higher in protein, particularly if they have consumed low protein diets for most of their lives.


If you’re between the ages of 40 and 70, you may see more benefits from eating a higher protein diet.


To Draw it All Together

This can be a bit much to absorb, especially considering this information counters a lot of what many bodybuilders have believed for most of their lives.


However, in light of this new information, there are a few things that you should remember.


  • We already knew that intensive training increases testosterone levels. However, eating a low carbohydrate diet decrease the amount of testosterone that’s available and inhibits the boost in testosterone following a workout.

  • If you eat meals that are high in fat during the day before you workout, there will be an increase in the amount of testosterone in your bloodstream. This means that a diet with a healthy level of fat can improve your drive and motivation, giving you an extra push before you hit the gym.

  • Contrary to what many believe, it’s important to have a diet that is high in calories and fat. Many sex hormones, particularly testosterone, are synthesized from fat. The body requires calories as energy for metabolic processes, which includes creating hormones.


If you are worried about introducing fat into your diet, then you just need to learn about the proper types of fats. There are many healthy facts that actually help your body perform a lot of important functions.


  • The Omega 3, 6, 9  essential fatty acids are all important for the production of testosterone. These fatty acids can be found in healthy foods like coconut oil, avocados, olive oil,  and protein-rich fish like salmon.

  • One of the omega-6 fats, conjugated linoleic acid, has proven to be one of the best natural, nutritional boosters for testosterone. People who take CLA notice the most intense boost to testosterone post-workout. It can be found in meat, dairy, and eggs, but you can also find it and supplements at your local health food store.

  • Try to avoid saturated fats and hydrogenated fats, like margarine. Also try to avoid trans fats like those that are found in fried fast food. These are the fats that will build up into unhealthy compounds in your body.


Bottom Line

As you can see the link between protein and testosterone is not as straightforward as some bodybuilders would like to think. And if protein is overconsumed it can actually be very detrimental to your hormone levels.

If you find that your testosterone levels are at a very low level that is worrying you then it might be an idea to consume foods that contain natural steroids.

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