Testosterone is a steroidal hormone produced mainly by testes in men and ovaries in women. The adrenal glands of box sexes also produce smaller amounts of testosterone. This hormone belongs to the androgen group which includes DHT (dihydrotestosterone) androstenediol and androstenedione. There are also 6 other groups of steroid hormones including estrogens (for bodybuilding), progestins (found in female contraceptive pills) and glucocorticoids (mainly anti-inflammatory components).
Both testosterone and estrogen play a vital role in men’s and women’s bodies, however, too much or little of it can cause problems; men growing breasts, and women getting excessive facial hair. In both cases, an imbalance of these hormones can increase or decrease libido.
Men typically produce around 7mg of testosterone per day, and females around one fifth of this amount. Once testosterone enters the bloodstream, up to 95 per cent of it bounds to albumin and globulin proteins. This serves three purposes: makes the transportation of soluble testosterone into the blood easier, it protects the kidneys and liver from degradation, and it serves as a storage tank in the body.
The Importance of Testosterone for Building Muscle
The relationship between muscle growth and testosterone is known to anyone who works out in the gym. The synthetic hormones that are present in anabolic steroids boost muscle growth and this is why professional athletes occasionally turn to steroids for increasing their muscle mass throughout training sessions.
It is common knowledge that resistance and strenuous exercises trigger muscle growth, and in response to this stimulus, the athlete’s muscles increase in size and strength as new proteins are added to the muscle fibres. This process is referred to as ‘protein synthesis’, which is determined by a number of growth hormones, with testosterone being one of the most important among them.
Foods That Lower Testosterone Levels and Why They Can Cause Problems
Just like many foods that can increase your T levels, there are also some that lower your testosterone production. Although flaxseeds have become highly popular these days due to their omega-3 fatty acids, they can still have negative effects on your body. This is because flaxseeds contain excessive amounts of lignans compounds that play havoc with your body. Extensive scientific research suggests that these estrogenic lignans reduce the total testosterone levels, while suppressing the DHT enzyme at the same time. Lignans work by boosting the levels of sex hormone globulin and as a result, inactivate the androgen receptors.
Other problematic foods that can play havoc with your T levels include vegetable oils and processed oils from plant sources. Due to the refining process that vegetable oils go through, i.e. degumming and deodorising, they are often stripped of all their nutrients. Even if you only use these oils for salad dressing, they can still be the wrong choice and cause problems with your T production.
In fact, according to recent studies from Colorado University, refined oils such as pomace and corn oil not only lower testosterone production, but they also kill off the omega-6 fatty acids in the body.
Further research showed that the sperm count in men who consumed these oils regularly was significantly lower than those who used grapeseed or rice bran oil. The results also indicated that men who enjoyed higher sperm count were consuming healthy omega-3 fatty acids that can be found in olive oil and avocado.
Another type of food that can have adverse effects on your T levels is soya. Because of the high amount of estrogenic compounds in soybeans, they have a negative effect on the body, in particular, women’s. These estrogenic isoflavones can activate the receptors in the female sex hormones and downregulate them as a result. Aside from the negative effects that isoflavones cause the female body, soya is also considered to be high in goitrogenic compounds, which disrupt the thyroid hormone production by interfering with this gland’s iodine intake. In men, one of the leading causes of low T levels is considered to stem from suppressed thyroid activity.
Other culprit foods, aside from soy products, include cheese, pasta, cereals, and alcohol. These types of foods lower T levels by increasing aromatase enzyme’s activity, which converts this hormone into estrogen. This is why people experience lower sex drive as they have higher estrogen levels. So next time you get tempted to start your party with a platter of cheese, think again as too much dairy could potentially mess with your body’s hormone production and wreak havoc with your sex life.
Glycyrrhizin acid, a compound found in liquorice is another testosterone suppressant. A recent study of 10 healthy men who were given 10 grams of liquorice a day found that after just 5 days, the participants’ total testosterone levels had dropped by 45 per cent.
Even whole grain foods can lower sex drive if they go through a processing procedure. For example, when brown rice is processed into white rice, it loses about three quarters of its nutrients such as zinc. This mineral is vital to men’s reproduction and sexuality. By consuming refined grains, your body’s insulin levels can become resistant and consequently lead to diabetes. This is the last stop before you develop heart disease.
Poor quality deli meats such as hot dogs, salamis, and burgers can also lead to low sex drive as they contain added hormones and antibiotics. These preservatives can cause hormonal imbalances in the body so make sure you choose leaner cuts like chicken breast or turkey in order to prevent your testosterone from decreasing to unhealthy levels.