Testosterone is a true powerhouse hormone that helps keep guys looking younger and feeling fit. But as you put wear and tear on your body—in the form of poor diet, lack of sleep, or inconsistent exercise—testosterone can take a hit, limiting how you perform in the gym (and even the bedroom).
It gets worse: For some dudes, low testosterone can even lead to a health problem called andropause. Essentially the male version of menopause (hence the nickname "manopause"), andropause is a slow decrease of testosterone. It's usually seen in men over the age of 40. However, the process can begin in men in their 20s.
"I've seen [andropause] anywhere from men in their 30s to 60s," says Fred Pescatore, M.D., a health and nutrition expert and author of The Hamptons Diet. "The earliest I've seen it occur is age 24."
Symptoms of andropause include low sex drive, fatigue, poor memory, and low sleep quality. And while it's very rare for men to see their testosterone levels drop in their 20s, young adulthood is the perfect time to take preventive measures.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep your testosterone levels going strong. By taking control of nutrition and exercising regularly as you age, you can increase your testosterone levels and remain youthful. Transforming your daily regimen of meals and workout routines also includes monitoring the stressors in your lifestyle that cause inflammation.
First things first: When you make your an annual trip to a primary care doctor for a physical, you should ask for blood tests to check both testosterone and DHT levels, Pescatore says. DHT, or dihydrotestosterone, is a naturally produced hormone that's been linked to male-pattern baldness. Don't blame a poor workout on lack of sleep. The worst thing a guy can do is overlook possible warning signs.
Furthermore, check your chemical exposure. Low testosterone doesn't necessarily result in a receding hairline, but it carries with it significant life-changing symptoms that may or may not be a result of exposure to phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds found in a wide range of plants and foods from herbs and grains to fruits and vegetables, which is where most guys ingest these "metabolic disruptors," according to Pescatore. These compounds can slow down or alter the endocrine system, which controls your secretion of hormones. That, in turn, can affect libido, metabolism, growth, and development.
Phytoestrogens can also be found in many of the products we use in in everyday life—from cash register receipts to cleaning supplies—and guys should try to limit their exposure to them, Pescatore says. "You want to check out everything from your underarm deodorant to your shampoo—all of those things that have parabens and propylene glycol in them." Parabens are preservatives found in cosmetic products, while propylene glycol typically acts as a delivery agent in said products.
The best way to combat exposure to phytoestrogens is to exercise consistently and eat cleaner. If your diet doesn't already consist of mostly organic foods and ingredients, it would be wise to make the switch. Try to eat meats from grass-fed animals and eggs from cage-free chickens. Try using Macadamia nut oil for cooking and eating. Stick with legumes for an easy source of protein.
“We live our lives with chronic inflammation,” Pescatore says. “Whether you experience stress or not, or you're one of those people who thrive on stress. Your body is still creating inflammation.”
Pescatore recommends curcumin, which is a substance found in the ginger family, for raising testosterone levels and reducing inflammation.
Lastly, you cannot perform at work or in the gym, without getting a good night’s sleep. Catching some ‘Z’s’ at a rate of 6-8 hours per night is a good starting point for getting gas in the engine.