Athletes have sought the benefits of testosterone for as long as competitive events have been recorded. In fact, attempts to use testosterone may be traced as far back as in the ancient Olympic games in 1776 BC. While we know that testosterone treatments are able to increase muscle size and strength in a dose dependent manner, there are also natural (and safer!) means to manipulate this hormone, such as through diet. With that being said, there are numerous “testosterone boosting” products on the market. However, these products only seem to work if your testosterone levels are lower than normal and this can only be determined with a blood test. A phenomenal way to increase testosterone will be to manipulate your diet.
May a Higher Fat Diet be Beneficial?
The answer is yes. A study by Dr. Jeff Volek and his lab investigated the role of fat in the diet and resting testosterone levels. These scientists showed that a diet higher in fat, particularly saturated fats, increased testosterone. In addition, post exercise, testosterone is also elevated. This study proves that you should not be afraid of fat because, as we all know, testosterone is a crucial hormone for muscle and size gains. I recommend ~30% of overall calories if on a higher carbohydrate diet.
The second part of this study was to investigate the impact of training various body parts on the testosterone response. They took trained athletes and had them do bench press and squats. Can you guess who got the highest testosterone response? If you guessed squats, then you would be correct! This suggests that selecting out very large compound movements are likely essential for gaining size and optimizing your hormonal milieu.
The take Home Messages are that dietary fat, which provides the building blocks for testosterone, is essential for a healthy hormonal environment. While many people are terrified of fat, it is an essential macronutrient. If you are scared of gaining fat we recommend simply separating your higher fat meals from your higher carb meals. For example, for breakfast you might have an egg and cheese omelet with veggies, while several hours later for your post workout meal you might have a higher carb and lower fat meal. Finally, when training this study shows the importance of incorporating compound movements to optimize the hormonal response. While the latter suggestion is controversial, we will touch on this very subject in a future article.