Although there are many ways to increase testosterone levels, including resistance training and supplementation, diet plays a vital role in testosterone production. Since cholesterol is required for testosterone synthesis, fat is often the go-to macronutrient for maintaining or increasing testosterone levels. However, not eating enough carbohydrates can also lead to lower testosterone levels in your body.
Although testosterone is associated with maleness, the androgen is found in both men and women. For men, testosterone is responsible for maintaining bone density, fat distribution and sex drive. Moreover, it helps increase muscle strength and mass. After the age of 30, testosterone levels naturally decline, which can produce changes in sexual function, such as reduced sexual desire, and a loss of muscle mass.
Researchers at the University of Maryland investigated the impact of protein and carb intake on testosterone levels in men. They observed that men adhering to a high-carb, low-protein diet had higher testosterone levels after 10 days compared with those who followed a high-protein, low-carb diet. Both diets were equal in calories and fat. The findings were reported in the May 1987 issue of “Life Sciences.”
Testosterone levels may decrease on a low-carb diet, especially if you exercise, according to a study performed by scientists at the Polish Academy of Sciences. Researchers assigned participants to a low-carb diet that comprised 5 percent or less of total calories from carbs for three days. Afterward, subjects performed exercise to exhaustion. Scientists observed that participants on the low-carb diet experienced reductions in testosterone levels, according to research published in the June 2011 issue of the "International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism.”
In another study published in the April 2010 issue of the "European Journal of Applied Physiology,” researchers at the University of North Carolina studied the impact of carb intake on testosterone levels in men performing intense training. Subjects followed a high- or low-carb diet for three days while undergoing intense aerobic training. Testosterone levels were measured at baseline and on the fourth day. Scientists found that those in the high-carb group had higher testosterone levels compared with those in the low-carb group.
- MedlinePlus: Testosterone
- "Life Sciences"; Diet-Hormone Interactions: Protein/Carbohydrate Ratio Alters Reciprocally the Plasma Levels of Testosterone and Cortisol and Their Respective Binding Globulins in Man; K.E. Anderson et al.; May 1987
- "International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism"; The Effect of Low-Carbohydrate Diet on the Pattern of Hormonal Changes During Incremental, Graded Exercise in Young Men; J.L. Langfort et al.; June 2001
- "European Journal of Applied Physiology"; Influence of Dietary Carbohydrate Intake on the Free Testosterone: Cortisol Ratio Responses to Short-Term Intensive Exercise Training; A.R. Lane et al.; April 2010