I’ve always stressed the importance of optimal hormone levels when it comes to maximizing your muscle gains and fat loss. Those hormones include insulin, human growth hormone, cortisol and testosterone, just to name the major hormonal concerns. But I get a lot of questions about testosterone, like: What constitutes a good testosterone level? How do I increase my testosterone? Should I be taking these expensive supplements to boost testosterone?
So in the next two posts, I’m going to cover these questions and a lot more. In order to ensure maximum gains from your workouts, it’s important to understand the different types of testosterone (there are actually three), how testosterone is measured, what your ideal testosterone range is and how to boost it naturally.
In this post, Part One, we’ll go over the types of testosterone, how much testosterone you should have and what kind and how to get your testosterone measured accurately. I’ll also share with you one of the best ways to boost your testosterone level with a natural, safe supplement.
The Three Different Types of Testosterone
There are three types of testosterone in the human body. They are SHBG-bound testosterone, albumin-bound testosterone and free testosterone. They are not interchangeable and you need to know the difference in order to understand your testosterone level and what you can do about it.
Roughly half of your total testosterone level is SHBG-bound testosterone. SHBG stands for sex hormone-binding globulin, which is produced in your liver. It binds to free testosterone in your system and has a lot to do with regulating your libido. The problem with SHBG-bound testosterone, as far as bodybuilding goes, is that it’s biologically inactive. It can’t be used for building muscle. It’s also possible for SHBG to bind to too much of your free testosterone, which is why you might have a decent result from a testosterone test, but still have trouble adding muscle mass. There is evidence that you can correct that through diet and some good lifestyle choices and we’re going to take a look at that in Part Two of this post.
Albumin is a protein naturally produced by the liver and is also binds to testosterone to help regulate fluid volumes outside of your cells. Like SHBG-bound testosterone, albumin-bound testosterone is biologically inactive. But while SHGB has a strong bond with testosterone, albumin doesn’t. Its bond to testosterone is easily broken, so that your body can break it and create more free testosterone as needed. Because of this, some testosterone tests lump albumin-bound testosterone in with free testosterone, which can create a misleading result. In effect, that test is telling you how much free and/or “could become free” testosterone is in your blood.
Free testosterone is exactly what you might assume. It’s testosterone that is not bound to either albumin or SHBG. It only makes up about 2-4% of your total testosterone level. Because nothing has attached itself to it, it’s free to activate cell receptors and boost your mood, your energy level, your strength and your ability to add muscle tissue. Obviously, from a bodybuilding standpoint, this is the testosterone that we want to increase the most.
Finding Out What Your Testosterone Levels Are
There are a few different tests you can take to determine your testosterone levels, but like testosterone, they’re not all the same and they don’t all do the same thing, either.
Right now, there is no standardized method for testing testosterone levels. Different labs use different tests and those tests and their results don’t measure the same types of testosterone.
There are a few ways to get your testosterone levels tested. One of the simplest is to go to your regular doctor or an endocrinologist and request one. The plus side of this is that it might be fully or at least partially covered by your insurance, but you need to check with your carrier to find out.
You can also go through an online service that will act as sort of a testing reservation service for you. You contact them online, tell them what you need and they find a lab in your area that conducts testosterone tests and book an appointment for you.
The cheapest way to get your testosterone test is through one of the mail-in kits you can buy on places like Amazon for $20-30, but I don’t recommend them. These are saliva tests (you mail the saliva sample in to them) and saliva tests are very inaccurate.
The important thing to know is how the results are calculated, whether you’re going through your doctor or a commercial lab. Tests fall into two groups: those that measure your free testosterone and those that measure your total testosterone, which is going to be your SHBG-bound, albumin-bound and free testosterone all together. Testosterone is measured in nanograms per deciliter (ng/dl).
In general, the tests that measure just free testosterone can be more costly. But if you opt for total testosterone results, you can fairly accurately figure out your free testosterone on your own by multiplying total testosterone by 3%.
Testosterone Ranges and What They Really Mean
Another thing you need to understand about testosterone tests is that the ranges can be huge. For instance, LabCorp, one of the biggest commercial labs, considers anything from about 350ng/dl on up to 1200ng/dl as normal for males as a whole. But “normal” ranges vary depending on your age, your endocrine health, your fitness level and your overall health.
You can check out the references I’ll add at the end of this post to read up on the literature, but just as an example, in one study, average total testosterone was 617 and free testosterone was 12.3 for guys between the ages of 25-34. Guys aged 35-44 averaged more total testosterone at 668, but less free testosterone at just over 10.
So How Do You Raise Testosterone Naturally?
As I said earlier, in my next post I’ll be sharing some diet, exercise and lifestyle steps you can take to raise your free testosterone levels. However, you can also raise them with the right testosterone-boosting supplement.
I’m going to clarify right here that a testosterone boosting supplement is NOT the same thing as taking steroids. I won’t get into a lecture and I’m sure regular readers understand that I don’t condone steroids in any way. They’re dangerous and they’re unnecessary. I’ve made a career out of showing other skinny guys like me how to grow naturally, without steroids and drugs.
Having said that, there are testosterone-boosting supplements available, but use caution when reading about them or purchasing them. Many of them are garbage. Of all of the active ingredients in testosterone supplements, only Testofen has enough peer-reviewed research showing its effectiveness.
Testofen is a compound made from fenugreek extract and some studies indicate that it can increase free testosterone by almost 99%. Researchers believe that it stimulates an increase in luteinizing hormone (LH), which increases testosterone production. One study also showed that the dioscin and saponin in Testofen boost GH (growth hormone) levels, too, which aids in muscle gain.
Because there has been some very good research done on Testofen and with good results, there is a lot of supplement manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, many of these supplements use low-quality ingredients or don’t contain enough Testofen to get the results you’re looking for. One supplement that I can recommend personally is Status from Blue Star Nutraceuticals. If you are struggling to add muscle, you may have low testosterone. Click here to learn how to Double Your Testosterone.
**Want to try out Status? Use the coupon code “TESTOSTERONE” at the end of the checkout process and it will knock off 50% off each bottle. I recommend you grab a few bottles because you can only use this code once.
Boosting your testosterone naturally starts with taking a high-quality supplement containing Testofen, but in Part 2 of this post, I’ll share some very effective steps you can take on your own to help boost and maintain your testosterone even more.
Aswar U, Bodhankar SL, Mohan V, Thakurdesai PA. Effect of furostanol glycosides from Trigonella foenum-graecum on the reproductive system of male albino rats. Phytotherapy Research. 2010 Oct; 24(10):1482-8.
Steels E, Rao A, Vitetta L. Physiological Aspects of Male Libido Enhanced by Standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum Extract and Mineral Formulation. Phytotherapy Research. 2011 Feb 10. [Epub ahead of print]
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