Is Keto a Testosterone-Boosting Diet? Plus 8 Low-Carb Foods for Healthy T
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Is Keto a Testosterone-Boosting Diet? Plus 8 Low-Carb Foods for Healthy T

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Is Keto a Testosterone-Boosting Diet? Plus 8 Low-Carb Foods for Healthy T

Posted 6 months ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

As we age, our testosterone levels decline.[*] This decline makes it harder to gain muscle, burn fat, and feel like an excitable rabbit during mating season. 

A testosterone-boosting diet can help. The right foods (in the right proportions) supply the raw materials you need to make this life-giving sex hormone. 

Does Keto increase testosterone? The research suggests a cautious yes.[*]

We’ll explore this research, the symptoms of low testosterone, how diet and lifestyle affect testosterone, and practical advice for increasing it.

What Is Testosterone?

Testosterone (T) is a chemical messenger (a hormone) that tells your cells what to do. Specifically, testosterone tells[*]:

  • Muscle, bone, and red blood cells to grow
  • Fat cells to oxidize (burn) 
  • Testicular cells to produce sperm 

The growth-related functions lend testosterone its status as an anabolic hormone. Yet it’s not a perfect label since testosterone is not anabolic to fat cells. 

Men have more T than women (about 15X more[*]), but women have plenty too. Testosterone (not estrogen) is the most abundant sex hormone in the female body.[*] That’s a fun factoid to share on first dates or weekly staff meetings as everyone sips their coffee. 

Signs of Low Testosterone 

Around age 30, testosterone levels start to decline steadily—a decline that affects men more than women.[*] Testicular disease, drugs, chemotherapy, and genetic disorders (like Klinefelter syndrome) can also decrease testosterone levels.[*

The signs of low testosterone include:

  • Decreased bone density
  • Increased body fat 
  • Muscle mass declines
  • Poor libido
  • Impaired red blood cell production (anemia)
  • Decreased testicle size 

In some cases, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may be appropriate to support muscle and bone health. Be sure to discuss TRT benefits and risks with your doctor before moving forward.

What Influences Testosterone?

Genes, age, diet, and lifestyle all influence testosterone levels. Though we can’t control genes or age (yet), our diets and lifestyles are primarily up to us. 

We’ll talk about diet shortly. Let’s hit the other lifestyle pillars first. 

Sleep is a big one. In one study, healthy young men had 10–15% drops in testosterone after one week of partial (5 hours per night) sleep restriction.[*]

This may explain why fat-burning plummets after short sleep.[*] It also explains why sleep-deprived people are less interested in sex. 

Don’t forget exercise, either. Consider including high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training in your routine for their many benefits, including T-boosting.[*][*

Also, manage your stress. Human evidence suggests that testosterone goes down as cortisol (the stress hormone) goes up.[*

Then put it all together. Wind down after your exercise routine with a relaxing fiction book and hit the sack at a reasonable hour. Your testosterone levels will notice. 

Testosterone and Diet

To eat a diet to increase testosterone, you should consider:

  1. The amount of food you eat
  2. The macros (carbs, protein, and fat) you consume
  3. Your micronutrient intake

When it comes to calories, balance is the key. You don’t want to chronically undereat because long-term calorie restriction reduces muscle mass, bone density, and testosterone levels.[*

But you don’t want to overeat either. When obese men temporarily cut portions to lose weight, their testosterone levels rose.[*

The explanation is that weight loss improves insulin sensitivity, which helps the testes produce testosterone.[*] So, for healthy T, it’s wise to avoid addictive foods like refined sugar that promote weight gain. 

What about macros? After exercise, eating carbs appears to prevent testosterone from falling.[*] Other data, however, suggests that high-fat diets outperform high-carb diets for muscle gains and testosterone production.[*][*

Various micronutrients—zinc, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin D, boron, and others—also support testosterone synthesis. Even if you eat a nutritious diet, consider taking a well-formulated multivitamin as an insurance policy. 

Keto and Testosterone

To eat a Keto diet, you must consume most of your energy from fat and protein. Only a little energy (under 10%) comes from carbohydrates. 

Restricting carbs may be effective for raising T. Let’s see what the science says. 

Researchers had 25 young men eat either Keto or high-carb, then they strength trained for 11 weeks.[*] By the end of the study, the Keto group had less fat mass and higher testosterone levels than the high-carb group.

The Keto group’s bump in T (an average of 118 ng/dL) wasn’t tiny. (Note: the normal range for circulating total testosterone is 264 to 916 ng/dL for males between 19 and 39.) Interestingly, testosterone levels in the high-carb group declined by 36 ng/dL. 

It’s possible that higher cholesterol intakes drove this benefit. (Cholesterol is required to synthesize testosterone.) When you eat foods like eggs and salmon, you’re eating foods rich in dietary cholesterol. 

If you’re wondering if high-cholesterol diets increase heart disease risk, that’s understandable. There’s a boatload of misinformation out there. 

But the science is clear: dietary cholesterol has no relationship to heart disease risk.[*] Circulating cholesterol does, but that’s another topic.

Even the Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer warn the public to avoid cholesterol-rich foods.[*] Our collective testosterone levels appreciate it. 

8 Low-Carb Foods for Boosting Testosterone

To maintain testosterone levels as you age, keep these foods in your rotation:

  1. Eggs. The cholesterol in egg yolks is fuel for testosterone synthesis. 
  2. Fatty fish. Biohacker favorites like salmon and sardines boast healthy fats, dietary cholesterol, and T-supporting micros like zinc and vitamin D.
  3. Bivalves. Clams and mussels are high in B vitamins, zinc, and copper to support sex hormones. 
  4. Cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cabbage, and other cruciferous veggies contain a compound (indole-3-carbinol) that reduces estrogen for better testosterone function.[*]
  5. Cacao. Chocolate flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin stimulate testosterone production in the testes.[*]  
  6. Avocados. The humble avocado is rich in boron and monounsaturated fat. It deserves a place in your T-boosting lineup.[*
  7. Ginger. A review of animal and human studies found ginger to boost various markers of male fertility, including T.[*
  8. Green leafy vegetables. Greens like kale, chard, and spinach are high in magnesium to keep your testosterone production firing.[*

Finding Your Testosterone Diet and Lifestyle

You don’t have to eat Keto to increase your testosterone. If you consume sufficient calories, manage your weight, sleep well, exercise, reduce stress, eat healthy fats, and dial in your micronutrients—you’ll be doing better than most. 

The behaviors that support testosterone production are the same behaviors that support longevity. It’s that simple. 

Yet another reason to prioritize your long-term health.