Written by Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN on May 20, 2016
Testosterone is the main male sex hormone, but females also have small amounts of it.
It is a hormone, produced in men’s testicles and women’s ovaries (1).
The adrenal glands also produce small amounts.
During puberty in boys, testosterone is one of the main drivers of physical changes like increased muscle, deeper voice and hair growth.
However, having optimal levels is also important throughout adulthood and even during old age.
Here are 8 evidence-based ways to increase testosterone levels naturally.
#1: Exercise and Lift Weights
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent many lifestyle-related diseases. Interestingly, it can also boost your testosterone.
Bottom Line: All forms of exercise may increase your testosterone levels. Weight lifting and high-intensity interval training are the most effective.
#2: Eat Protein, Fat and Carbs
What you eat has a major impact on testosterone as well as other hormone levels (25).
Therefore, you must pay attention to your long-term calorie intake and diet strategy.
A diet based mainly on whole foods is best, with a healthy balance of fat, protein and carbs. This can optimize both hormone levels and long-term health.
Bottom Line: Don’t overeat and don’t restrict calories too much for too long. Try to eat balanced amounts of carbs, fat and protein.
#3: Minimize Stress and Cortisol Levels
Stress and high cortisol can also increase food intake, weight gain and the storage of harmful body fat around your organs. In turn, these changes may negatively impact your testosterone levels (43, 44, 45).
For both optimal health and hormone levels, you should try to reduce repetitive stressful situations in your life.
Focus on a diet based on whole foods, regular exercise, good sleep, laughter and a balanced lifestyle, all of which can reduce stress and improve your health and testosterone levels (46, 47, 48, 49, 50).
Bottom Line: High levels of stress are bad for your long-term health and can reduce your testosterone levels.
#4: Get Some Sun or Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular vitamins.
A 12-month study found that supplementing with around 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by around 25% (54).
In the elderly, vitamin D and calcium also optimized testosterone levels, which led to a reduced risk of falling (58).
To boost testosterone and reap the other benefits of vitamin D, try to get regular exposure to sunlight or take around 3,000 IU of a vitamin D3 supplement daily.
More information on vitamin D here: Vitamin D 101 — A Detailed Beginner’s Guide.
Bottom Line: Vitamin D3 supplements may boost testosterone levels, especially in the elderly and people who have low blood levels of vitamin D.
#5: Take Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Bottom Line: Vitamin D and zinc have the strongest evidence as testosterone boosters. Other micronutrients may also have benefits, but require further research.
#6: Get Plenty of Restful, High-Quality Sleep
It may also have major effects on your testosterone levels.
The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, but one study found that sleeping only 5 hours per night was linked to a 15% reduction in testosterone levels (73).
One long-term study observed that those who slept only four hours per night had borderline deficient levels (46).
Although some people seem to do fine with less sleep, research suggests around 7–10 hours of sleep per night is best for long-term health and your testosterone.
Bottom Line: Make sure you get plenty of high-quality sleep to maintain healthy testosterone levels and optimize your long-term health.
#7: Take Some of These Natural Testosterone Boosters
Only a few natural testosterone boosters are supported by scientific studies.
The herb with the most research behind it is called ashwagandha.
One study tested the effects of this herb on infertile men and found a 17% increase in testosterone levels and a 167% increase in sperm count (76).
Most of the research on ginger has been done in animals. However, one study in infertile humans found that ginger can boost testosterone levels by 17% and increase levels of other key sex hormones (80, 84).
Other popular herbs that are supported by some studies in both animals and humans include horny goat weed, Mucuna pruriens, shilajit and tongkat ali.
Yet it’s important to note that most of the positive research has been conducted in mice or infertile humans with low testosterone levels.
If you have healthy testosterone function and normal levels, it is unclear whether you will benefit much from these supplements.
Bottom Line: Several herbal supplements are a natural way to boost testosterone for those with infertility or low levels.
#8: Follow a Healthy Lifestyle and Avoid Estrogen-like Compounds
There are several other factors that may affect your hormone levels.
Bottom Line: Reducing exposure to estrogen-like chemicals, alcohol and drugs can positively affect your testosterone levels and health.
Why Do Testosterone Levels Matter?
From the age of 25–30, a man’s testosterone levels naturally start to decline.
This is a problem because strong research shows a link between low testosterone and obesity, increased disease risk and premature death.
Healthy testosterone levels are also important for women, along with other key hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
Therefore, everyone should take the necessary lifestyle steps to optimize testosterone levels. You will improve your health and body at the same time.