Even I can see it when I look in the mirror. My shoulders aren't as broad as they used to be, and although my muscles are toned, they're not as thick as they used to be, either. I'll admit, the aesthetics are somewhat intended. I prefer to have an athletic look over a bodybuilding look as I age, anyway. Yet, I can’t deny that, as with our female counterparts, men of a certain age experience a huge hormonal shift.
Like puberty, this hormonal decline doesn't arrive for every guy at the same age. For some, it arrives late in life. While for others, it can arrive as early as their 20s. And just to make things clear; yes, I am talking about testosterone. The muscle-building, macho-making hormone that tends to make guys, well... guys.
Now while I wouldn't recommend taking anabolic steroids to counter the effects of aging, that option does exist. However, if you do choose that route, I hope your age has made you wise enough to involve your physician throughout the process.
Instead, I plan on giving you two solid tips on how you can boost your testosterone levels naturally with supplements.
Tip #1: Get enough zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral that helps with a number of processes in your body (it helps over 300 enzymes). Zinc helps boost your immune system, it aids in the production of proteins and DNA, it’s necessary to maintain healthy skin, and also helps you rebound from injuries. And while zinc is technically and antioxidant, studies indicate its supplementation can support optimal levels of testosterone because it helps the enzymes that converts cholesterol into testosterone.
Zinc is found mostly in red meat, poultry, egg yolks, and shellfish. Don’t worry if you’re vegan/vegetarian, though. Some plants, like beans and nuts, can also provide zinc. But probably the most infamous source of zinc comes in the form of oysters.
The daily recommended dose of zinc for men is 11 mg/day (for women it's 8 mg/day). Low zinc levels are rare but tend to occur in vegetarians/vegans, athletes, and people who sweat a lot (zinc is lost in sweat).
Assuming that you don't get enough zinc in your diet and you’ve decided to supplement, please consider the following:
It is possible to get too much zinc so unless your doctor instructs otherwise, never take more than 40 mg/day. For many people just 5-10 mg/day is enough to prevent deficiency.
Zinc supplements can also interact with certain medications so be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before you start zinc supplements to determine any contraindications. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin(Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®). Zinc may lower blood sugar levels. [Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc/interactions/hrb-20060638 ]
Zinc supplements are best taken 2-hours away from any medications (assuming you are medically cleared for zinc supplementation while on those medications) and should be taken with food.
Tip #2: Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin” is actually the most common nutrient that many of us just simply don't get enough of. Not only is it lacking in our diets, but most of us have lives that are largely lived indoors.
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium and, like zinc, is also necessary for our immune system, but vitamin D’s benefits further extend to the nervous system, and muscular system. As with zinc, you may experience decreased testosterone levels if you're deficient.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in fatty fish, organ meats, and egg yolks. Unfortunately, you won’t find much of it in other un-fortified foods. And, if you’re sun averse, the bottom line is that you may need to supplement.
Of course if you're always outside in the sun or eat fatty fish regularly, you may be the exception. However, when in doubt, always ask your doctor to check your blood levels just to be sure. Vitamin D is another one of those nutrients where more is not always better.
Here are a few tips to supplement with vitamin D safely and effectively:
Read your labels and don't overdo it. Never supplement with more than 4,000IU/day unless supervised by your doctor.
As with zinc (and most other supplements) you should check with your doctor or pharmacist for drug interactions.
Take your vitamin D with some fat to help your body absorb this vitamin. It is often recommended that you take it with the largest meal of the day.
Note that vitamin D is also found in cod liver oil, and multivitamins, so you may not need to take it separately (read your labels).
Tip #3 [bonus] Get some exercise
It should go without saying that if you want to maintain your strength, you've gotta work out. The old "use it or lose it" phrase is totally true; especially as we age.
I'm not saying that you have to go all-out and be a Charles Atlas or anything, but you do need to set aside some time to challenge your muscles. You can choose to use free weights at the gym, or if you prefer; exercise machines. You can even perform body-weight calisthenics at home (or anywhere, really), but you must challenge yourself to move.
Exercise kicks off a cascade of chemical and physiological changes within your body that encourage rejuvenation and growth. Your body's increased metabolic need for testosterone in turn becomes the catalyst for your body to produce more of it.
Before I close, I do want to recommend having your testosterone levels checked regularly by your primary care physician. That way you will know whether or not you even need supplementation, and you will also have a medical professional to educate you on all the options you may have available to you aside from supplementation.
Keep moving toward a better you!