FOR a man, testosterone levels are a major driving force in the overall quality of life. They play a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues, such as the testis and prostate, as well as promote secondary sexual characteristics, such as increased muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair. Incidentally, women do also produce testosterone, but in smaller quantities than men. For athletes, increased testosterone levels help them perform better in their sport, which is why when an athlete is caught for doping, it is often for the use of anabolic steroids, which boost testosterone production in the body, and increase muscle mass and strength. During the 1970s and 1980s, Olympic athletes in then-East Germany were subject to state-sanctioned doping. While immediate physical changes were not obvious in male athletes, except for an increase in bulk, female athletes began developing masculine characteristics, such as increased facial and body hair. All the athletes involved in the doping programme suffered from long-term physical and psychological damage as a result of doping. Fortunately today, the risks of steroid abuse is well-known, and many prefer to stay fit naturally, without the use of drugs. Maintaining healthy testosterone levels means getting adequate amounts of required daily activity, as well as vitamins, minerals, and nutrients through your diet. In addition to building strength, testosterone is involved in the prevention of osteoporosis. Insufficient levels of testosterone in men may lead to abnormalities, including frailty and bone loss. In other words, your testosterone levels are a solid biomarker for overall health. The problem is, modern society has developed in a way that has led to a complete downshift in our hormones. And supplement companies are aware of this downward trend, and are marketing the solution in the form of testosterone booster supplements, which claim to use natural herbs to help increase testosterone. But what actually does work to promote testosterone production in the body? Proteins. Proteins have always been associated with muscle building, and that’s because proteins contain plenty of zinc and vitamin D. To improve the testosterone levels through meat consumption, choose meats that are high in protein. Chicken breast, at approximately 10g per ounce, offers a high protein content, while a pork chop averages 22g of protein. Beef and fish weigh in at an average of 7g and 6.5g per ounce respectively, meaning an average steak or fillet contains between 22g and 25g of protein. That, however, does not necessarily mean vegans eat less proteins. Meat proteins are just different from plant-based proteins. Do note that increasing your ‘T levels’ even further through extra supplementation will not have a significant impact on your T-cells (white blood cells key to supporting the immune system). It just goes to waste. To increase testosterone levels, you really need to make changes in your lifestyle. Here’s what you can do: »Get in the range of sub -25% body fat Excess body fat produces an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Yes, estrogen, that girly hormone. »Eat a varied, balanced diet Ensure that you’re eating a balanced and diverse diet that provides your body with the essential macro- and micro- nutrients. Just eating one food group alone is not recommended. For example, many have been subscribing to a protein diet. Too much protein in our system can harm our kidneys. »Lift weights and get stronger Exercise is a two-pronged tool. It helps regulate testosterone and manages stress. »Sleep for seven to nine hours every single night Sleep is the building block of all things cellular. Your body builds and repairs when you’re sleeping. Any imbalance in these areas will decrease your testosterone levels. Fixing them will increase your testosterone levels naturally. I’m a firm believer that supplements should only be used for what they’re made for – to supplement your diet and lifestyle. However, many men approach supplements as the be-all-end-all. Our major focus should be on making simple diet and lifestyle changes to allow our body to function more optimally. Let’s be Fit! Jonathan Tan is the Club Manager of the Sports Toto Fitness Centre at Berjaya Times Square. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.