About ten years ago a disturbing trend appeared that has continued since. The “Metro sexual/Queer eye for the straight guy” movement was in full effect. All of a sudden guys were getting big into self-grooming, drinking Shiraz, hitting the spa, and using beauty products. Being a lumberjack was no longer cool. Men’s Health magazine became the go to source for lifestyle advice. High testosterone levels began to be demonized for any negative male behaviour and health problems. The problem is so much of this advice we received did not mesh with a lifestyle that supports men being men. The result, stemming from several factors, is the decline of men.
Everyone will have their own definition of what being a man is. We do, however, see common traits. Most people know someone they would refer to as “a man’s man” and they tend to describe them similarly: assertive, decisive, energetic, strong, alpha, responsible, leader, disciplined. There usually tends to be similar physical traits; they tend to be muscular and lean, are usually physical in nature, and are hairy. They also tend to have a high sex drive. The traits of a properly functioning male will manifest themselves in any number of ways due to personality and social norms, but these traits tend to be noticeable over time and in their own ways.
The problem, which has been increasing over the last 50 years or so, is that there are less men behaving this way. “The flower of America’s masculinity”, as Joel Salatin calls it, is wilting. Men in their 20’s are consistently obese, unmotivated, and unaccomplished. They refuse to make significant decisions, commit to anything long term, have low energy levels, and lack motivation. They fail professionally. When they are faced with interpersonal problems they are more likely to play games or gossip than to confront the problem directly. They are taking erectile dysfunction drugs at younger and younger ages. This continues on to fatherhood where unfortunately the same problems that caused this situation are passed onto the new generation. This is a serious problem because it is throwing our relationships and culture out of whack. Our family and societal structures evolved alongside our genome for a few million years, and everyone has their role to play in it. Men are failing in their role.
The culprit is low testosterone (T) levels. Testosterone levels have dropped around 20% over the last 40-50 years depending on which source you look at. High testosterone levels trends a person towards the “Man” traits listed above, low testosterone levels trends a person towards the current males we are all seeing.
The reasons we have low testosterone levels are both environmental and behavioural. The problems began with the baby boomer generation and have worsened since. As people started believing in “better living through chemistry” and became more sedentary due to technology, we began to lose our way as men. The advice they received as to what healthy living was believed to be at the time undermined us. My generation has taken the ball and ran with it.
Traditional male roles tend to support higher T levels. Going out to hunt, with other men, to provide for a family is the most common one. Performing hard physical labour is another example of traditional male roles. I am not suggesting every male need to go kill an animal and build a shelter; but this role can be emulated. Men should be working hard to provide and be motivated to always accomplish more. Men should also be lifting heavy things regularly. A man should be looking to establish himself in a leadership role in some area of his life.
As much as our behaviour will increase or decrease T levels, they are more often a result of high T levels from environmental factors. Our diet and daily cycle has a much higher impact on T levels.
EATING TO BE A MAN
Health advice over the last 50 years has crippled our ability to create testosterone. The precursor to testosterone, or all of our steroid hormones for that matter, is one of the two most demonized substances in the food industry: cholesterol. Arguably your bodies preferred substrate for cholesterol to act upon to create testosterone is the other one: saturated fats. This article is not nearly long enough to explain how the science backing low fat diets was poor, and how cholesterol and saturated fats are actually very good for you (if they come from a high quality source). Read my book or any other information out there on the subject for more information on that (Gary Taubes is highly recommended on this topic).
So our bodies want to produce more testosterone. The problem is that the path from cholesterol to testosterone is littered with distractions, and our current lifestyle increases the likelihood of that the testosterone never gets produced.
It begins with lack of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. Your liver will be unable to produce enough cholesterol to meet your needs. Second, excessive physiological stress levels will divert cholesterol for cortisol production. Third, high levels of environmental or dietary estrogens will hijack the cholesterol to increase its levels, or suppress the testosterone. Finally, the majority of testosterone that gets produced can be rendered inactive by Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).
So you need to do several things:
– Eat high quality and sufficient sources of cholesterol and saturated fat
– Sleep. 9-10 hours EVERYDAY in COMPLETE DARKNESS. A properly maintained circadian rhythm does wonders for boosting T levels
– Avoid phytoestrogens (estrogen boosting foods) and anti-androgens: Foods known to be high in phytoestrogens include grains, legumes, and many nuts and seeds. Soy and flaxseed are two of the worst culprits
– Avoid environmental estrogens and endocrine disruptors. Anything from beauty products to fertilizers can do this. These are major problems. The list is too long to put on here. Most synthetic and petroleum products have some endocrine disrupting traits.
Once your endocrine system is back up and working properly your behaviours will begin to right themselves. Motivation will kick in and the video games will be left behind. You will stop worrying about how much your skin is glowing or how good your eyebrows look and worry more about accomplishing something.
TESTOSTERONE LEVELS IN WOMEN
While testosterone is mostly linked with men, it plays a significant role in women as well. Women have been just as heavily affected by lowered T levels over the years. A sign of this is the disturbing trend of young girls entering puberty at younger and younger ages. Women today tend to have excessively high estrogen levels that are suppressing T levels. Leaner body composition, more stable moods, increase muscle and bone density, higher sex drive, increased energy levels, decreased risk of many cancers, and prevention of osteoporosis are just some of the many benefits of increased T levels.