What did you have for breakfast this morning?
If you’re like most Americans you probably had a cream cheese bagel, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a donut and cola, or some good ol’ Captain Crunch cereal (according to a poll run by ABC news…on adults).
With the American Heart Association giving stamps of “heart healthy” to stuff like sugary cereals and pretzels, it’s no wonder that we have a generation of men who are fat, slow, weak, and depressed.
Testosterone levels across the population are at an all-time low. There are many reasons for this generational decline in T, but a large part of it can be traced back to the foods we eat.
Our dietary habits have changed more in the past 100 years than they had in the previous 100,000 years.
The industrialization of food introduced us to 6 foods in particular that are starving your brain, expanding your waistline, and wreaking havoc on your hormones.
Food #1 – Refined Sugar
In 1822, according to research performed by Dr. Guyenet, the average American consumed the amount of sugar in one 12 ounce can of Coke every five days. Today, the average American consumes that much sugar every 7 hours (with the annual average coming in at over 150 pounds of sugar consumed every single year).
The problem with refined sugar is that it throws your insulin levels out of whack.
Upon consumption, refined sugar enters the bloodstream and instantly spikes blood glucose levels. Your liver responds by releasing insulin to help remove the blood glucose because excess amounts of it are toxic and potentially life threatening – as any diabetic can attest. Insulin removes the glucose molecules so rapidly that blood glucose levels immediately come crashing down – only to have you craving more sugar and become sleepy.
This is a vicious cycle that leads to decreased insulin sensitivity, i.e. more and more insulin begins being required to do the same amount of work. Decreased insulin sensitivity significantly lowers testosterone and growth hormone levels. Over the long term, it can even lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity.
So yeah, lay off the refined sugar. Tame your sweet tooth with some fruit instead.
Bonus tip: But what’s life without a little indulgence every now and then? If you are looking to dive mouth first into a tub of your favorite ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked…anyone?) then it’s best to do that directly after a heavy, strength training workout. That is a time when your muscle glycogen levels are depleted and an insulin spike can actually be beneficial because the calories are more likely to be directed towards muscle rather than fat.
Food #2 – Refined Grains/Carbs
Before the industrial revolution we did not have refined grains. Every piece of grain was stone-ground, i.e. we were unable to separate the germ from the kernel. The germ and kernel are what pack the grains full of fiber and nutrients, but they are also what cause the grain to spoil faster.
When the industrial revolution rolled around, we began to refine grains with iron-rollers to extract the germ from the kernel in order for them to last longer and be transported without spoiling.
But here’s the thing about refined grains:
Your body responds to them the same way it does to refined sugar. Sometimes worse actually. According to the Glycemic Index (GI), white bread spikes your insulin even more than a tablespoon of sugar does.
But what’s really scary about refined carbs is how they affect our brains. Research performed by Dr. David Ludwig, Harvard University professor at the department of nutrition, revealed that subjects eating refined carbs had a part of their brain light up known as the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is the reward centre of the brain and is what lights up for cocaine addicts and alcoholics. Activation of the nucleus accumbens is ground-zero for addiction.
Eating refined carbs destroys your willpower and gets you caught in the same vicious cycle as sugar – craving more of them the more you eat them.
Don’t get me wrong:
Low-carb is not the answer. In fact, going low-carb can be detrimental for your testosterone – especially if you’re regularly lifting weights. Carbs are your body’s preferred source of energy and depriving yourself of them will only leave your body stressed in the form of elevated cortisol levels.
What to do?
Unless it’s around workouts, switch out fast-acting carbs (like bread, pasta, cereals, etc.) for slow-acting carbs (like beans, lentils, vegetables, etc.). This will ensure that your blood sugar and energy levels remain stable throughout the day.
Food #3 – Vegetable and Seed Oils
The ill-informed think vegetable oils are healthy – after all, they have the word “vegetable” in them. But the truth is that vegetable/seed oils are manufactured in an industrial process and extracted from highly processed plant sources. Pre-industrial evolution none of these vegetable or seed oils existed in our diet. Yet today, the average American consumes more than 20% of his calories from soybean oil alone. Crazy.
So you’re probably wondering:
“What exactly is the problem with vegetable and seed oils?”
Well, it’s their ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.
Let me explain:
Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory fatty acids and omega-6’s are inflammatory fatty acids – your body requires both to maintain optimal function. But the ratio in vegetable and seed oils is completely out-of-whack – something like 16:1 in the favor of omega-6’s.
What to do?
Ditch the vegetable and seed oils. This includes canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, etc. Switch them out for alternatives like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter.
Food #4 – Factory Farmed Meat and Diary
Animals brought into a factory-farmed environment are introduced to three things: 1) an unnatural diet, 2) growth hormones, and 3) antibiotics. The purpose is for the animals to grow as fast as possible (thus the growth hormones) for as cheap as possible (thus the unnatural diet of GMO’ed corn and grains). Antibiotics are added to the mix because the animals are getting sick from the unnatural diet and artificially rapid growth.
Currently, there is no conclusive evidence regarding the negative effects that consuming factory farmed meats has on your hormones. That being said, it’s important to understand that the majority of studies conducted in this area are sponsored by the food industry giants themselves.
If you want to continue being an experiment of the FDA, go ahead and keep eating factory farmed meat. Otherwise, opt for grass-fed.
Food #5 – Trans Fats
Trans fats are man-made chemicals created by adding hydrogen molecules to vegetable oils.
The consumption of trans-fats lowers testosterone and kills your sperm. What’s more is that research shows every 2% increase in trans-fat consumption to correlate with a 23% increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Trans-fats are so dangerous that the FDA even made a reclamation in 2015 to ban them in 2018. But I haven’t seen this come into effect, so it’s still worth mentioning:
Scan through your pantry. If you see the word “partially hydrogenated…” on any of the ingredient labels, toss that thing out!
Trans-fats are literally poison. Avoid them like the plague.
Food #6 – Soy
The impact that soy has on male health has generated a lot of controversies. Vegans and vegetarians regard it as a great source of protein while gym bros claim that it causes man-boobs.
Here’s what the science says:
When 12 healthy men were given 56 grams of soy protein powder for 28-days, their testosterone levels decreased by 19%. Researchers also noted soy consumption to activate estrogen receptors. In other studies, men that consume soy have a significantly lower sperm count.
Soy contains a rich source of isoflavones, a compound that is structurally similar to estrogen and activates estrogen receptors upon consumption.
Soy also contains a compound called equol. Equol has been shown to suppress the production of DHT. Although DHT is associated with male pattern baldness, it is also the most potent androgen in the male body – many of the benefits that we associate with higher testosterone levels can actually be tied back to DHT. So lower levels of DHT are definitely something that we don’t want.
More than 90% of the soy produced in America is genetically modified. This is exactly what the food industry giants love because GMO means large-scale production, for cheap. As a result, soy has seeped its way into many of the most common foods we eat today.
Bottom line? Eat less soy with moderation
Here’s an exhaustive list of the many names soy goes by.
Does it mean your should eat more meat instead of soy? No.. Toxins and stress of the animals added to your piece of meat won’t make you healthier. Try to include in your diet more healthy, delicious and cheap products which are full of proteins and minerals, such us:
- organic cottage cheese
- organic eggs
They all can easily replace both soya and meat.
When it comes to achieving and maintaining optimal levels of testosterone (I’ve written an entire guide about what “optimal” means here), what you don’t eat might be even more important than what you do eat.
Avoid these 6 foods and notice the effects that it has not only on your energy, testosterone, and virility but on your overall health and well-being as well.
Want to boost your male hormones levels? Check out how to increase your testosterone with food.