Over the past 40 years, researchers from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem have been conducting research on the sperm count of men who reside in developed countries.
This study found that the sperm count has dropped an astounding 50% over those 40 years. This trend is alarming, for many reasons.
Related - 9 Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone
This sharp drop in sperm count can potentially result in a decline in male health, fertility, and can eventually cause the extinction of the human race if this trend doesn't turn around.
Co-Author of the experiment Hagai Levine explains that "this study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world to investigate the causes of the sharp ongoing drop in sperm count."
From 1973 to 2011, researchers collected information from 185 studies that looked at sperm count and concentration in men from North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. This data showed that sperm count declined by 59.3 percent, while sperm concentration declined by 52.4 percent.
Finding reasons as to why the drop in sperm count occurred was beyond the scope of the experiment, this phenomenon has been previously linked to factors such as exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and life choices. This also includes smoking, being too stressed, and obesity.
What we choose to eat, how much we exercise, and how much care we take of our bodies directly impacts our testosterone levels.
Lower testosterone levels don't always show up as impotence and a low sex drive; there are many different symptoms of having low testosterone.
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Bodily Functions That Testosterone Affects
A natural decrease in testosterone can affect many bodily functions.
These functions include:
- Sex drive
- Sperm production
- Muscle mass and strength
- How your fat is distributed
- Bone density
- Red cell production
While many of us want to boost our testosterone levels so that we can build more muscle, having a low testosterone affects more than just that.
A decrease in testosterone can create significant physical and emotional changes.
Some physical symptoms of low testosterone include:
Some of the physical changes that can occur due to low testosterone can be pretty bad.
Some of these physical changes that occur due to low testosterone include:
- Increased body fat storage
- Decreased strength/mass of muscles
- More fragile bones
- Decreased body hair
- Swelling or tenderness in your breast tissue (man boobs)
- Hot flashes
- Increased fatigue
Some emotional symptoms of low testosterone include:
Along with physical changes, having low testosterone can lead to feelings of sadness or depression. Your sense of well-being will be degraded, and some find trouble with cognitive performance. Sprinkle in lowered motivation and self-confidence and you have yourself a terrible combination.
Since testosterone regulates our emotion, depression has been linked to men with low T. Being irritable, having a decreased sex drive, and feeling fatigued also come with having low testosterone.
Reasons Why Our Sperm Count Is Going Down
Before we get into the choices that we can change to improve our testosterone levels, there are a few medical reasons why our test might be low.
- Thyroid problems
- Physical injury to your testicles
- Testicular cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Side-effect of medications
- Alcohol use
- Genetic abnormalities
- Pituitary gland problems
Medical conditions aside, I believe that your testosterone levels are generally impacted by our lifestyle choices. What we eat, how much we move, and how much we take care of our bodies directly impact your testosterone levels.
Diet Affects Everything
Before we get into how our diet affects our test levels, you know you've been eating like crap.
Every time we break down and eat something - especially if we overeat - it slows our metabolism, throws hormone production off, and it doesn't provide much in the way of nutrition.
A healthy lifestyle starts with small improvements. Choosing an apple over a candy bar, cooking at home instead of eating out, and slowly removing bad food choices from the menu will make a huge improvement.
My refrigerator broke in June of 2017 and I ate fast food every day. While I lost weight, I always had some stomach issues, I didn't feel that great, and I always had cravings.
Jump forward to February of 2018 and I've utilized the 80/20 rule. That is, 80% of my food comes from healthy sources. I use fresh ingredients and prepare my own meals. The other 20% comes from some ice cream or other delightful treats I'd like.
While the 80/20 rule counts your calories, simply cooking all of your meals at home and enjoying 20% of your food as things you enjoy, your testosterone and physique will improve drastically.
So let's see some of the foods we should limit, what we should eat more of, and I'll give you some of the foods that I recommend. Eating them will boost your testosterone, improve your immune system, improve your energy and overall health, and they taste good.
Foods That Drop Our Testosterone Levels
Funny enough, the foods that really inhibit our testosterone production are some of the best-tasting foods we have.
Eating an excess of these along with not getting enough physical exercise is recipe for a disaster.
"And then I drank some tequila" is how many sentences start when someone's talks about a fun night of dancing in the sheets. Funny enough, alcohol is actually a depressant and can affect your ability to maintain an erection and lower your libido.
If you've ever heard of Whiskey Wiener (name changed to be less raunchy), you know what having too much can do.
Alcohol affects your liver's ability to process and get rid of excess estrogen. On top of that, phytoestrogens are plant-derived and they affect the fertility in the mammals that consume them. These phytoestrogens are present in the hops that make your beer.
Excessive alcohol consumption causes damage to our livers, which as you now know is responsible for metabolizing hormones.
Have fun, but be reasonable.
Before you jump on my back about always telling people to drink more water, listen up. Water isn't the bad guy here - it's the container.
BPA, also known as Bisphenol A, is a chemical found in most of the plastic food containers on the market. BPA is associated with negative impacts on fertility in both men and women.
A Slovenian study in the journal Fertility & Sterility has linked a significant association between urinary BPA concentration in men and a lower sperm count. In women, those with the highest BPA levels produced 27 percent less viable eggs.
Fortunately, there are companies that provide BPA-Free containers and bottles, so be sure to pick you up some.
We all know that boxed meal that never goes bad can't be healthy for us. When we process foods, it removes most of the nutrients.
In order for whole wheat to be processed into white flour, it loses about 75% of its Zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral for sexuality and reproduction in men.
Eating these refined grains lead to insulin resistance, which is the last stop before diabetes.
These highly-processed foods create resistance in our bodies while it processes the chemicals, nutrient-lacking ingredients, and pack in a lot of calories.
Slowly swapping out your favorite processed foods to a more natural version that you prepare is an easy way to improve your nutrient intake while enjoying the same flavors. Trust me, you will be able to a much better-tasting version.
Deli meats and hot dogs contain hormones, preservatives, antibiotics, and a poor source of protein.
These cause a hormonal imbalance in your body, which can spur a chain reaction to a lower testosterone count.
Buy unprocessed cuts of your favorite meats. The price you pay now for nutritious foods is investing in your body.
Quit "putting pennies away and" start treating your body right.
You know fried foods are bad. Sure, they may be some of the most emotionally satisfying foods to eat... but they are horrible for you.
Since you already know that McChicken you ate already went to your love handles, you'd probably be even more depressed if you heard the results of this study.
Researchers looked at the relationship between how much fast food people consume and the level of phthalates in their urine. This research combined and adjusted data from 8877 participants and showed that those who eat high amounts of fast food have significantly higher levels of man-made phthalates DEHP and DiNP.
An average person who consumed ~30% of their calories from fast food, they will have 23% higher levels of DiNP and 39% higher levels of DEHP.
Both DiNP and DEHP are chemicals used to make plastics flexible.
Data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examine Survey between 2011-2012 showed that increased urinary phthalates come with an average reduction of 20% serum testosterone for men, and up to a 29% reduction in boys aged 6-12.
If the science behind why fried foods affect your test isn't your thing, just know that the processing of these cheap foods leads to an accumulation of testosterone-reducing chemicals.
Eating foods full of trans fats clogs your arteries. If your arteries are having a hard time getting blood flow, your little man may not come out to play.
Restaurants and food brands are eager to get them out of their products.
Sure, the food tastes good, but you are getting slower to an early grave by eating it.
Drinking soda regularly doesn't bode well for our metabolism or hormone production.
Drinking diet soda is a great way to wean yourself from the sugary nutrient-less drink that, along with highly-processed foods, have caused a great majority of the obesity epidemic. But I won't get into that one.
Anyways, these "healthier" substitutes have artificial sweeteners. Aspartame, in particular, directly affects your serotonin levels.
Serotonin is a hormone that fosters a sense of well-being or happiness. Since aspartame is one of the most popular artificial sweetener (largely to how cheap it is compared to others), your libido will be lower.
Use diet soda to help wean yourself off of regular soda. Once you have done that, find other flavored drinks that provide something to your body. I recently started drinking Green Tea and I plan on learning about other teas.
This little bit of flavor makes drinking enough liquid easier; a reason why I think many people don't drink enough water.
Sugar is in everything. Just because you aren't dumping some in your coffee or oatmeal, it doesn't mean you aren't eating sugar.
Sugar is addictive, increases insulin resistance, causes you to store belly fat, tanks your testosterone, and causes you to lose muscle mass. This added belly fat raises estrogen levels and can cause a low libido and erectile dysfunction.
One study showed that sugar (glucose) significantly reduces your total and free testosterone levels.
Cutting out sugar is easier when you take control of the ingredients you eat. Fresh or flash-frozen vegetables and meats will provide you with more than enough nutrition.
Funny enough, due to the "fats make you fat" scare, many low-fat options are laden with sugar.
Raise Your Testosterone Levels Naturally
Raising your testosterone levels naturally is easy. The hardest part of this is making the conscious decision to change your lifestyle.
These foods aren't "the golden answer." Just because you eat a salad with some chicken sprinkled on top doesn't mean your testosterone spikes. It takes eating quality foods, getting your exercise in, and reducing the number of chemicals you ingest.
Foods That Raise Your Testosterone Levels
All of these foods improve your health, and that's what you need to focus on. Improving your circulation, improving digestion, and lowering the amount of fat you carry all impact your testosterone levels.
When shopping at the grocery store, the perimeter is where the majority of the quality foods are. The fresh meat counter, produce, and seafood counters should be your go-to.
Let's check out some foods that have really changed my life.
Solid protein sources
- Ground Beef - Cheap, can take on almost any flavor, easy to cook. Grass-fed preferably.
- Chicken thighs and breasts - Thighs have more fat, more flavor, and can be a great change from the usual chicken breast.
- Whole Eggs - They are truly the perfect food.
- Tuna - Preferably fresh or flash frozen tuna, a serving of tuna will fulfill your daily Vitamin D needs.
- Fatty Fish - The fatty acids in fatty fish fulfill many of your nutritional needs and taste great. Salmon, mackerel, and white fish are all great choices.
- Turkey - Try turkey instead of chicken. It's lean, healthy, and you don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to eat it.
- Bacon - Loaded with nutritious fats that are great for improving hormonal production, this tastes good and goes with everything.
Buy meat that comes straight from the animal. Sorry, chickens don't actually have nuggets.
Solid Carbohydrate Sources
- Sweet Potatoes - I didn't know I liked them, but I'm glad I tried them. They are filling and pump fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamins into your body.
- Brown Rice - A much better choice than white rice, brown rice has a lot of fiber and promotes less fat storage. Quinoa and buckwheat are two other fiber-rich carbohydrate choices.
- Old-fashioned oats should be a breakfast essential. With one cup yielding 104g of carbs, 17g come from fiber. A slow digesting energy source that can take on any flavor makes this a solid choice.
- Bananas - Easy to digest and loaded with fast-acting carbs, bananas are packed full of potassium.
Instead of getting most of my carbohydrates from fast food and boxes of mac and cheese, eating brown rice, fruits, and vegetables completely turned my life around.
Buy fresh, eat fresh, live long.
Solid Fat Sources
- Avocados - Ditch the mayo and get your monounsaturated fat on.
- Cheese - A great source of calcium, vitamin b12, phosphorus, and selenium, cheese is a tasty choice. Be mindful of how much you use and enjoy the benefits.
- Dark Chocolate - Break a piece or two off of some nice dark chocolate. It contains 11% fiber and over 50% of your daily recommended serving of iron, magnesium, copper, and manganese.
- Whole Eggs - Mentioned above in protein, eggs contain a little bit of almost every single nutrient we need. The powerful antioxidants help our eyes and brain, and the fats keep us feeling fuller for longer.
- Nuts - High in fats and fiber, nuts are a great source of fats and protein. Almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts are a few great choices.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil - While I still use butter in cooking, this fat is loaded with Vitamins E and K. EVOO has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol markers.
- Full Fat Yogurt - Full fat yogurt is loaded with probiotics and improve your digestive health. Full-fat yogurt is preferred - the low-fat versions are loaded with sugar.
Other Great Food Choices
Starting with quality, nutrient-dense, fresh foods will change how you feel. I'm telling you this from personal experience, not just because "it's what everyone says."
We Need Some Exercise, Too
Eating right is half of the equation, but getting off of that couch brings it all full-circle.
A new study has found that people who exercised regularly had higher testosterone levels. In the elderly, this increased their fitness levels and reaction time.
It's no secret that exercise is extremely important to our health, but why don't we do it?
Lift Some Weights
Lifting weights is one of the best ways to boost your testosterone in the short- and long-term.
Reduce your insulin resistance, increase liver functionality, and improving your physique all come from lifting weights.
With so many workouts and how-tos online, there's no reason you can't start.
Have gym anxiety? Find out how to combat that here.
Watch Those Stress Levels
Long-term stress is dangerous. What are you stressing about, anyway?
Stress raises our cortisol levels; this makes it hard to lose weight and unnatural elevations quickly reduces testosterone. It's like a teeter-totter - as one goes up, the other goes down.
You eat more when you stress, the storage of body fat is amplified, and this all negatively impacts your testosterone levels.
Get Some Sleep
Getting enough restful, high-quality sleep is as important to your overall health and performance as your diet and exercise.
While the ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, one study found that sleeping only 5 hours per night was linked to a 15% reduction in test levels. Another long-term study showed that those who received only 4 hours of sleep had borderline deficient testosterone levels.
As you see, getting as much quality sleep as possible is important.
If for some reason you cannot get a full 7-10 hours of sleep per night, one study calculated that every additional hour of sleep you get, your T levels rise 15% higher, on average.
Put your phone down at night and quit making excuses.
Soak up the Sun or Take Vitamin D
Often overlooked, vitamin D is quickly becoming one of the world's most popular vitamins.
Vitamin D has been shown to naturally boost testosterone and bolster many other health benefits. Nearly half of the US population is deficient in vitamin D, and an even higher percentage have sub-optimal levels.
A study was conducted for 12 months found that supplementing around 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day increased testosterone levels by around 25%.
If your job forces you to stay out of direct sunlight, supplementing with D3 will improve your mood, improve bodily functions, and jack that testosterone level higher.
Try a Few Supplements
Zinc and vitamin B supplements can increase sperm quality by 74%. Zinc also boosts testosterone in athletes who are deficient in zinc.
Other studies have suggested that supplementing with vitamin A, C, and E can play a role in your sex hormone and testosterone levels. More research is needed on this, but being deficient in micronutrients certainly doesn't help.
Overall, testosterone boosters, vitamin D, and zinc supplements may be your best bet.
Make Better Lifestyle Choices
Getting healthy doesn't mean changing your normal 12 hours on the couch to 12 hours in the gym.
Small steps taken towards a healthier you is all it takes. Once you can replace one unhealthy habit and replace it with a healthy one, you've won the battle.
These small battles that we win are what pulls us closer to the body we want.
Making better lifestyle choices means having some willpower, determination, and an open mind to change.
Low testosterone, poor sperm counts, and poor sperm concentration levels are all things that (unless you have a medical condition) can be fixed.
Getting up and moving around, cooking the majority of your foods, and cooking with healthy and nutritious sources will improve your sperm levels.