In the male health industry, nowadays, proteins are the most praised macronutrient…
But maybe they’re praised a little too much.
Bodybuilders are a prime example of this. For the most part, it seems like the bodybuilding motto is “the more protein the better,” — sometimes consuming more than 50% of the total daily calories in protein.
However, like I discuss in my book The Man Diet (that you can grab for FREE here), too much protein consumption can have negative effects on testosterone levels. And surprisingly, the amount of protein you consume doesn’t have as much of an impact on muscle protein synthesis as most people expect.
So let’s take a closer look at the connection between protein and testosterone, and what you should do about it today.
Protein Intake vs Testosterone Production
Amino acids are small units that, when united by peptide bonds, form a protein molecule.
There are different ways to absorb amino acids (and ultimately, protein), with different foods containing different combinations of amino acids. The most common protein-rich foods are milk, eggs, and meat because these three have all the essential amino acids, which makes them complete proteins.
Essential amino acids are necessary for the body in order to build muscle and increase testosterone production. Yet, even though a lack of protein can have a negative impact on the body, it doesn’t necessarily mean “the more, the better.”
Here’s what I mean:
In one study published in the journal, Nutrition, research shows how protein-energy malnutrition in men between the ages of 18-91 led to subnormal levels of testosterone. Sure, this is only one example of research that dates back to 1999, but is well known now that low consumption of protein leads to lower levels of testosterone and loss of muscle mass.
Yet, there’s also a balance here, because other studies featuring high intakes of protein show a similar result..
In this study from Volek et al, twelve men performed a bench press exercise protocol (5 sets to failure using a 10-repetitions maximum load) and a jump squat protocol (5 sets of 10 repetitions using 30% of each subject’s 1-repetition maximum squat) with 2 min of rest between all sets. Then sample blood was taken and compared with their corresponding dietary records.
They found the subjects with diets rich in protein intake showed lower levels of testosterone than those with moderate protein intake. In fact, the higher levels of testosterone were directly correlated with the high percentage of dietary fat, and higher carbohydrate than protein ratio.
Anderson et al did a similar study in 1987, but the purpose was to determine if a change in protein/carbohydrate ratio would influence the concentrations of hormones (including testosterone). They used a group of seven untrained men and put them on a high carbohydrate diet and then on a high protein diet. The diets were equal in total calories and fat.
They found that with the high carbohydrate diet, the men had higher levels of testosterone after ten days than with the high protein diets. Also, in the high protein - low carb diet, levels of cortisol were higher than the high carbohydrate - low protein diet. They concluded that the ratio of protein to carbohydrate in the human diet is very important for healthy levels of steroid hormones and liver-derived hormones. And despite what all the fitness “gurus” want to tell you today, low carb diets are not optimal for testosterone.
When it comes to protein synthesis (how much protein actually gets absorbed and put to use in the body) another study from Lemon P et al, researchers discovered that for maximum protein synthesis the body only needs 0.8g/lb. of lean mass, and the amount needed for body builders is as low as 0.37g/lb. The West Virginia Academy of Science presented a paper that concluded a protein intake of at least 1.35 g/kg/day for weight-trained persons was the proper amount to maintain balanced nitrogen levels — which is one of the unsung heroes of building muscle fast.
As mentioned before, the type of protein you consume also makes a big difference. Animal-based protein has higher concentrations of essential amino acids than plant-based protein. For example, a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the testosterone levels after the meat-based diet was 10% higher than with the soy-based diet. And the levels of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) were 3% higher. The reason for these effects, however, are not highly researched, but it could be that the type of amino acids we consume have more impact than we believed.
Plus, like I’ve stated before here: having soy in your diet is one of the worst things you can do for your testosterone levels — and holds very few (if any) benefits.
As a caveat where protein intake does become an ally is when you're trying to cut fat. To cut fat, increasing your protein intake to as much as 1 gram per pound of body weight can help you burn fat more efficiently while holding on to muscle, but it's not a rule set in stone. Body fat is also an enemy of testosterone. To have optimal testosterone levels you need to be under that 15% body fat mark at the very least. It's in body fat where testosterone is converted to estrogen through the enzyme aromatase.
Conclusion on Dietary Protein and Testosterone
Protein is necessary to have a healthy body, but not in the high amounts the industry is trying to sell you. When you look at the fitness industry or are just starting in the fitness world you may think that protein is the holy grail of macronutrients, and more equals better results and bigger muscle.
But this isn’t true. Yes, you need a healthy amount of protein, but carbohydrates and healthy fats are more essential.
Honestly, the more I dive into the research about how protein works in the body, the more I’m convinced that all those protein powder supplements out there are unnecessary and are only there to make a quick buck off of you.
The bottom line is high protein diets result in lower levels of testosterone and higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. And high carbohydrates diets with healthy fats lead to higher levels of testosterone, and healthier results overall.
So here’s what you should do next…
If you want to know more about the perfect diet for boosting testosterone levels, beat all the myths out there about nutrition, and have done-for-you strategies to help you achieve optimal testosterone (and keep it there), check out my book The Man Diet.
I wrote it a few years back and it’s packed with scientific studies just like I gave you in this article about how to take your testosterone to the next level. And I’m giving it away for FREE if you click the link on this page.
There are a limited number of copies I have left, so go ahead and grab your copy here.
You’ll be glad you did.