If you want to boost your testosterone, build muscle, and burn fat, it's time to rethink your diet. The food you eat has a direct impact on your hormones, strength, and physique.
The problem: fad diets are dominating the nutrition space, when it's a balanced approach dominated by whole foods that has been shown to be best.
In this article you'll learn how much to eat, what to eat, how to structure your diet, all to improve body composition, health, and to optimize hormones like testosterone.
The article is based on the book I wrote, The Man Diet. If you want a more in-depth look at optimal nutrition for men, you can buy the physical book here, or the digital book here.
Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate to Find Your Calorie Needs
To optimize your testosterone and build muscle, you need to eat the right amount of calories. Carrying too much body fat - as we'll discuss later - can wreak havoc on your male hormones by increasing estrogen beyond basic needs. Guys need to set this, figure it out, measure stuff for a bit, then get used to eating this amount. At first, it's a headache, but it's a necessary step. Eating too much of anything, even if healthy, will result in gaining fat, which hurts testosterone.
The first step is determining your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body burns at rest. Here’s how to calculate your BMR:
1. Measure your height in inches and weight in pounds.
2. For men, multiply your weight in pounds by 4.5. Then multiply your height in inches by 6.5. Add those two numbers together. That's your BMR.
3. For example, if you weigh 180 lbs and are 5’10” (70 inches) tall:
180 lbs x 4.5 = 810
70 inches x 6.5 = 455
810 + 455 = 1265 calories (rough estimate, but enough to work with)
1. Your total daily calorie needs are your BMR multiplied by an activity factor:
2. Sedentary (little or no exercise): BMR x 1.2 = Total calories
3. Lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x 1.375 = Total calories
4. Moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x 1.55 = Total calories
5. Very active (vigorous exercise 6-7 days/week): BMR x 1.725 = Total calories
For the example above with a BMR of 1265 calories:
* Sedentary: 1265 x 1.2 = 1518 calories
* Lightly active: 1265 x 1.375 = 1739 calories
* Moderately active: 1265 x 1.55 = 1958 calories
* Very active: 1265 x 1.725 = 2181 calories
Now you know your calorie target. Aim for 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight, fill in the rest of your calories with healthy fats and carbs, and stick to whole foods. Your calories from carbs and fats should be split, and around 30%-35% from carbs and fats each.
Deficit for fat loss: aim for a 500 calorie deficit for optimal fat loss over time. You can do this two ways:
1. Move more (burn more calories) - the method I prefer as the benefits of moving more are innumerable.
2. Eat less - a good alternative if you're already moving a lot.
This means tracking calories. You'll have to measure, weigh, and see exactly how much you're consuming, but after about a week of doing this you'll be able to eyeball or remember exactly what you're eating and it becomes a lot easier.
If you want real results, measure at first.
To make this easier, we also have meal plans for each weight, and each goal weight. This makes it ridiculously simple to eat the right amount of food, and we give you the correct macros within a given day as well.
Focus on Protein-Rich, Fat Rich Foods Like Red Meat, Eggs, and Dairy
To boost your testosterone, you need to focus on protein-rich foods, especially red meat, eggs, and even dairy, like yogurt, which is great for the gut, and a good source of fats and amino-acid rich proteins.
Protein quality: get your protein from animal sources, not from plants. The actual absorbable protein amount is improved with a better amino-acid profile, which comes from animal proteins.
Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Red meat like beef, elk, moose, lamb, and liver should make up a large portion of your protein. Eggs, especially the yolks, contain cholesterol which is a precursor for testosterone. Full-fat dairy products provide fat, protein, and certain minerals like calcium and phosphorus that are important for testosterone.
As we'll cover next, these proteins also contain the building blocks for testosterone: cholesterol. Wondering if a higher fat diet is bad for your health? Read this article: Low Fat vs High Fat Diets
And this article: the Truth About Cholesterol, Testosterone, and Men's Health
* Stay hydrated and limit alcohol and sugary drinks. Both dehydrate and lower testosterone.
The Necessity of Good Fats for Testosterone
Dietary fat is necessary for optimal testosterone levels (study).
Testosterone is a lipid-based hormone, meaning that dietary fats need to be present in your body if you’re going to have testosterone flowing through your veins.
But not all fats are created equal. When you eat to boost testosterone you need to eat plenty of saturated fats and monounsaturated fats.
And you need to do your best to stay away from polyunsaturated fats. According to this study, when saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are increased in any given diet, testosterone goes up.
But once the polyunsaturated fats are introduced, testosterone plummets.
So let me start you off with an easy list.
Eat: whole cage-free eggs, organic bacon, organic beef, grass-fed butter, blue cheese, avocado, olive oil, and brazil nuts.
Healthy fats provide energy, help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, and are essential for optimal hormone production. Studies show diets high in saturated fat from red meat and coconut oil in particular can increase testosterone levels.
Good Carbs: Get Enough of Them if You Want Optimal Testosterone
Carb cutting diets are all the rave right now…
But here’s the deal…
Low carb diets may make you a little skinnier (scrawnier may be a better word), but they’ll also kill your testosterone levels…
Which will ruin your ability to build muscle, grow a beard that’s worth anyone’s time, and please your wife in bed, among many other benefits that come along with having testosterone.
This study shows that when carbohydrate intake was dropped by 30%, testosterone dropped with it.
Also, low carbohydrate diets increase your body’s cortisol levels (an enemy of testosterone) because your body needs carbohydrates to recover from a workout or any extended amounts of physical stress in general.
But just like fats, all carbohydrates aren’t created equal.
When you eat to boost your testosterone you want to fill your plate with plenty of gluten-free carbohydrates.
Gluten-free diets have been shown to increase testosterone.
And like you’d expect, that doesn’t include donuts, unless there’s a wizard out there that makes a gluten free donut that’s worth anyone’s time.
Eat: any kind of potato (sweet, russet, Idaho, etc.), raisins, wolfberries, blueberries, any and all green vegetables, fruits.
Improving Lean Mass and Testosterone
Studies show that following a diet high in protein, healthy fats and good carbs—like the one outlined here—can significantly boost your testosterone levels and build lean muscle mass.
A 2016 study found that overweight men who ate a high-protein diet for 12 weeks increased their testosterone levels by over 30%. The diet provided about 35% of calories from protein, 45% from carbs and 20% from fat.
Another study had resistance-trained men follow a diet with either 1.2 or 2.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The group that ate more protein had higher testosterone levels after 12 weeks. For a 180-pound man, that’s about 109 to 218 grams of protein per day.
This is important, you'll see other studies that note high protein diets can lower testosterone, but their impact on body composition makes this a little difficult to believe. The impact of protein intake on body composition is proven over and over again, and the impact of carrying too much body fat on testosterone, again, proven.
So by consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, you're helping your body get and stay lean, which will have a profound impact on your testosterone levels.
Mechanism: Fat tissue converts testosterone into estrogen, lowering your T levels. Losing weight, especially belly fat, can increase your testosterone.
Following the diet and lifestyle factors here—eating more protein, limiting your eating window, losing excess fat and strength training—can significantly boost your testosterone over time. Be consistent and patient, as it can take 3 months or more of dedication to experience the full effects. But the rewards of higher T, increased muscle and enhanced vitality will make it worth the effort.
One thing to also keep in mind is micronutrients and supplementing with ingredients that aren't found in our food, or aren't in high enough quantities in our modern diet.
Like zinc, boron, and IC-3 in Man Boost
Tongkat Ali, KSM-66 ashwagandha, white button mushrooms in Man Greens
A full dose of liquid gel vitamin D3 in Man D3
And a full dose of Magnesium in Man Sleep
This seems like a lot, but it quickly becomes habitual, a way of life. It's not a restriction diet, either. In that you can make all of the meals you love and enjoy, and stick to this 'diet' forever.
It's essentially eating the whole foods you love, in the right amounts. Simple. Sustainable. And anabolic.
Check out The Man Diet, our Meal Plans (done for you), and our Cookbook: