Many people participate in workouts to keep fit, but also to build muscle. In some cases, the progression of muscle building is not fast enough, which leads to the use of supplements. The most widely used is the anabolic/androgenic steroids, which are synthetic analogues testosterone. These injections can cause negative effects including aggression and high blood pressure.
Why is testosterone targeted?
Some of the functions of testosterone include:
- Growth of penis and testes during puberty
- Formation of active sperm
- Increased muscle protein synthesis resulting in increased muscle mass
- Increased libido
- Enlargement of the larynx (voice box) resulting in deeper voice
About 97% of the body’s naturally produced testosterone is bound to a protein in the blood, and only around 3% is unbound (free testosterone). This 3% is deemed the chemically active proportion of the hormone, or the amount that can take part in certain metabolic reactions. This is likely an oversimplified view; however, it still holds value in explaining testosterone’s function. The activity of testosterone is regulated by: its concentration in the blood (bound and unbound) and the binding capacity of the proteins it binds to in the blood. As the binding capacity of these proteins increases so does the level of testosterone in the blood.
In bodybuilding, the muscle mass increasing function of testosterone is utilised. In order to bulk up many people use anabolic steroids to boost testosterone levels. However, they come with a series of adverse side effects including: acne, breast development in men, voice deepening in women, heart attacks and liver cancer. The problem is that testosterone is boosted too much by these drugs, causing an unhealthy imbalance of hormone levels. The level of testosterone in a person naturally decreases with age leading to decreased libido, fewer spontaneous erections, erectile dysfunction and infertility. This can be distressing for individuals so many seek out ways of boosting testosterone levels.
There are ways to naturally boost testosterone to a healthy level. Zinc is essential for the production of testosterone. It has been observed that a deficiency in zinc was associated with lower testosterone levels. There are zinc supplements, however it may be better to add zinc-rich foods to one’s diet, for example, oysters and other seafood. Selenium was also observed to be correlated with testosterone levels. A potent source of selenium are Brazil nuts, which could also be added to one’s diet. They should be taken with caution, because they contain so much Selenium that too many Brazil nuts could cause selenium toxicity.