Between the energy-boosting carbs, the muscle-building protein, the life-saving vitamins and all types of nutritional jargon, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with what’s good or not for our body, especially when it comes to how much is too much. There are certain foods that boost testosterone levels and some don’t.
Dietary fat is usually the first one to blame. To be exact, there’s this idea that including dietary fat in our diet makes us fat. And with that come an awful lot of other misconceptions which demonize any dietary fat and turn it into the No 1 enemy for those struggling to boost testosterone levels and build muscle.
But, is this true? Can dietary fat undermine your muscle building goals by harming your testosterone levels? Don’t ditch egg yolks, steaks and bacon just yet Let’s see what science has to say.
3 Types of Dietary Fats we Consume Daily
Before we understand why and how dietary fats affect testosterone levels, why not find out the form in which this nutrient makes it inside our body?
- Saturated Fat (SF)
This type of fat is usually found in hard form, and its carbon atoms are linked by single bonds. Perfect examples of food packed with saturated fat are bacon, red meat, dairy products, butter, etc. Word on the street is that this type of fat is linked to cardiovascular diseases, but recent studies beg to differ.
- Monounsaturated Fats (MUF)
Monounsaturated fats (or fatty acids) differ from SF as they are usually found in liquid foods such as olive oil and contain one double bond in their fatty acid chain.
- Polyunsaturated Fats (PUF)
Much like monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in liquid form. However, they have more than one double bonds in their structural backbone. Fish, soybean and canola oil are ideal examples of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
While SF has distanced itself from the bad rep of “bad fats,” PUF continues to be one of the most unhealthy forms of dietary fatty acids these days.
Fat and Testosterone: The Case of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
There is a reason PUF are considered one of the testosterone’s greatest enemies. As mentioned earlier, polyunsaturated fats contain many double carbon bonds which are quite sensitive. What does this mean? They are actually susceptible to damage when individual factors set in such as light, heat or oxygen.
Such exposure makes them go rancid while in the human body. This process is known to us as “lipid peroxidation” which is likely to result in the production of free radicals and, thus, oxidative cell damage.
Long story short, PUF decreases testosterone levels in the male body by promoting the production of free radicals.
Fat and Testosterone: The Case of Saturated and Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
Unlike PUF, saturated and monounsaturated fats can increase testosterone levels, according to research. In fact, this one study suggests that testosterone levels are bound to go through the roof in case you consume moderate amounts of mixed fatty acids, including MUF and SF. However, things change when PUF steps into the game and tweaks the SF to PUF ratio. In this case, the study proves that testosterone levels are bound to take a turn for the worse.
The Importance of Total Fat Intake for Testosterone
You probably know this by now, but 25-40% of our daily calories need to come straight from dietary fat. Either that or testosterone levels are in for a freefall dive. According to one study, testosterone levels take a significant nosedive when you switch from an average to a low-fat diet. You should check out if coconut oil and testosterone have any correction. For them to get back to normal, all it takes is to switch back to an average fat intake diet. So, what’s there left to say other than dietary fat consumption and testosterone go hand in hand?
Everything in Moderation
Of course, these scientific conclusions don’t mean that we need to bury ourselves knee-deep in dietary fat every chance we get. On the flip side, moderation is key. We always need to make room for carbs, protein and other testosterone-boosting nutrients along with that daily scoop of dietary fat.
In fact, one study proves just that by pointing out the diminishing effects which imbalanced carbs to fat ratio may have on testosterone. It seems that increasing carbs intake from 45 to 55% of your daily calories while decreasing fat intake from 40 to 30% doesn’t do your testosterone levels justice, even if you are a pro athlete and have nothing to worry about.
But, what is that? Apparently, carbs are the only thing keeping free testosterone to cortisol ratio from crumbling and making way for hormonal imbalance. In its turn, hormonal imbalance may significantly negate the effort you put in the gym. So, there you have it. You shouldn’t mess with your daily carb intake no matter what. Although be careful with your sugar intake, sugar and testosterone don’t mix well at all.
- Dietary Protein
At the same time, one study suggests that decreasing the amount of daily dietary protein consumed results in lower testosterone levels, to say the least. There’s also a significant reduction in several other markers related to testosterone such as body mass or body fat percentage.
Fat and Testosterone for Vegetarians
Now, if we sink in all of the above information, we see why men (or women) who follow a vegetarian diet tend to have lower testosterone levels than average. It all lies in the dietary fat. As mentioned above, low-fat diets take a toll on testosterone. Not only that, but most vegetarians satisfy their dietary fat needs through PUF foods such as vegetable oil, nuts, grains, etc. So, it’s no wonder that vegetarians often struggle with low testosterone levels.
Considering all of the above, one thing is sure. Dietary fat sure has its way with testosterone. However, if you want to be the one dictating this co-dependent relationship and let neither get the upper hand, here’s what you need to remember:
- Never indulge in polyunsaturated fats more than you should. They have their way of bringing down testosterone levels.
- Always make room for carbs and dietary protein while making sure the recommended daily fat/carb/protein ratio is met. On that note, dietary fat intake ranges somewhere between 25 to 40% of your daily calories.
- According to research, saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are getting along with testosterone. So, make sure you opt for foods containing these types of dietary fat rather than MUF to maintain healthy testosterone levels.