If you are looking for the best ways to increase your T, you are in luck. Even though much of the testosterone surging through your bloodstream is tightly bound to a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), some testosterone is less tightly bound to another, different protein. That protein is called albumin, and a variety of substances can assist in wresting T from its clutches and set it free to become free T.
Why is this important? Because only free T is responsible for the stuff that we associate with masculinity. Free T activates muscle growth and repair, promotes our sex drive and gives us the energy we need as men. All the rest just circulates around in the blood doing nothing (what we call non-active T).
At one time, only free T was designated as being biologically active, which means it is capable of entering the body’s cells to do its job. However, now it is generally accepted that “all non-SHBG-bound testosterone is…considered bioavailable,” as noted by Mayo Clinic.
So what can you do to free your T? Here are 5 best ways to free T.
Tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is a tree that is native to countries in the Far East. Its main claim to fame among men is the root’s ability to help boost testosterone levels, which makes it a favorite among bodybuilders.
In a 2012 study, a team of scientists explored the ability of tongkat ali to have an impact on testosterone levels. Seventy-six men with low testosterone (hypogonadism) were given 200 mg of tongkat ali daily for one month. At the end of the month, 90.8 percent of the men had normal testosterone levels.
In a more recent study, 13 older physically active men took 400 mg of tongkat ali extract daily for five weeks. Various measurements were taken before and after the treatment period, including concentrations of total and free T. At the end of the treatment period, the authors found that use of tongkat ali was associated with a significant increase in both total and free T concentrations.
Boron is a dietary trace mineral found in a wide variety of foods such as almonds, avocados, broccoli, oranges, beans, bananas, red grapes, onions, and walnuts. Although supplementation of this mineral is usually associated with menopausal symptoms and bone health, some research indicates that taking boron can raise levels of free testosterone.
A recent study in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology reported on the impact of boron on free T levels in healthy men. Eight men consumed a 10-mg boron supplement daily with breakfast for seven days. When the researchers compared blood samples from before supplementation and after, they found a significant decline in SHBG, an increase in free testosterone levels, and a significant decline in estradiol. The authors noted that “this must be the first human study report to show an increase level of free testosterone after boron consumption.”
If you engage in regular, short-term but intense exercise a few times a day, you may raise your T levels. Even moderately prolonged exercise can boost free T levels. However, it is generally accepted that prolonged endurance exercise may bring T levels down.
For example, a study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine reported on the impact of 45 minutes of moderate exercise on free testosterone levels as well as total T, estradiol, SHBG, and several other factors. The authors observed an increase in free T after exercise (39.6%), although they did not believe it was associated with a “change in the binding affinity of SHBG.”
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is an herb that has long been used to treat urinary tract problems, including those associated with prostatitis and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The herb also has an ability to interfere with human hormone binding globulin (SHBG), as noted by several researchers. It is claimed that stinging nettle, “by blocking the interaction between free testosterone and SHBG, higher levels of free testosterone are available in the body.” You should talk to your healthcare provider before taking stinging nettle.
Men need a small amount of estrogen (in the form of estradiol) to maintain good health, but too much estrogen can increase the risk of stroke, heart disease, and prostate diseases. Estrogen in men is produced from testosterone and other androgens by aromatase, an enzyme whose level increases as men age.
To help keep estrogen levels down, men should know some of the many substances that can raise the amount of this hormone in the body, including the presence of estrogen-mimicking chemicals called xenoestrogens. These chemicals are found in common, everyday items, including plastics (e.g., plastic food containers, utensils), foods (e.g., bisphenol-A in the lining of some canned foods, pesticides on produce, hormones in meats), and personal care products.
In addition to limiting exposure to or avoiding these chemicals, other ways to reduce estrogen levels can include maintaining a healthy weight, practicing stress management, and choosing organic foods. Certain natural supplements (e.g., chasteberry, licorice, omega-3 fatty acids) also can help reduce estrogen in the body. Read more about how to reduce estrogen.
If you want to set your testosterone free, then consider one or more of the suggestions offered here. Given the current research, these are among the best ways to free your T.
Fahrner CL, Hackney AC. Effects of endurance exercise on free testosterone concentration and the binding affinity of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). International Journal of Sports Medicine 1998 Jan; 19(1): 12-15
Henkel RR et al. Tongkat ali as a potential herbal supplement for physically active male and female seniors—a pilot study. Phytotherapy Research 2014 Apr; 28(4): 544-50
Naghii MR et al. Comparative effects of daily and weekly boron supplementation on plasma steroid hormones and proinflammatory cytokines. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology 2011 Jan; 25(1): 54-58
Schottner M et al. Interaction of lignans with human sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Z Naturforsch C 1997 Nov-Dec; 52(11-12): 834-43
Tambi MI et al. Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism? Andrologia 2012 May; 44 Suppl 1: 226-30