Fats and Testosterone: Everything You Need to Know About Dietary Fatty-Acids (Updated)

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Nutrition has a key role in our natural testosterone production. And one of the biggest factors in our diets is macronutrient ratios and the types of macronutrients we consume.

When it comes to dietary fat, it has arguably the largest impact and room for manipulation. Increasing or decreasing the total intake of dietary fat as well as focusing on the different fatty-acids and their ratios can move your rate of testosterone production up or down quite drastically.

This is also a topic that creates a lot of confusion. All kinds of experts are telling people to “just eat more fat” and “increase their intake of healthy fats”, but really, with the healthy fat they often refer to the unhealthiest kind from a hormonal perspective.

The Impact of Dietary Fat on Testosterone Production

testosterone and dietary fat intakeAll steroid hormones have a structural backbone of a 17-carbon fat molecule called “gonane”, this makes them fat-soluble hormones.

Because of this, it’s only natural to assume that increased amount of dietary fat, could lead to improved production of steroid hormones.

And according to research, it does, but there’s a caveat, which well be getting to more in detail below.

First however, let’s take a look at the different fatty-acids we consume:

  • Saturated fatty-acids (SFAs) are hard in room-temperature and contain only single bonds between the carbon atoms (butter, coconut oil, lard, cacao butter, palm oil, red meat, dairy products).
  • Monounsaturated fatty-acids (MUFAs) are liquid in room-temperature and contain one double carbon-carbon bond in the structure with rest being single bonds (olive oil, argan oil, avocado).
  • Polyunsaturated fatty-acids (PUFAs) are liquid in room-temperature but contain multiple double carbon-carbon bonds (soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, cottonseed oil, fish, margarine, etc).

Now, if we start to look at the research, we can see that the same pattern takes place in majority of the studies; total intake of mixed fatty-acids results in increased testosterone production, increased intake of SFA and MUFA results in higher testosterone production, BUT increased intake of PUFA suppresses testosterone production.

Good example of this is a human study by Volek et al.1, which found out that total fat intake, SFA, and MUFA raised serum test levels, but when the ratio of PUFA to SFA was increased, testosterone production took a nosedive.

fatty acids and testosterone

A Finnish study by Hämäläinen et al.2 is also a prime example of the importance of total fat intake. The researchers made their subjects switch from a diet containing 40% calories fat (mainly from animal sources) into a diet that contained 20% calories from fat (mainly from PUFA), and then back again into the 40% fat. They found that testosterone levels plummeted when the subject switched to the low-fat diet, and returned back higher when the fat intake was lifted back to 40%. Another human study by Bélanger et al. did similar change and saw similar results, switching to lowered fat intake (and higher PUFA) resulted in significantly lower levels of androgens3.

different types of fatty acids and serum testosterone levels

This may explain why vegan men tend to have slightly lower testosterone levels in majority of the studies, as their diets are quite low in fat, and the fat they get comes mostly from PUFAs, what also seems to occur in all of these studies is that lower SFA higher PUFA results in higher SHBG and less testosterone bioavailibity.4–6

So more fat, more testosterone?

Not necessarily. There seems to be a point of diminished returns, and this is simply because you also need to leave some room for carbohydrates and protein. For example, one study with hockey players dropped fat intake from 40% to 30% while simultaneously increasing carbohydrate intake from 45% to 55%, this resulted in elevated testosterone levels7, not something you’d expect by looking at the evidence above.

What makes PUFA so bad and how much total fat should I eat then?

The reason why polyunsaturated fatty-acids suppress testosterone and thyroid hormones is likely caused by the fact that they have the long sensitive carbon-carbon chains in their structure. This makes the fatty-acids very unstable when in contact with oxygen, heat, and light, causing them to literally go rancid inside the body through a process called “lipid peroxidation”. This creating free radicals and eventually oxidative damage in the cells8.

So if you’re trying to figure out the optimal intake of dietary fat for testosterone production. It likely falls between 25-40% of your daily calories. What should be the determinator is your intake of PUFA. If you can minimize polyunsaturated fat consumption, you may go as low as 25% fat and keep your testosterone production churning. However, if you do eat some PUFAs, it’s better to consume slightly more total calories from fat, more like 30-40%. In either case, I wouldn’t recommend going over that since you also need to leave room for carbohydrates and protein (which both have their role in the production of androgens).

Conclusion on Fatty-Acids and Testosterone

There are some pretty clear conclusions to be drawn from the studies above, such as…

  • SFA and MUFA are great for testosterone production.
  • Total intake of fat should land between 25-40% daily calories.
  • Increased intake of PUFA suppresses testosterone, likely due to lipid peroxidation.
Want 90+ Testosterone-optimized Recipes? Check out the Testosterone Chef Cookbook at Anabolic Academy.

References

1.
Volek J, Kramer W. Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. http://jap.physiology.org/content/82/1/49. Accessed February 12, 2017.
2.
Hämäläinen E, Adlercreutz H, Puska P, Pietinen P. Diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men. J Steroid Biochem. 1984;20(1):459-464. [PubMed]
3.
Bélanger A, Locong A, Noel C, et al. Influence of diet on plasma steroids and sex hormone-binding globulin levels in adult men. J Steroid Biochem. 1989;32(6):829-833. [PubMed]
4.
Hill P, Wynder E. Effect of a vegetarian diet and dexamethasone on plasma prolactin, testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone in men and women. Cancer Lett. 1979;7(5):273-282. [PubMed]
5.
Howie B, Shultz T. Dietary and hormonal interrelationships among vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists and nonvegetarian men. Am J Clin Nutr. 1985;42(1):127-134. [PubMed]
6.
Key T, Roe L, Thorogood M, Moore J, Clark G, Wang D. Testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, calculated free testosterone, and oestradiol in male vegans and omnivores. Br J Nutr. 1990;64(1):111-119. [PubMed]
7.
Tegelman R, Aberg T, Pousette A, Carlström K. Effects of a diet regimen on pituitary and steroid hormones in male ice hockey players. Int J Sports Med. 1992;13(5):424-430. [PubMed]
8.
Mylonas C, Kouretas D. Lipid peroxidation and tissue damage. In Vivo. 1999;13(3):295-309. [PubMed]
Fats and Testosterone: Everything You Need to Know About Dietary Fatty-Acids (Updated) was last modified: March 27th, 2017 by Ali Kuoppala
Ali Kuoppala

Ali Kuoppala

Ali Kuoppala is the founder of Anabolic Men, and an Independent Researcher that has been credited with organizing the findings that have helped thousands of men reach hormonal balance.
Ali Kuoppala
  • Aljosha Harchi

    I really like whatbyou post it helps a lot i must say , i was doing it the wrong way i started doing the right way with the right fats and it realy realy works for me . Thanks sir keep posting the best i like it very hard 🙂 from belgium

    • Hey!

      Glad to hear that it’s working for you!

  • Jed

    Good to know these health tips…I guess Cod liver oil would be a great source of healthy fat Omega 3 right?

    • Yeah it is.

      • Andrew Rex

        Up above the Omega fatty-acids are listed as PUFAs, one of the fats to minimize, but I’ve also read that Omega-3 has been shown to boost Luteinizing Hormone. True? I just started taking fish oil, but the information here indicates that might not be a good idea. Thoughts?

  • It’s one of the best.

    • Krammer

      I read on this blog that lowering your DHT isn’t good, but i also heard that coconut oil lowers DHT. So how is it? Should we eat it or not?

      • I’ve also heard that and I have managed to only find this study which talks about the issue:

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19353546

        In the study they basically drowned prostate cells to lauric acid which was in FFA (free fatty acid) form. This was done most likely inside a petri dish.

        I highly doubt that similar effects would happen inside the body for two reasons:

        a) Unless the oil has turned rancid, the lauric acid should be in triglyseride (not FFA) form.
        b) Unless you eat hundreds of grams of coconut oil per day, your cells won’t swim in lauric acid.

        With that being said, I could be wrong, and I’m eagerly waiting for a human study which would look at this. But the current evidence is not strong enough for me to stop using coconut oil.

  • Ashwagandha is great, and all the medicinal mushrooms, such as cordyceps, lion’s mane, and chaga.

  • Poor cod liver oils contain traces of mercury and heavy metals.

    I wouldn’t worry about saturated fat raising LDL, if you’re not eating processed junk that oxidazes the body, then your LDL cholesterol will stay low, even if your diet would be 90% saturated fat.

    I guess that your combo could work very well too.

  • Frank Mars

    Hey,
    thank you so much for these high-quality information.

    I understand the reason why you avoid sesame oil and sunflower oil,
    but how about sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
    They are said to be good for ones health; do you suggest to avoid them?
    After all these seeds contain high amount of the bad fats.

    How about flax seed oil and hemp oil?
    I am already having a high amount of coconut oil, grass-feed meet, grass-feed butter, ghee, olive oil, raw chocolate, organic eggs.
    But I was also taking some flax seed oil and some hemp oil because of their high omega 3
    I consume about 90 g fat per day; about 10g flax seed oil and 15 hemp oil,
    about 65 g of the above listed fats.

    Thanks Frank

  • M_Reus

    What is your procent-recommendation for the daily intake of omega fatty-acids (3,6,7,9)? i guess the intake should be higher on rest days..

  • Wasim Wazir

    that study is 1997 !!which means its unreliable

  • Diogo Moreira

    How about LCHF diets? 70% fat, 25% prot, 5% carbs. ? any thoughts on that route?

  • John

    Youre the best man. Keep up the good work!

  • John

    I’m tired of mainstream science fooling people for its vested interests. You’re like a breath of fresh air

  • Børge Fagerli

    You are misinterpreting the ice hockey study. “One of the teams (DIF, n = 22) participated in a special dietary program including reduction in fat from approximately 40 per cent of total energy intake (E%) to less than 30 E% and an increase in carbohydrate intake from 45 E% to about 55 E%.

    Serum concentrations of testosterone, SHBG, NST and cortisol increased significantly during the study period in the DIF group and were, with the exception of SHBG, significantly higher than in the SSK group at the end of the study (33.0 vs 26.8 nmol/l, p less than 0.05; 22.5 vs 18.3 nmol/l, p less than 0.05; and 548 vs 464 nmol/l, p less than 0.01). ”

    I.e. the group that REDUCED their fat intake to <30% of calories increased their testosterone levels.

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  • And, besides food, German researchers have shown that merely getting an erection will increase your free testosterone levels. Other research has shown that having sex to orgasm, including solo sex, is a great way to increase your testosterone. (Honey, we have to have sex. It’s for my heart health. :-D) And, of course, intense physical exertion–heavy weight lifting or high intensity interval training–will increase your testosterone levels, after a brief period in which it goes down.

  • I just had a quick look at your quick start guide. You mention alcohol and not to have more than four drinks at a time. When I was a much younger man I drank a lot, more than four drinks in a night and yet I could have a good strong erection and go for a long time, sometimes, having sex with more than one woman. By the way, I was only working on one testicle. The left one had not descended and I had it surgically removed when I was 22 years old. Of course, now, as a much older man, I still drink, but not at much as when I was younger. I can still get it up–no partner, but daily testosterone production therapy….solo sex–but not nearly as good as when I was younger.

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  • Ghostrider

    I’m a middle aged man now that is still in my prime physically, but it wasn’t until recently I started to understand all of of this and make those changes with my own diet.

    I often wonder how much if any of a difference this dietary knowledge would have had on me when I was a kid. It was always an ongoing saga during my childhood and high school years that I was terribly skinny, underweight, and more physically immature than all the other kids. I did grow to be a little over 6′, but when I was 15 I looked 11-12, and when I was 18, I looked about 15. Coincidentally, except for the once a month hamburger from McDonalds which was nothing but soy bean probably back then, I was basically a complete vegan. My diet consisted of nothing but grains and sugar, and it was the cheap “always save” crap too. My parents had zero understanding of nutrition. Once in a while my mother might cook the cheap chewy dry patio steak or make tuna fish sandwiches or ordered a pizza. I just never got a normal supply of good dietary fat which makes me wonder if that impacted my growth hormone levels growing up. I probably would have been a little more taller, muscular, and more mature as a kid. I’d have to say throughout my entire youth, my diet was about 90% carbs, 5% fat, and 5% protein.

    Not to mention, I might have been a little more intelligent as well because growth hormone helps with brain development. The precursor to all of this was healthy dietary fats and cholesterol, something I got very little of growing up. And my father would constantly put me down about how physically weak and slow I was compared to all the other kids when I was playing sports. He’d tell me “you need to gain weight”. And coincidentally my mother was and still is very obese. She was almost morbidly obese when I was a kid, she ate nothing but cheesits, potato chips, ice cream, twinkies. Not kidding.

    My parents basically ruined my life because of their stupidity. It’s true. I probably could have been a more successful person had it not been for their idiotic way of living. I always heard my other friends say that their mothers would cook big juicy ribeye steaks all the time, now it makes sense why they were more mature and more muscular than I was.