Ok, I’m just gonna say it to start with: Do not eat low-carb!!
Now we can continue. Eating low-carb might be useful when dealing with certain diseases or severe obesity. But I wouldn’t recommend low carbohydrate diets even for weight loss.
Being overweight is not the result of eating too much carbohydrates, it’s the result of eating too much.
Carbohydrates have many important tasks in human bodies, such as maintaining a favorable distribution of healthy gut bacteria and being the fuel source for cells. Generous carbohydrate intake is also necessary for optimal testosterone production.
What do the studies say about carbs and testosterone?
a) In a study conducted at the University of Maryland, a number of men were divided into two groups. The diets for both groups consisted of identical amounts of calories and fats.
One of the groups ate a high carb – low protein diet, while the other group ate a low carb – high protein diet. After 10 days of these diets in the study settings, the testosterone levels of both groups were measured. The group that ate a high carb diet had significantly higher testosterone levels than the protein group. 1
b) Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), secreted by the hypothalamus is a hormone, which starts the hormonal chain that eventually produces testosterone. A study from 2011 found that the production of GnRH is reduced if glucose is not adequately available. This leads to reduced testosterone levels. 2
c) In an English study, Olympic athletes were assigned to two groups. Again one of the groups ate a high carb diet while the other group ate a high protein diet. The athletes in the high carbohydrate group were measured to have markedly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol when compared to the high protein group. The effects of cortisol are in many ways opposite to those of testosterone. 3
d) Additionally, in one study, it was discovered that alongside high-intensity physical exercise, testosterone levels were higher when the dietary energy intake was 60 percent carbohydrate fueled when compared to a dietary energy intake consisting of 30 percent carbohydrates. And keep in mind, a diet containing 30 percent carbohydrates is not even considered being low carb. 4
Are all carbs good then?
Sadly, no. Fast absorbing sugars raise insulin levels sky high and lower testosterone levels for a long time. So candies, pastries, sodas and other sugary treats don’t have a place in testosterone boosting. 5 6 7
The above mentioned fast absorbing sugars are monosaccharides. More complex carbs that get absorbed more slowly are polysaccharides and oligosaccharides. These types of carbs are found in starchy tubers, vegetables, and grains.
The gluten in some grains might be a problem because it may increase prolactin levels in male bodies weakening testosterone production. 8 9
So good sources for carbohydrates are potatoes, sweet potatoes and other tubers, vegetables, fruits and berries. As for grains, oats are a good carb source alongside rice. Though there are some studies which suggest that eating rice might reduce testosterone conversion into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). 10
DHT is a very powerful androgen, which we want more of in our hormonal escapades. Rice doesn’t have to be avoided completely but if it is your primary carbohydrate source, I would partly replace it with something like potatoes and/or sweet potatoes.
1. Anderson K, Rosner W, Khan M, et al. Diet-hormone interactions: protein/carbohydrate ratio alters reciprocally the plasma levels of testosterone and cortisol and their respective binding globulins in man. Life Sci. 1987;40(18):1761-1768. [PubMed]
2. Roland A, Moenter S. Regulation of gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons by glucose. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2011;22(11):443-449. [PubMed]
3. Gleeson M, Bishop NC. Modification of immune responses to exercise by carbohydrate, glutamine and anti-oxidant supplements. Immunol Cell Biol. 2000;78(5):554-561. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1711.2000.t01-6-.x
4.Lane A, Duke J, Hackney A. Influence of dietary carbohydrate intake on the free testosterone: cortisol ratio responses to short-term intensive exercise training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2010;108(6):1125-1131. [PubMed]
5. Caronia L, Dwyer A, Hayden D, Amati F, Pitteloud N, Hayes F. Abrupt decrease in serum testosterone levels after an oral glucose load in men: implications for screening for hypogonadism. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2013;78(2):291-296. [PubMed]
6. Iranmanesh A, Lawson D, Veldhuis JD. Glucose ingestion acutely lowers pulsatile LH and basal testosterone secretion in men. AJP: Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2012;302(6):E724-E730. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00520.2011
7. Hjalmarsen A, Aasebø U, Aakvaag A, Jorde R. Sex hormone responses in healthy men and male patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease during an oral glucose load. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 1996;56(7):635-640. [PubMed]
8. Delvecchio M, Faienza M, Lonero A, Rutigliano V, Francavilla R, Cavallo L. Prolactin may be increased in newly diagnosed celiac children and adolescents and decreases after 6 months of gluten-free diet. Horm Res Paediatr. 2014;81(5):309-313. [PubMed]
9. Fanciulli G, Dettori A, Demontis M, Anania V, Delitala G. Serum prolactin levels after administration of the alimentary opioid peptide gluten exorphin B4 in male rats. Nutr Neurosci. 2004;7(1):53-55. [PubMed]
10. Ruksiriwanich W, Manosroi J, Abe M, Manosroi W, Manosroi A. 5α-Reductase type 1 inhibition of Oryza sativa bran extract prepared by supercritical carbon dioxide fluid. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids. 2011;59:61-71. doi: 10.1016/j.supflu.2011.07.017
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