60 pounds and 8 inches.
That's how much weight and girth around my waist I have shed in the last 15 months. I have gone from a 42-inch waist back down to a 34" waist and I have gone from 265 lbs down to just under 205 today -- while adding a significant amount of muscle mass. And I did so with a fairly relaxed workout routine.
I had gotten fat and what was worse (for me) was that my mental edge and sharpness, as well as my motivation, were dulled and muted. All of that has changed radically in the last 14 - 16 months.
How did I do it? What was the major or primary shift? There were certain things that helped: I eliminated sugars and all grain-based carbohydrates except for the ever-famous "cheat day" once a week. That certainly helped. Ten months ago I chose to stop consuming alcohol -- choosing clarity over self-indulgence. Yes, that has assisted in the process.
But the primary component? Testosterone. Testosterone manages a lot of things: libido and aggression get all the press, but did you know it also impacts drive and motivation, cognitive edge/sharpness, and fat metabolism/retention?
And even more sadly (no pun intended) many men are being misdiagnosed with clinical depression when they really just have low testosterone levels.
Most people don't realize it, but if you have low testosterone levels you will retain fat--and it will increase your estrogen levels, which then, in turn, has you retain even more fat, which in turn lowers your testosterone even further -- it becomes a hormonal downward spiral.
And here is the kicker: a medical practitioner will often tell a man with very low testosterone that it is "normal" if it is still in the normal range. The range being between 200 and 1100.
200 might be "normal" but it is certainly not optimal.
Disclaimer: I am not a trainer, nutritionist, medical Dr, or practitioner of any kind of medicine nor do I hold myself out as such. I am simply a guy who has done a lot of research on my own and experimented with certain supplements and herbs and gotten my blood tested 4 times in the last year at regular intervals--and I am reporting my findings here for those who want to do their own research.
Let's discuss testosterone, free testosterone, levels, dietary adjustments, and most important of all, supplementation. Henceforth, testosterone will be simply referred to as "T" and free testosterone as "Free T".
Distinctions, Levels, and Ranges
Total T is what most people get measured with the blood tests that are out there--and if your Dr is not a specialist, this is the test they will give you unless you request both Total T and Free T to be tested.
Total T is just what it sounds like: your total levels in your blood. Free T is a test to see how much is bio-available; how much of your T is floating around available to be put to use at any given moment.
What is a "normal" range? Depends on which lab you ask, but there is some overlap. Some labs will say that a "normal" Total T level is between 200 and 1,300 ng/dl (nanograms per deciliter). Others say it is between 300 and 1300. The normal range for Free T is murkier because of the different tests that different laboratories use. Here is a set of ranges from a forum I was involved in for a while:
Consequently, if your doctor tests your free testosterone, be sure you know the analytical method used. If your test results have a reference range as follows, you have probably been tested with one of the other test methods:
Male Reference Range - Test Type
* 66-417 nanogram/dL FWRA
* 12.3-63% %FWRA
* 5-21 nanogram/dL UF or ETD
* 50-210 picogram/mL UF or ETD
There are those that hold the opinion that Free T is the more important test because that is what measures bio-available T. Personally? I like to get both done.
My Personal Results
In November 2012 I took my first test. Here were my results:
Total T: 208
Free T: 14
At first, I tried the typical recommended herbal supplements: tribulus, fenugreek seed, yohimbe, and L-Arginine (an amino acid). I did see a 10% increase in my levels, but that elevation did not last long--about 2 months--even though I continued to take the herbs. So I decided to begin to investigate what bodybuilders were doing who were not into the black or grey market stuff (prohormones, hormones themselves, and/or steroids because once you start taking those you have to take them for the rest of your life because your body stops producing its own T--and what we want to do is increase your body's natural production of T and slow its conversation to estrogen, which it is particularly prone to do if you have a large amount of body fat.
I tried a few supplements that had some positive effects, but not impressive. I tried others that did not work at all. I finally settled on a triad of supplements that have produced the results I was looking for. I just received my most recent results and here they are:
September 10th, 2013
Total T: 495
Free T: 71
So ... what were these supplements?
The first was D-Aspartic Acid. It is available in bulk at pharmaceutical grade. That is how I buy it--and I add it to my protein shake or simply shake it up with my other morning nootropic supplements. You can also buy it in capsules, but whatever delivery system you choose, the daily recommended dose is about 3.5 grams. You can purchase it »here«. The second is MuscleMeds Arimatest. You can purchase it on Amazon for a pretty good price »HERE«. The third is PES Erase High-Affinity Inhibitor which can be found on Amazon »HERE«.
There are also things you want to avoid in terms of your consumption habits when you are looking to increase your T. Pseudo-estrogens are everywhere, which will lower your T and increase your estrogen. They are in plastics and in chemicals used in conventional agriculture (non-organic). What does this mean? When you are trying to increase your T, endeavor to eat only organic fruits and vegetables, and whenever possible, store your leftovers in glass containers--not plastic ones, and double goes for using the microwave; reheat your food in stainless steel pans on the stovetop or glass containers if and when you use the microwave.
In terms of diet for sustainable weight loss added to this program for increased T, I will leave that to a follow-up article. For now, here is a summary to increase your T:
•Get tested and be sure you are testing both Total T and Free T
•Use the "big 3" supplements:
•Reduce and/or eliminate pseudo-estrogens in your environment, starting with using organics food sources and glass or stainless steel food storage and reheating containers and methods.
One side note: if you are on this program and you reduce your estrogen levels, some report problems with joint lubrication. To counteract this, I recommend taking another supplement:
Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM. See it »HERE«.
As a final note: educate yourself around ranges. Everybody's body is different, so your methods may vary. The natural approach may work for you. I know for me, they did not pack enough punch at my low levels. Get educated, get tested, and experiment.
The Art of Manliness (ranges and measuring your T)
The 4 Hour Body (seriously awesome book, that includes a food-based program for increasing your T and about a dozen other things you will want to know about.
Life Expectancy and Testosterone and Estrogen (interesting read on how they can predict your life expectancy based on your hormone levels.)
UPDATE: It is worth noting that Tim Ferris has a food-based protocol for increasing your T that involves brazil nuts, fermented cod liver oil, rich butterfat (think Irish butter) and egg yolks. Check the 4-Hour Body for the details. And it is an excellent book every man should have anyway.
UPDATE January 17th, 2014: I just received my latest test results, and I am quite pleased.
Total T: 773
Free T: 160
There were no supplement changes -- I did "cycle off" everything listed above for about a month before I took this latest test. I also increased my intake of red meat, egg yolks, and nuts. I can not speak to how much that contributed, although it is part of the diet-based protocol in the 4-Hour Body. However I did not consume nearly as much of the yolks as he suggests, and I consumed a lot more nuts...