Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: May 21, 2021

As a personal trainer, I often work with dietitians to come up with complete solutions for my clients.

And one of the questions I often get from clients is how they can improve their body composition through natural testosterone boosts.

One surprising request I got a while back was about how the ketogenic diet might reverse low testosterone production.

While there are many articles on this topic, I decided to team up with a dietitian to determine if the keto lifestyle could help with T levels.

How Does Keto Impact Your Testosterone Levels?

man eating a salad bowl shirtless

I’ll try not to simplify this too much, but at a very high level, the ketogenic diet is a lifestyle where you limit your carbohydrate intake to a minimum.

That generally means that you consume less than 50 grams of carbs per day and make up the calorie deficit with healthy fats.

And here’s what the science has looked at.

Scientific Studies

Now, the keto diet has come under a lot of scrutinies in the media, with many folks labeling it as a crazy idea. But my dietitian Susan pointed me to some articles and a study that addressed the questions around testosterone.

What surprised me is that the study didn’t just show a slight rise for the participants on a keto diet, but an almost three times higher level [1].

Open Questions

man holding a weighing scale and contemplating

The more difficult question is how exactly the keto diet influences testosterone.

Right now, there are only theories on why this happens, but one reasonable assumption is linking testosterone production with the amount and types of fat you consume.

More on this in the next section.

So, with positive results on testosterone shown in clinical studies, let’s dig a bit deeper into the nutrients involved.

What Nutrients Affect Testosterone Production?

shirtless man showing off his left arm biceps

I’ve been taking natural testosterone boosters on a regular basis for a few years now.

And no, these aren’t the illegal steroid hormones that athletes get banned for.

But these natural supplements contain certain ingredients that help with testosterone levels, so we had a look if there was a correlation between them and the ketogenic diet.

Vitamins

Research has linked vitamin D intake to higher levels of testosterone. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, your body produces it naturally in the skin when you’re exposed to UV rays from the sun.

The main foods that you can source vitamin D from are oily fish and eggs.

And if you’ve done any research into keto recipes, you’ll find a lot of them involve fish and eggs. So that is one link we’ve established between keto and how your body produces testosterone.

Related: Do Multivitamins Affect Ketosis?

Minerals

white pills in a black bowl

Zinc is possibly the number 1 ingredient you’ll find in testosterone boosters, and there are countless research articles that highlight it as the most important thing for boosting T levels in men.

And again, zinc content is highest in eggs, seafood, and nuts, which are all common items in keto recipes and meal plans.

It’s another positive diet link between keto and testosterone.

Macros

The thing that worries many people with keto is the high-fat macro approach, where over 60% of calories come from fats.

However, those should come from healthy fats with the healthy type of cholesterol. And that is yet another important factor for maintaining sex hormone levels.

With these three things alone, our dietitian was able to convince us that there is enough evidence to support a link between a keto lifestyle and the health benefits of higher testosterone.

But what about changes the keto diet has on the body?

Overall Diet Effects On Testosterone

shirtless man measuring his waist inside a kitchen

Any dietitian will tell you that lifestyle factors and age are the most significant contributing factors when it comes to low testosterone.

But as we’ve shown above, certain nutrients may help to improve how effective your body becomes at producing more testosterone.

And there are two things to consider at a higher level, where you’ll find a few misconceptions.

Calorie Restriction

We’ve seen a lot of online comments in forums where people say that a calorie deficit and weight loss diet have a negative impact on testosterone.

While that may be the case for a lean athlete with an already low BMI, anyone that loses unwanted body fat will be the exception to that rule.

Studies have shown that overweight men can improve their testosterone through a calorie deficit diet [2].

And keto tends to be quite effective when it comes to losing weight.

Ketosis

man resting in a gym while wiping sweat

You might immediately associate ketosis with the keto flu and a sign that your body is weakening.

However, once your body switches to producing energy from stored fat and fatty acids in your diet, some interesting things start to happen.

The increased ketone bodies may help to improve insulin sensitivity and the ability to process more cholesterol.

And as noted above, cholesterol plays a role in free testosterone levels.

Now let’s take a look at some health impacts of low testosterone.

What Happens When Your Testosterone Is Low?

man hugging his knees

Many men don’t realize that their T levels will gradually decrease once they hit the 30-year mark.

Yup, it’s all downhill from there, right?

And here are some of the most common side effects of below-average testosterone levels.

Reduced Libido

An imbalance of sex hormones between testosterone and estrogen levels can have a significant impact on men and their libido. But it also directly impacts sperm production, and a low T count is one of the main reasons for low sperm count.

Mood Swings

People often associate testosterone with macho and aggressive men. But a stable testosterone level is one of the best options for ensuring that men don’t suffer from mood swings.

These are far more common when there are sudden fluctuations due to unhealthy diets and lifestyles.

Lower Red Blood Cell Production

Men with a low T count also often complain of being constantly tired. That’s because this hormone also influences how the body produces and maintains red blood cells.

A low T count equals lower red blood cells equals less energy.

Decreased Muscle Mass And Bone Density

It should come as no surprise that testosterone is directly linked to muscle mass, which is why so many professional athletes decide to take anabolic drugs.

A lower than normal testosterone level won’t just make it more difficult to gain muscles but could actually contribute to muscle wasting and lower bone density.

Testing Your Diet Effects On Testosterone

medical person holding up a blood sample

Something men over the age of 30 should do on an annual basis is have a full health check-up, including a full blood test.

Not only will this tell you whether or not you have low testosterone.

But by having continuous data over several years, you’ll have a far better picture of what direction your testosterone is heading.

And when you’re planning to influence your T count through changes in your body weight and fat intake, then it’s a good idea to get a blood test first and then again after a few months to see detailed results of how the levels changed.

FAQs

Is Mct Oil Good For Testosterone?

At this stage, it’s unclear whether MCT oil is good for testosterone. Some animal trials have shown that there may be a link, but human trials were inconclusive.

What Fat Is Bad For Testosterone?

Trans fats are bad for testosterone and are mainly associated with highly processed junk food. These are the types of fats that a doctor will tell you to stay away from and would have a seriously negative effect on heart health and fat loss.

Have You Tried Keto as a Diet To Boost Your Testosterone Levels?

Not many folks would think of the keto diet as a way to boost your sex drive, but the low-carb, high-fat approach has some good potential to help people naturally deal with low testosterone.

It could be the ideal combination of reduced body fat and increased muscle building for a leaner and healthier body.

If you’ve tried this approach, then let us know on social media how it worked out for you.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28399015/
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120625124914.htm

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