Today I’m going to discuss very briefly, something I find extremely fascinating and that is hormone optimization; specifically how to optimize testosterone.
This fascination started when I was in middle school. I watched my friends change from boys to what seemed like grown ass men in a matter of weeks time.
They were all hitting puberty while I wasn’t. They got taller, stronger, and their sports performance skyrocketed. I was left in the dust.
The difference between me and the other kids was their bodies were pumping testosterone full steam while mine wasn’t.
Around this same time the Mark McGwire steroid scandal had blown up and steroids were now all over the media.
Steroids increase testosterone, and testosterone is extremely anabolic.
If used in conjunction with a lifting regimen you can get insane muscle gains (So I’m told) while on a cycle of steroids. When I learned that steroids alter hormones in the body and that can lead to insane muscle gain, strength, and better sports performance my mind was blown.
Simply having more of a specific chemical flowing through your blood could change everything about you. It’s really quite fascinating.
However, steroids do have major side effects. Many times after taking them, you can never really produce the same natural levels of testosterone again. Estrogen, the female sex hormone, can also skyrocket after completing a cycle. You can cause damage to your liver, they are banned from basically all sports, and they shrink your balls too…
So yeah, they are definitely not the safest or most legal type of thing you can take.
Optimize Testosterone the Healthy Way
The healthier, safer, and legal route is to optimize your hormones. Believe it or not, you have the power to modulate the biochemistry of your body. And there are many different ways to do this.
The food you eat, prolonged fasts, extreme temperatures, oxygen/CO2 levels, exercise, sex, light, competition, winning/losing, and the seasons all effect your hormone levels.
That is why I want to discuss one of the least talked about ways to optimize your testosterone levels.
It’s not talked about often at all, it costs virtually $0 to fix, and requires minimal effort on your part to improve.
So what am I talking about?
Yes, sleep apnea has one of the largest effects on your hormonal levels; specifically testosterone levels.
Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing while sleeping.
You see, when you experience sleep apnea, a large amount of CO2 accumulates in the tissues of the body. The accumulation of CO2 in the body indirectly modulates testosterone levels.
Cholesterol is a precursor to both testosterone and estrogen. It is also the precursor to cortisol. When the tissues of the body are filled with high levels of CO2, this signals to the body to use cholesterol to create cortisol instead of testosterone. Therefore, poor breathing at night indirectly decreases your testosterone levels.
By breathing correctly, you get better sleep. “Better sleep” can objectively be defined as having longer REM, and SWS sleep. During these sleep cycles the gonads create the majority of our sex hormones (also Growth Hormone too).
Furthermore, breathing properly doesn’t just apply to sleep. During the day, mouth breathing has also been associated with poor gas exchange, which leads to poor testosterone production as well.
In addition, your lungs and other visceral organs have testosterone receptors on them, which further supports the idea that proper gas exchange in the body optimizes testosterone production.
Here are a few studies showing sleep apnea’s effect on testosterone levels:
Proper Breathing and How you Look:
Not only does breathing properly help to optimize your sex hormones, but it actually makes you better looking as well.
Yes that’s right, breathing properly can affect the way you look for the better.
A book titled Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic, written by a Stanford scientist, demonstrated how mouth breathing was correlated with poor facial features. These features include having a tucked in chin, protruding brow, elongation of the face, and drooping of the eyes. Ew. Meanwhile nasal breathing is associated with proper formation of the mandible.
OK, now that we know how important proper breathing habits are during sleep and during the day what can we do about it?
Here are my top suggestions:
-Get a good pillow that properly supports your head and neck. If you have a pillow that compresses too much it could put your neck into a position that leads to snoring, which can lead to sleep apnea.
If you’ve never used a MyPillow, then I highly suggest purchasing one. The filling they use is soft, but doesn’t compress. The incompressible material allows for great support of the head and neck, which prevents poor breathing while asleep.
-Wear Breathe Right Strips to bed. I first learned about this when I read about how Cristiano Ronaldo hired a sleep coach. The first thing the coach got him to do was to wear Breathe Right strips to bed. I’ve been doing this ever since I read the article. The moment you place one on your nose, you can instantly feel your nasal passages open more. I highly suggest them.
-Wear mouth tape to bed. OK, this is a little bit weird, but I have heard about more and more people trying this. I have yet to do it though. I’ll probably just stick with the Breathe Right strips instead for now.
-Make a conscious effort to breathe through your nose during the day. The more you breathe through your nose, the more the nasal passages will be dilated. Make a conscious effort to do this and you should be able to breathe easier through your nose during the day and while asleep.
-Try breathing through your nose during exercise. This will open your nasal passages even more. I wouldn’t suggest doing this during a max effort cardio workout. Instead try this during less intense workout sessions. It will also help improve performance as well.
In conclusion, to optimize testosterone, makes sure you are breathing properly. Proper breathing is paramount when you sleep, because that is the time where your body recovers and synthesizes hormones like testosterone.