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Soy, Balls and Testosterone

In case I lose your attention in the next 30 seconds, here’s the take home message: men who value their balls should not eat a lot of soy. Got it?

The other day whilst killing a bit of time in my gym, I found myself looking at the ingredients of a well known brand of protein powder that the juice bar there uses for all their shakes and smoothies. To my surprise, Soy Protein was listed as one of the ingredients. I enquired of the company who made this protein how much soy was in each serving, but was told that details of their ‘proprietary formula’ could not be disclosed. Now, soy protein is extremely cheap (far cheaper than whey for example, which is pretty cheap itself) so the ‘Our Formula Is A Secret’ stance = We’re Making Tonnes of Money From This Product And Don’t Want You Or Our Competitors To Know How Much.

Anyway, aside from having an inferior amino acid profile compared to pretty much any other protein I can think of (maybe apart from pea protein!), the main problem for men eating soy is that its been proven by various studies like this one to lower testosterone levels. (This article from a weightlifting site contains a more detailed article on the effects and lists several studies in support). If you value your abilities as a man, (whether its on the sports field, in the boardroom or bedroom), you’ll want to take note of this. I’m not saying that a bit of miso soup with your sushi or a helping of soy protein in your shake is going to give you the hormone levels of Mr Muscle, but what I am saying is that if you consider the estrogenic world you live in and how its proven to effect your hormone levels (consider the estrogens in the tap water you drink- thanks, ladies!, the alcohol you also drink, and the food you eat), men may want to steer clear of other easily avoidable things that further lower testosterone.

And for girls who for obvious reasons may not be concerned about his article- rather than waste your money on a soy protein that has a poor amino acid profile, buy a proper whey or casein protein. You’re ultimately getting far more bang for your buck.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone?

Without going into excrutiating detail, all men understand that as they age, virility wise they won’t be the ‘man’ they were when they were longer. And despite what progressive parts of the medical community may say, this is not only normal, its a good thing. The flipside of less testosterone and aggression is increased tolerance and empathy with the world and those around you. Its one reason why a lot of men only seem to come into their own (whether in terms of business or relationship success) until they hit middle age.

Having said this, abnormally low testosterone levels outside of very late life is a bad thing which can and should be treated. Symptoms include

  • loss of libido (really? Who would have thunk it!),
  • reduced energy and increased fatigue,
  • loss of athletic performance
  • difficulty staying awake especially at night
  • loss of enjoyment of life and perhaps depression
  • increased interest in purchasing a red sportscar (not yet scientifically proven)

What you can do about this?

Assuming you don’t have abnormally low testosterone levels (in which case your health professional will advise you on the appropriate form of hormone replacement therapy) for those with normal to low levels, or those men who just want to maximise what they have, aside from minimising the consumption of soy in your diet, I suggest the following:

  • Don’t buy bottled water that’s in plastic bottles- chose glass. The plastics can release estrogenic compounds into the water over time.
  • For the same same reasons, NEVER microwave food in plastic containers.
  • If you drink, drink spirits or wine, not beer.
  • Make sure you’re eating enough healthy fat in your diet- this should be a combination of saturated fats from things like avocadoes, steaks, eggs and butter, and Essential Fatty Acids from things like fish or fish oil supplements. If you eat like a bird, you’ll look like a bird. (You can take that however you want to interpret it!)
  • Do heavy compound lift weight training at least once a week. (A few decent sets of a compound lift (squat, bench press, deadlift, pull up etc) stimulate the endocrine system to cause hormone release- albeit temporarily- far more than dozens of sets of bicep curls, no matter how much of a burn you get.
  • Cut back on the amount of cardio you do- unless you’re an athlete training for an event, you don’t really need that much for general health and body composition purposes. (Extreme amounts of cardio vascular training can hugely lower testosterone levels-in one study of US Ranger soldiers, the extreme exercise and low food intake of their regimen resulted in most soldiers having the hormonal profile of castrated men!)
  • After all this, consider supplementation with herbs like tribulus terris, which can increase testosterone levels.

Your reward for making it to the end

And finally, gentlemen, as summer is finally here- the next time your partner catches you looking where you shouldn’t be, blame it on the sun and your hormones as sunshine also boosts testosterone levels.

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