High Protein & Low Testosterone: Protein shakes are killing your gains!

cnproteinYou’ve made the same mistake every day, and probably have done for years.

It’s become more of a ritual now than a practicality – and it’s been holding you back this whole time.

I’m talking of course, about protein shakes and how they’ve been crippling your testosterone levels since the day you started taking them.

Is this article actually serious?

Entirely; complete with proven studies. Questions like the one above is demonstrative of how brainwashed we’ve become as lifters. We only ever hear the good things about protein, like how effective it is for building muscle and recovery after a workout.

But how much do you really know about protein? And how would you explain this study that shows high-protein diets causes lifters lower testosterone levels?

Shocking, isn’t it? Yes, in fact high-protein diets are detrimental to testosterone levels needed to build muscle – ironically defeating the purpose of buying protein in the first place.

Awesome Analogy

Think of it this way: You’re trying to construct and incredible skyscraper (muscle), and you’re going to need men (testosterone) and materials (protein).

buildingYou go out and work your ass off, marking exactly where you want this thing built (training a muscle group). You call your men over. Then you bring in their materials for the day, and it is an absolute shit-ton.

You bought so many materials that there’s have nothing left to pay your builders with. (carbs and good fats) So only a few show up. Once the work is done for the day, a lot of supplies are left over – you can’t store it for tomorrow, you have to throw it out. (pooped)

This cycle continues, sometimes for years, very little gets built and a lot of resources get scrapped. And because it’s been going on for so long, you just assume that’s the standard rate of progress for your team. You’re wrong.

What’s actually happening:

When you hit the gym testosterone is secreted throughout the body. Good stuff. However, because of years of ‘broscience bullshit’ you then pound your body full of an incredible amount of protein throughout the day.

Bad stuff?

Quite right. Most guys seem to think giving protein priority in their diets is the best way to build muscle – however, this excessive amount of protein is causing a rise in both Cortisol and SHBG – a hormone, and protein that are detrimental to testosterone, diminishing its numbers and unable to make it as effective for building muscle. See how protein raises these is proven in the study below.

Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3573976

Hold Up, What the hell is Cortisol and SHBG?

Cortisol-3D-vdWCortisol – The stress hormone, it governs when you wake up, but more importantly it is also involved  with tissue breakdown and fat gain processes in the body. It’s not a great thing to have a lot of, plus, to make matters worse cortisol inhibits testosterone:

Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470424/

Sex-Hormone-Binding-Globulin-Primary-antibodies-ab110140-1SHBG – Also known as Sex Hormone Binding Globulin. SHBG is a protein in the body that binds  free testosterone in the bloodstream. After the testosterone has become bound it becomes unusable and loses all of it’s anabolic potency. SHBG increases as men get older and becomes one of the main causes of lower testosterone levels in elderly men.

Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17895324

So, how much protein should I actually be getting?

That’s an interesting question. Normal fitness sites would have you believe that you should be taking ginormous amounts of protein to build your muscle up, that’s bullshit – but we’ll get to that.

Just look at this recommended ‘protein needs’ table from their site:

bodybuilding protein

So by that reasoning, a 200lb bodybuilder should be consuming at least 200g of protein a day. Are you serious?

In a thorough scientific study at Kent State University by a Dr Peter Lemon, the optimum levels for athletes to consume protein was judged at 0.77 – 0.82g/lb.

How did he know it was the optimum level?

Protein oxidation. Because of the lower amount of protein its oxidation decreased, this allowed the protein to synthesize muscle much more effectively. Lemon compares his results to a previous study done a few years before:


Going over the optimum intake Lemon had discovered, there seemed to be no further benefit to muscle mass or strength gains.

Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1400008

healthy-carbsInterestingly, carbs also decrease protein oxidation (supporting study) and they’re also very useful for building muscle.

Believe it. Once your maximum protein requirement has been met, calories are everything. The above study sums it up as “energy content of the diet had the largest effect on body composition”.

By swapping over some of your protein intake to more carb-based foods, you can build muscle with less protein and strengthen your test levels in the process.

A decent percentage split for your food intake should be 50/30/20 – and that’s carbs/fats/proteins respectively.

When’s the best time to have protein?

clock-alarm-clock-question-mark-question-timeComing clean, the best time to have your protein shake is after a workout. There’s enough studies out there to support that fact (like this one, and this one), although similar results can be achieved with just carbs and creatine (study).

When’s the worst time to have protein?

Before a workout. Deadly serious. In a study in Finland, researchers found taking protein around 30 minutes before a workout can lead to significant decreases in serum Growth Hormone, Testosterone and even increases serum insulin.

How do I reboot my testosterone levels?

Numerous methods. Obviously the first thing is what we’ve covered in the article: Cut down on heavy protein shakes start getting your P-fix from fatty cuts of meat along with some healthy fats. Upping your carbs would also be a good idea.

Here are the top tips to lifting your testosterone levels, and recovering from protein overload.

1. Binge Drinking sends Testosterone Sinking

Unfortunately, alcohol is one of the worse things you can do for your T levels. The hops used in beer are known to be phytoestrogenic, but also the alcohol itself can lower your testosterone by promoting cortisol and SHBG.

Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6443186
Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11912073
Study: http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/202/3/676.short

2. Forget Fiber

On the corner of every cereal box, on the copy of every diet ad we see the text read: ‘High In Fibre’. It’s a common sight, but does the digestion aid really live up to the hype?

Not that we’re saying to avoid it all together, just stick to the bare minimum. Aim to get around 25g a day from vegetables such as broccoli, cabbages and other greens.

After that steer clear, generous fiber diets have been documented to lead to an increase in SHBG, and subsequently lowered T levels.

Study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8942407
Study: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/routledg/nc/2011/00000063/00000004/art00004

3. Consume Cholesterol

bacon-egg-400x400You’re often told that high cholesterol is bad cholesterol. However, if you’re a healthy male there shouldn’t be a problem adding some more to your diet.

One of the keys to the testosterone producing process are a host of cells called leydig, they’re inside your balls and they’re awesome.

Without getting too technical about the testosterone precursors that start the process – leydig cells essentially turn cholesterol into free testosterone.

More Information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leydig_cell

4. Cut out the Caffeine

coffeeThis is a curious one. Caffeine can actually raise testosterone levels when used before a gym session by up to 19% (Study, and bear in mind these guys were on 800mg of the stuff at the time) but it did increase cortisol levels by 44%.

In the long term, Cortisol lowers testosterone, and caffeine is not the way to go if you’re already suffering from higher levels of Cortisol.

5. New Nutrients

If you really want to boost your T levels, it may be worth looking into some nutrients that you don’t come across a lot of in your regular diet.

boronBy this we mean:

  • Boron – Linked Study
  • Zinc – Linked Study
  • D-Aspartic Acid – Linked Study 
  • Vitamin D3 – Linked Study 

There are tons more. These are just some of the proven nutrients you could be supplementing to boost your T levels.

These nutrients can vary and help testosterone in different ways whether it’s:

  • Male_SymbolAiding direct T-production
  • Diminishing SHBG, and freeing testosterone
  • Suppressing Estrogen

Some companies have even combined these ingredients into Testosterone Boosting supplements to raise testosterone to optimum levels via providing the body with everything it needs to produce masses of the male hormone via natural means.

These supplements can be very effective, depending on how much effort and research their company put into them. If you’re ever interested in buying one – always research the ingredients first.

Whey too much Protein Conclusion

After heavy analysis, it’s clear that over indulging in protein shakes may result in your testosterone being held back, and by extension – your gains.

We established the optimum rate for protein consumption per day in weightlifters is around 0.77 – 0.82g/lb and that surpassing this may result in little to no positive effects. The best time to consume protein is just after a workout, and definitely not just before one.

If you’re on a high protein diet, we strongly recommend you readjust your intake to allow for more healthy fats and carbs (around a 50/30/20 split – carbs/fats/proteins). This decreases protein oxidation and is more effective for muscle synthesis. It also helps keep cortisol levels down as well as SHBG counts.

There are numerous ways that you can recover your lowered testosterone such as controlling alcohol intake and using specific supplements.


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