Does The Carnivore Diet Increase Testosterone?
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This is a callous question to answer because there has yet to be a scientific study specific to answering the question of whether or not a full carnivore diet increases testosterone.
However, there are some great studies we can look at that do kind of answer the question. I found two great ones, but then there is a kicker as they almost contradict each other.
One study found that a high fat, low fiber diet increases testosterone, but then another study found that diets high in protein but low in carbohydrates were associated with lower testosterone, yet if you worked out, the testosterone would be a level higher than that of a high carbohydrate diet.
This is a fairly confusing topic and comes with many nuances. First, let’s look at the two before-mentioned studies.
The High Fat Low Fiber Study
This study found that a high fat, low fiber diet does increase testosterone.
Researchers created a controlled study of 43 men, half ate the high fat, low fiber diet and the other half ate low fat, high fiber diet. The group that ate the high fat, low fiber diet had a 13% increase in testosterone!
They concluded by saying, “This study suggests that diet may alter endogenous sex hormone metabolism in men.” (1)
Does this answer the question of whether the carnivore diet increases testosterone? Not specifically, but the carnivore diet is essentially a high fat, low fiber diet, and common sense would say yes, most likely you will see an increase in testosterone…but what about the high protein low carb study as that is also essentially what the carnivore diet is too?
The High Protein Low Carb Study
“The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial.”
This study was based on the effects of diet and acne, but it revealed some good information regarding testosterone.
The study took 43 males and fed them a high protein, low carb diet over 12 weeks. The results showed a slight decrease in testosterone, but then again, exercise was not added to the test subjects, and as you will see further along in this post-exercise can increase testosterone levels. (2)
Should We Be Concerned With Testosterone Levels aka Labs?
This depends on who you talk to and their level of understanding regarding hormones, receptors, and clinical function.
Talk to your novice workout buddy, and he/she might say it’s all about having high levels of testosterone. But is that really the case? Let’s try to break this down.
Testosterone is a hormone primarily produced in the testes (but also made in the ovaries and adrenal cortex), and its main function is to help with bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, red blood cell production, sex drive, and sperm count. (3)
Wow, testosterone does a lot, and I’m particularly interested in the muscle and sex drive performance area (naturally as a man), so I’m going to assume that more testosterone is better! This turns out to be a yes and no assumption.
The reason I say yes and no is because while researching this topic, I ran into Dr. Shawn Baker’s lab results. Dr. Shawn Baker is a major Carnivore diet advocate.
He was on the Carnivore diet (and still is) for over a year and a half before getting tested. He did 2 separate tests, and they both came back low, showing that he was a little below the recommended level or so-called normal level of testosterone for his age.
How can that be? Dr. Baker is a beast; the guy is over 50 years old and built like an Ox.
He competes in weight lifting and has broken records with the rowing machine, plus he can lift more weight than 99.9% of the population.
Thank god he understands this, as a doctor should, and breaks it down for us in more laymen terms.
You see, he says your levels are not as important as your clinical function, meaning if you feel good, have a normal life, and are not experiencing any symptoms like low energy, low sex drive, or lack of erections, then most likely you are all good. Your levels of testosterone are less relevant.
He basically says clinical function is what counts, not lab values.
He goes even further by explaining that testosterone is just one part of the equation. We need to look at the full equation, which also includes the role of receptors, most specifically the androgen receptor, and the effects of diet on hormone function.
Let’s back up a bit and look at the hormone and receptor relationship.
The analogy most widely used is to look at it as a key and lock. The “key” is the testosterone hormone, and the “lock” is the androgen receptor. (4)
You need both to function properly. You could have a perfect key, but if the lock is gummed up, you won’t make it through the door. For instance, some people could have high testosterone, but if they have a faulty receptor, they could have unwanted symptoms like low sex drive and lack of muscle.
Gummed-up receptors are known as receptor sensitivity.
Another item to take a look at is when receptor sensitivity is increased; your body may require less testosterone to do the trick.
Hence the fact that Dr. Shawn Baker has low testosterone levels but does, in fact, have major amounts of muscle and claims to have a great sex drive.
How To Increase Androgen Receptor Sensitivity
Let’s get sensitive. There are a few ways to increase your Androgen Receptor’s sensitivity. Some are on the synthetic route, and others can be done the “el natural” way.
First, the synthetic. Scientists have come up with a product/compound called Selective Receptive Androgen Modulators, aka SARMs.
These synthetically make the androgen receptor more sensitive and receptive to testosterone. (5) People have abused these in the athletic and bodybuilding world.
I’m told they work really well but eventually have unwanted side effects like liver damage, acne, increased breast tissue, and shrinkage of the testes…uncool.
Let’s look at the natural way of cranking up the sensitivity on our receptors. Here are the top three I was able to come up with and find on the internets.
University of Connecticut doctors and researchers did a study where they were able to verify that increased carnitine intake enhanced the ability of androgen receptors, therefore better utilizing the free testosterone. Check out their study here. (6) (7)
What has massive amounts of carnitine? You guessed it, Red Meat.
4 Ounces of cooked Beef Steak has 56-162 Milligrams of Carnitine, while 4 ounces of cooked ground beef has 87-99. 4 ounces of chicken only has 3-5, so better to stick with the beef if you’re looking to max out with the carnitine.
#2 WEIGHT TRAINING
Resistance training and lifting heavy weights up-regulates the androgen receptor both in sensitivity and density, plus it makes more and more is better.
Some researchers took 18 untrained males a few years back, the nonwork out types, and put them through a rigorous resistance training protocol consisting of leg exercises like squats, leg press, and leg extensions.
Their findings concluded that sequential bouts of heavy resistance training increase testosterone and also effectively up-regulates androgen receptors. (8)
#3 INTERMITTENT FASTING
Fasting has numerous health benefits, and there are plenty of recent documentaries outlining all the positives.
When it comes to up-regulating the androgen receptors, fasting is a great way to go.
A recent study took 34 in shape males, meaning they were accustomed to working out and put them through a strict 8-week intermittent fasting cycle.
Their schedule included three meals per day, all of which were consumed at 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 8 p.m. giving them a 16 hour fasting period. This test up-regulated the androgen receptors. (9)
Where Does This Leave Us?
What I learned from Dr. Shawn Baker is that testosterone lab values fluctuate hour to hour, day to day, and can be affected by lack of sleep, your recent workout, or just fasting.
With these fluctuations, it makes interpreting lab values almost irrelevant.
If you are living a healthy life without any clinical symptoms, then really, what’s the point of even needing to know your testosterone levels?
If you do have clinical symptoms like mood swings, low sex drive, and lack of boners, then yeah, you should see a doctor and get your labs checked out…I mean, that’s common sense.
Maybe you are suffering from low testosterone, and maybe you need to go the synthetic route. Who knows? Is it worth a chat with your doctor? Probably.
I have the feeling that people who are getting into the carnivore diet will see improvements in their lives, and yes, perhaps their testosterone increases or maybe decreases as their androgen receptors up-regulate, but really all that matters is how you feel, and what I’ve seen is most people feel great on this diet.
Carnivore Diet Motivation & Knowledge
If you are interested in the carnivore diet, I highly recommend these books by two of the most recognized carnivore diet doctors on the planet. I have both and resort to them often.
Also, Dr. Shawn Baker created a coaching service specifically for the carnivore diet through his company MeatRX. In fact, I’m a coach on his team, and you can book me for a one-on-one motivational session. Book me here!
Another place you may want to go is our YouTube channel. We have some very fun carnivore diet-related content and recipes.
One of our favorite cookbooks is “The Carnivore Cookbook” by Jessica Haggard over at Primal Edge Health. Pick up her book and make eating an all-meat diet more fun! For a limited time, you can use ANDY5 at checkout for $5.00 off!
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.
- Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study
- The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic-load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic-load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: a randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial
- Wikipedia: Testosterone
- Wikipedia: Androgen Receptor
- Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) as Function Promoting Therapies
- Maximizing Testosterone Utilization With L-Carnitine!
- The effects of L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation on hormonal responses to resistance exercise and recovery
- Effects of sequential bouts of resistance exercise on androgen receptor expression
- Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males