I’m not putting on muscle, and I have man boobs—but I feel like I eat healthy. Is there something wrong with my diet?
–Modesto S., Fresno, CA
A lack of progress in the gym along with chest fat can indicate low testosterone levels. It wouldn’t surprise me if you said your sex drive was down also, or that you were having poor or less frequent erections (but that’s more than I need, or want, to know for this article). Your diet, while healthy on the surface, is potentially squelching your testosterone, and by default, your ability to put on muscle and lose fat.
You’re eating a fair amount of grain products, and wheat has been linked to higher estrogen levels (and that causes testosterone to plummet). Your fat intake is low, and while that saves you calories, you’re denying your body one of the major catalysts it needs to produce T. You should start eating foods that are high in monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil.
Don’t be afraid to add a yolk or two to your eggs. Testosterone is made from cholesterol, and studies have shown that dietary cholesterol doesn’t raise “bad” LDL levels in your blood. Your flax consumption is a double-edged sword. A very nutritionally dense food containing fiber, healthy fats, and vitamins, it also contains chemical compounds called lignans, which are known to have a weak estrogenic effect. For that reason, stay away from these seeds.
The soy milk could also be a problem. Soy contains estrogenic isoflavones that could negatively impact T, so I’d suggest switching to hemp, almond, or rice milk for your smoothies. Add some broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or Brussels sprouts to your salads. These veggies contain three active ingredients that inhibit estrogen. Finally, consider taking supplements. Maca is a root vegetable renowned for its hormonal optimizing effects. Zinc is also essential for T production. I’d recommend three capsules of ZMA before bed.