Being on a vegan diet means you don’t eat any animals or products that come from animals. That means no meat, no fish, no poultry, no milk, no eggs. It’s possible to be healthy with this kind of diet, but it takes careful planning to avoid malnutrition. In my experience, most people are not that careful and they can run into trouble. They can lose energy and, for guys, testosterone levels can be affected.
This week at my office, I gave a checkup to a client of mine who is a vegan. His lab results looked good, at first. His cholesterol levels, for example, were great. But his sperm count was almost zero, and although his total testosterone level was high, his bio-available testosterone was also almost zero.
Bio-available testosterone means the testosterone that the body can actually use. A lot of men don’t realize that most of their testosterone is not readily available. We test for bio-available testosterone by measuring the amount of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) found in the blood. This hormone acts as a glue that sticks to testosterone and makes it ineffective. If you have too much SHBG in your body, your testosterone is basically locked up and you have problems.
That’s what my client had, and it was a result of his diet. The vegan diet is a protein-rich, carbohydrate light dieting choice. Having too many carbs, of course, isn’t good but having too few carbs is a problem too because it can significantly raise the level of sex hormone-binding globulin. So eating only vegetables was destroying my client’s testosterone levels.
This is one reason I don’t recommend a vegan diet. You’re better off, in my opinion, eating a diet balanced with sources of nutrients from plants and animals. To lower your levels of SHBG (and raise testosterone) try eating some kind of whole-grain carb in the morning, like oatmeal or multi-grain bread. This is a healthy way to start the day, though you shouldn’t consume too many carbs after lunch. Another way to improve testosterone is to consume fish oils every day. Salmon is an excellent source of fish oil, but you can purchase it as a supplement as well.
The bottom line is that we’re primates, not cows. Nature designed us to be omnivores—animals that eat everything, including other animals. When done intelligently and in moderation, an omnivore diet is the best way to meet your dietary needs.