Cultural narratives are pervasive in society, to say the least. Men are supposed to be big and strong and eat a lot of meat. Hunting animals and ingesting them as burgers, steaks, and hot dogs are all associated with masculinity and testosterone.
But does that mean it’s true? Do men need meat to manufacture enough testosterone to make them as “manly” as possible?
A new study is saying it’s bologna.
Researcher Ranjeth Ramasamy from the University of Miami Health System said that “the old idea that men need to consume a traditional diet with plenty of meat to have a healthy testosterone level was based on pure conjecture, not evidence.”
Looking at survey data from 191 men between the ages of 18 and 75, they found little variance in blood testosterone whether their diets were high in meat, plant-based, or a less healthy plant-based diet. Plant-based diets are not always healthy—soda and chips are plant-based, after all.
Plant-based diets, or diets very high in plant-based food, are associated with a host of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved heart health, and a lower risk for diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other illnesses.
Lean mass and muscle are closely related to testosterone levels. Muscle is built from protein consumption, and animal-based foods are the best source of protein. But this new study is saying diet does not play a significant role in testosterone, and it echoes previous research.
Other research has suggested that fat loss and body composition factors into testosterone. So, perhaps the fact that people who consume a healthy plant-based diet are leaner allows them to have levels similar to overweight folks who eat plenty of meat.
Ultimately, several variables determine testosterone levels. Genetics, lifestyle, and diet are each involved. Making healthy food choices focused on moderate intake of lean, unprocessed meat and plenty of plant-based foods is likely the key to optimizing health. Healthy fats are also an essential part of optimizing testosterone.
You don’t need to eat a lot of meat to keep testosterone high. Cultural narratives aren’t necessarily true, and eating more plant-based foods is always a good idea, regardless of your goals.
Slowing testosterone loss might be accomplished by improving overall diet, losing weight, and incorporating more strength-based activity into your day.