Testosterone (T) and its more potent down-stream metabolite called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are two of the main male hormones that trigger beard growth.
Higher levels of testosterone and DHT are your two best buddies when it comes to ways to grow a beard faster naturally.
Here’s how facial hair growth takes place and 12 ways to increase the hormones involved. ↓
How Testosterone and Beard Growth are Linked
Some men have the gift of growing very thick beards. Other men struggle to add even few hairs to their chin.
Lack of beard growth is often explained by genetics without further discussing the reasons.
Well here are two reasons:
If you are genetically prone to producing higher amounts of testosterone and DHT, and your body is more responsive towards these hormones and can utilize them well – then you will be genetically able to grow a thick beard.
If you are genetically prone to producing low amounts of testosterone and DHT, and your body has a hard time utilizing the hormones in the receptor sites – then you will be genetically unable to grow a beard.
(More about genetics and beard growth can be found in our “how to grow a beard” article.)
You see testosterone and DHT trigger beard growth.
Take this study for example1, which says:
“T and DHT may have independent roles in the control of male facial hair growth, in example T for hair follicle priming and DHT for the promotion of linear growth.”
Ever wondered why women to male transgender people could grow a beard?
Simple, these women get prescribed testosterone injections and gels lifting their blood levels to the same as a non-transgender male with normal to high testosterone levels would have.
So if you’re wondering if testosterone pills or testosterone injections would grow you a beard, the answer is yes. The hormones are so powerful that they can stimulate beard growth on a completely beardless face.
Can you Increase Testosterone Levels Naturally?
You most certainly can and should.
The side-effect of exogenous testosterone injections or gels is that it shuts down your natural production.
Making you dependent on the use of synthetic testosterone.
When you naturally optimize your testosterone levels, you will be maximizing the brain hormones GnRH and LH.
The hormones that trigger your body to produce testosterone naturally in the testis.
This way your body will not shut down its production, and the higher hormone levels produced by your body will still increase your facial hair growth rate.
How to Increase Testosterone and DHT for Beard Growth
1. Fix Your Diet
Studies have shown that what, when, and how much we eat, directly impacts our hormone levels.
Some would say that even if the World would be near the brink of destruction people would still argue about what diet is the best.
Keto vs. carnivore, plants vs. animals, the blood type diet?
When it comes to how to eat for optimal hormone production, I’d like you to completely forget what you’ve been preached before about the evil carbs and the insulin boogeyman.
Instead, let’s look at four key factors of any diet.
- Total caloric intake.
Protein has been shown to raise testosterone levels in people who are chronically malnourished in the macronutrient2. Only up to a certain point though (after which too much protein can end up lowering testosterone3).
Minimally processed animal proteins also seem to be pro-testosterone (meats, gelatin, eggs, milk, not by surprise these are also the best beard growth foodstuffs). Many plant-based protein sources (soy and other legumes) and highly-processed meat products can hurt the big T (although the science on this is mixed4).
In studies looking at different ratios of protein and carbohydrate, it seems that diets high in protein and low in carbohydrate can suppress testosterone and vice-versa5.
The optimal protein intake for testosterone lands somewhere between 15-25% of daily calories. Giving you plenty of protein to maintain & build lean mass, but not too much so that it would suppress hormone production.
1.2 Dietary Fat
Fats are also crucially important for testosterone synthesis, but what’s most important about them is to focus on the type of fat you’re consuming.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which you find in most vegetable oils, margarine, nuts, and fast-foods can significantly lower testosterone6. Whereas monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids (MUFAs and SFAs) commonly found in meats, olive oil, argan oil, coconut oil, butter, and lard have a positive effect on testosterone3, and thus also on beard growth.
If we go by the evidence, 20-35% of daily calories would be somewhat optimal for testosterone production and beard growth.
Carbohydrates, although demonized lately in the media, also have great importance in a testosterone boosting diet. In a study by Anderson et al5. the researchers found that a diet with 10% protein and 70% carbs resulted in much higher testosterone production than a diet consisting of 44% protein and 35% carbs. The group with lower carbohydrate intake also had significantly higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
As you also saw above on the protein section; a study by Volek et al. found similar results3. Higher protein to carbohydrate ratio had a testosterone suppressing effect.
Lane et al. also came to a similar conclusion on subjects doing intense training with 30% vs. 60% carbohydrate intake7. Free-testosterone was higher, and the stress hormone cortisol was lower on subjects who consumed more carbohydrate.
50-70% of your daily calories should be coming from carbohydrates; potatoes, fruit, pressed fruit juice, and berries if the goal is to increase testosterone levels.
1.4 Caloric Intake
The amount of food you consume is also substantial, as the production of testosterone is – of course – impacted by the amount of energy you consume on a daily basis.
Strict low-calorie dieting reduces testosterone levels, whereas eating caloric maintenance or slight surplus will keep your testosterone production stable.
Following the above paragraphs, you should be able to see a drastic jump on your testosterone production, which should boost your beard growth rate and thickness as well.
2. Fix your Micronutrient Intake
Getting the right amounts of critical vitamins and minerals is necessary for maintaining high testosterone.
The best way to make sure you’re getting everything you need is to eat a diet rich in real foods. On top of this, supplement with a high-quality multivitamin supplement.
I have for long recommended this as the single best multi out there;
Thorne Research 2 / Day Multivitamin & Mineral.
Testosterone aside, micronutrients also have several mechanisms to aid naturally in stimulating hair follicles and sprouting out new beard hairs
(I wrote about that in one of my earlier beard vitamin articles here.)
Here are some reasons to have plenty of micronutrients:
- Vitamin A is essential for testosterone production as seen in a study of male twins8.
- Supplementation with vitamin D can lead to upwards of 25% rise in testosterone9.
- Vitamin E has been shown to raise testosterone in human and animal studies10.
- Minerals zinc, magnesium, selenium, and calcium all contribute to T production.
Sure, the best way to get all your micronutrients is to eat a nutritious diet, but this can be extremely hard with the current state of soil depletion and increased food processing.
3. Fat Mass ↑ Testosterone ↓
Fat men generally have lower testosterone levels than lean men. It’s a harsh but simple truth, demonstrated by several studies.
(Like this one on young boys11 and this one in old men12).
Why is being fat so bad for testosterone production you say?
Well, there’s this thing called the aromatase enzyme, which converts testosterone into the “female hormone” estrogen. The easiest way to skyrocket your aromatase enzyme levels and the testosterone-to-estrogen conversion is to gain a lot of fat mass.
Obesity stimulates the production of aromatase13 and not only does gaining fat reduce your testosterone levels and therefore beard growth potential, but extra fat mass also suppresses DHT by converting it to weaker metabolites14.
Since DHT is almost on par with testosterone in how crucial it is for facial hair growth, one can only conclude that losing weight and staying lean is exceptionally beneficial for stimulating new beard growth and keeping your testosterone and DHT levels high.
4. Sleep More
You wouldn’t think that you can manipulate something, as granted as sleep, but you can, in fact, help that beard of yours grow better by getting some much-needed sleep.
Everyone knows how lethargic and inefficient we become with sleep deprivation.
However, what you can’t immediately see is the impact that the lack of zzz’s can have on your testosterone levels.
Leproult et al. saw that in young men, restricting sleep time to 5h/night can result in a 15% drop in testosterone levels15.
Penev et al. found that that on average, the men who sleep for ~4 hours per night have their testosterone levels at 200-300 ng/dL16.
Whereas men who sleep for ~8 hours per night had their levels closer to 500-700 ng/dL.
A study by Gov et al. noticed that in 531 Chinese test subjects, one extra hour of sleep led to an average of 15% more testosterone17.
Humans are the only mammals that knowingly delay sleep, and maybe we shouldn’t. Not only is the lackluster sleep crushing our hormonal health, but The New York Times also suggests that inadequate sleep can cause more than $400 billion in economic losses each year in the United States.
5. Competition & Success
Testosterone is one of the essential hormones that drive competition between men.
Men that have higher levels of testosterone are on average more successful, hold better-paying jobs, and have an aspiration for social dominance and showing off.
More surprisingly, competition, winning, and success in multiple aspects can further fuel the production of testosterone.
These surges in testosterone take place in
- day-traders who go on big profit-streaks26.
- sports fans who see their team win27.
- men who return from successful hunting trips28.
- tennis players both before the match and if they perform well29.
Perhaps the most exciting study from the above is the one with the day-traders, these young guns could drive up to 78% increases in their testosterone production by merely getting the rush of big profits.
However – on the flip side – higher testosterone made them more willing to take bigger and bigger risks, potentially causing them to lose it all in hours.
6. Alcohol ↑ Testosterone ↓
In low doses, alcohol doesn’t hurt hormones in any significant manner.
When we start talking amounts like three drinks and more, this is when you start heading to low-T town.
There’s a mounting pile of evidence from rats to humans suggesting that chronic alcohol consumption30, as well as just one night of binge drinking31, can be crushing to testosterone production.
In the long run, this could start seriously suppressing your beard growth rate and facial hair quality.
Alcoholics also tend to have higher estrogen levels, be it because their livers tend to be in worse condition (thus, limited estrogen clearance).
Or through the aromatase enzyme increasing effects of alcohol.
Some mechanism of how alcohol lowers testosterone include:
- Suppressed coenzyme NAD+, a crucial part of steroidogenesis.
- Increased beta-opioid endorphins, which suppress testosterone.
- Increased oxidative stress & cortisol, indirectly lowering T.
- Increased aromatase enzyme, which converts T to estrogen.
7. Limit Testosterone Lowering Foods
Some foods – through a couple of different mechanisms – can end up lowering testosterone output.
Most vegetable oils and margarine do this because they are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)
PUFAs quickly go rancid in the body through a process called lipid peroxidation. Lipid peroxidation boosts oxidative damage and cortisol, resulting in suppressed testosterone6. For this same reason, I try to avoid beard oils rich in polyunsaturated oils.
Indirectly, high PUFA consumption can lead to dry skin under beard and beard dandruff, through its inflammatory effects.
Then there’s soy, which although heavily debated, does contain phytoestrogens32 and equol33.
both that seem to have some anti-testosterone effects (although again, note that there’s mixed evidence about this34).
Licorice is one of the more surprising, yet, it’s incredibly potent at reducing testosterone levels because it contains a powerful T-suppressant, glycyrrhizic acid35.
In one study, men consuming just a measly 14 licorice candy tablets (7g glycyrrhizic acid) ended up going from an average of 740 ng/dL testosterone down to 484 ng/dL36.
Mint products also have distinctive testosterone lowering abilities in animals37 and women battling with hirsutism38 (excessive body and facial hair growth).
It’s likely that men would see similar results, though there is no evidence of that yet.
Lastly, flaxseed products can reduce free-testosterone and DHT through something called; lignans, which increase SHBG (a binding protein, rendering the hormone inert) and reduce 5-a enzyme (which is needed to create DHT).
Flax is also pretty high in PUFA, which may partly explain why some studies see it disrupting testosterone levels39.
8. Train Explosively
Some say that movement & exercise are good for the mind, body, and soul. The same is also true for testosterone, hormonal health, and your beard health.
Resistance-training, in general, can increase testosterone levels short-term.
It happens through a combination of hypoxia, androgen receptor stimulation, muscle fiber activation, lactate production, and many other mechanisms40.
Moreover, it can also increase your baseline testosterone levels over long-term, through something called neuromuscular adaptation41.
(which means that your body “adapts” hormonally to a new normal).
A Good example of neuromuscular adaption is a Spanish study, where men following a pretty standard resistance training program for 4-weeks, had an average of 40% higher baseline testosterone levels after the program was over42.
One excellent method to force neuromuscular adaptation and activation of androgen receptors – which further stimulates testosterone & DHT, the critical beard growth hormones – is to be explosive and utilize movements that require you to use multiple muscles in rapid succession.
Some examples of this include:
- HIIT (sprints and all-out cycling)
- Weighted chin-ups
- Box jumps & Squats
- Weighted Dips
9. Daily Activity
Not all beard growing exercise has to include intense, all-out effort.
Regular activities and recreational stuff like a game of football with the lads, some wood chopping, or just an evening walk can be enough.
Whatever kind of activity fits your bill. Just make sure you’re not sedentary all-day-everyday.
The present study shows that there are differences in semen and hormone values of physically active subjects and sedentary subjects. Physically active subjects seem to have a more anabolic hormonal environment and a healthier semen production.
Perhaps the best example of this is a study from the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition43.
The researchers put 41 obese and overweight men into a 12-week exercise and diet plan, after which they looked at their data.
(Food logs for how much they ate and pedometer data for steps taken).
After this, they divided the men into four categories to examine the effects.
- High calories, high activity
- High calories, low activity
- Low calories, high activity
- Low calories, low activity
What the researchers found was that it was not so much the caloric intake, but the increased activity and daily steps that resulted in increased testosterone levels.
“We found a significant positive correlation between the changes in serum testosterone levels and the number of steps” – Kumagai et al.
Some other similar studies are linking higher levels of activity to the increased production of testosterone, In Tsimane tribesmen, for example, 1-hour of chopping wood led to a 46% increase44.
10. Limit Excessive Endurance Training
Regular physical activity and short explosive bouts of movement raise test levels.
One can’t still claim that all exercise is good for hormonal health.
Excessive and prolonged endurance training is one example of this.
Just comparing sprinters to marathoners, you can see that there’s something very different going on in their hormones.
Endurance cyclists & runners, male distance runners, casual runners, and ultra-marathoners all seem to have lower than average testosterone levels45–47.
This type of training puts the body under extreme stress and catabolism, causing chronic elevations in the stress hormone cortisol, which can suppress testosterone.
However, there seems to be this claim online that you should never run if you want to preserve your hormonal health.
I don’t think it’s right, running can be an excellent way to keep active and cut down body fat, and some – quite frankly – love doing it.
It’s when you start approaching 50+ miles per week of running that things begin to get alarming hormonally.
11. Ashwagandha for a Nice ~15% Boost
Ashwagandha or Withania Somnifera is what is often called the Indian ginseng.
Like with most herbs that make it mainstream, it’s used heavily in Ayurveda, the Indian herbal medicine.
It belongs to the category of “Adaptogens” claimed to help with hormonal balance and stress reduction.
In their books, like any other herb, the benefits will seem almost magical.
In reality, there is “no conclusive clinical evidence” that ashwagandha is effective for treating anything.
That doesn’t mean that the herb wouldn’t do anything at all though, it’s just that you shouldn’t expect it to be a stand-alone treatment for any illness.
there are lots of studies suggesting it to be fairly good at increasing testosterone levels, fertility, and sleep quality.
For one, 300mg’s of water-extracted KSM-66 ashwagandha given for human subjects for two months resulted in 27% lower cortisol levels.
Another study showed 14% lower levels of the stress hormone, while the third one showed 32% reductions in cortisol with the use of 5g/day powdered root extract (source).
Mainly due to its high amount of antioxidants, ashwagandha also significantly increases sperm quality and testosterone levels in men frequenting infertility clinics48,49 (15-40%).
The surge in testosterone is one of the reasons why I included ashwagandha in my list of possible beard growth-boosting supplements.
(as we all know by now, testosterone ↑ beard growth ↑).
The testosterone benefits of Withania Somnifera are not limited to older infertile men.
In 2015 a non-sponsored, double-blind, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed study of 57 exercising young men, showed that 600mg/day of KSM-66 water extract increased testosterone levels by 15% on average50.
It may not seem like that of a significant increase, but going from the average of 630 ng/dL to 726 ng/dL just with one over-the-counter supplement is pretty impressive and should make a noticeable difference in your beard growth rate as well.
12. Mucuna Pruriens
Mucuna Pruriens (velvet bean) is another herb that shows promising results for testosterone.
It contains the active ingredient levodopa (L-Dopa), which is a precursor to the neurotransmitter/hormone dopamine.
After ingestion, pure L-Dopa quickly converts to dopamine in the body.
When the levodopa comes from Mucuna Pruriens beans as extract or powder, the conversion to dopamine is slower, but the effect is also longer in duration.
So what can mucuna do to testosterone production then?
It has been shown to raise testosterone levels, suppresses cortisol, and reduce prolactin in infertile men, while also significantly improving the quality of their swimmers.
This effect seems to be not only due to its antioxidant activity but also through some direct stimulation of the HPT-axis since the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) increased.
Some of the results from various studies include:
- Testosterone increases of 38% (infertile) and 27% (healthy) men54 with also a 41% increase in LH. Another trial on 180 infertile men showing 30+% boost in test55.
- Pure L-Dopa medication (Pramipexole) showing significant increases in free-testosterone on subjects with Parkinson’s disease56, T continued to rise even after discontinuing use.
- In two cell-culture trials, levodopa has been shown to function as an androgen receptor co-activator protein57,58, which is huge, as androgen receptors are a major factor in beard growth, and one of the reasons why Asian men struggle with facial hair growth.
What about the dosage and type of mucuna to use?
Most benefits seem to come from a 300-900mg dosage of water-extracted mucuna per day.
Boosting testosterone is not rocket science, you can get some fantastic results with a few simple methods mentioned above.
I have been writing and reading about hormonal optimization for a little over five years now, and through trial & error managed to significantly increase my levels, which has resulted in a myriad of benefits, one of them being a significantly faster rate of natural beard growth.
You don’t have to though, just following the 13-steps above should give you significant results alone.
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