One of the most important lessons I have learned from strength training and fitness is the difference between Reaction and Response. Not only have I learned that there is a marked difference between the two behaviors, I have learned how to utilize these behaviors intelligently.
Reaction is what I would like to deem an amygdala driven behavior. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our flight or fight reactions. Reaction is emotionally driven and is a behavior that is limited to instinct.
Response in the sense that I use it, is the cerebral driven behavior. It is based in the ability to skillfully use the forebrain for an intelligence driven behavior. This is where the word “responsibility” comes into play. It means our ability to respond to the circumstances in our lives.
By no means is one behavior better than the other. Each behavior has it’s place. I am a man who is comfortable with his emotions. I am comfortable feeling them and using them to react to situations in which the forebrain is not necessary. This puts me at an advantage over those who are too “heady,” people who live in their head. If you are someone who constantly lives in their head, this puts you in a dead space. The “head” or “intellect” is nothing but dead ideas that tries it’s best to join a party that it’s not invited to. The party of life dances in the river of liveliness.
Now, responding is a wonderful behavior that allows us to use the newest, most powerful addition to the human body, the neocortex. This part of the brain levels us out as human beings. This part of the brain is more intricate and powerful than a computer. In situations where emotion cannot compete, we can use our cortex to respond intelligently and favorably to any situation.
When both of these behaviors are use in conjunction with one another we have a force that can surmount any situation and circumstance.
In order to be a healthy male, it is important to have optimal testosterone levels. Testosterone is important for the mental health, physical health and overall well-being of men. This hormone plays vital roles in the human body. Testosterone is responsible for regulating fat distribution, sex drive, muscle mass, bone mass, the production of red blood cells and sperm. As men age past 30 years, testosterone decreases by about 1% per year. Keeping testosterone levels at optimal levels all throughout life, especially in older men is important as testosterone is responsible for bone mineralization and keeping bone resorption minimal. This means that slips and falls will have a significantly smaller impact if testosterone levels stay at an optimal level. Also, keeping testosterone levels optimal reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Before I dive into ways to increase testosterone levels naturally, I’m going to list the effects of low testosterone levels.
Low Testosterone Levels Can Negatively Impact Sexual Functioning:
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
Low Testosterone Levels Can Negatively Impact Emotional well being and Physicality:
- Emotional problems(i.e.,Depression)
- Decrease in strength and muscle mass
- Significant amount of fat gain
Some conditions that can lead to low levels of testosterone are:
- Diabetes(Type 2)
- Chronic medical conditions such as: kidney and liver disease
Now that we know the importance of testosterone, the roles testosterone plays, what low testosterone levels lead to and what conditions lead to low levels of testosterone, we can get into ways to increase testosterone levels naturally:
- Heavy compound lifts
- Managing stress
- Proper sleep
A balanced, healthy diet is vital in order to increase testosterone levels naturally. Eating a diet that contains adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats are essential to maintaining optimal hormonal balance and function:
- Sources of protein: Our bodies can produce 11 of the 20 amino acids needed to synthesize protein. The other 9 amino acids must come from dietary protein. The protein consumed through diet are broken down into these 9 individual amino acids and used to make protein necessary to support life. Some of these proteins become enzymes, some are used to repair tissue cells and others become hormones. Sources of protein include, but are not limited to: beef, chicken and fish. We can get plant based protein from peanuts, walnuts, etc but meat has a better quality amino acid profile.
- Healthy fats: Healthy fats are essential for proper hormone production and balance. Some sources of healthy fats are, but not limited to: Avocados, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, olive oil, dark chocolate, tuna, salmon and last but not least(I saved the best for last…)
- …Eggs are one of the most important sources of healthy fats because of the simple fact that it’s yolk contains dietary cholesterol which is the precursor of testosterone. For a long time it was considered unhealthy to consume the yolk of the egg which contains cholesterol because it was believed to cause heart disease by raising low-density lipoprotein(LDL) or “bad cholesterol.” It has now been shown that NOT consuming sources of dietary cholesterol such as beef and eggs is associated with increased LDL.
Going to the gym and engaging the compound lifts such as the: squat, bench press, deadlift, barbell row and standing overhead press is essential for increasing testosterone levels naturally, especially squatting. Squatting has been shown to increase the body’s testosterone levels the most because of it’s tendency to engage the largest muscles in the body, the leg muscles. When we engage in compound lifts, using the most amount of muscles at one time, we are activating the body’s natural response to stimulus which is releasing significant amounts of testosterone in order to signal muscle repair. The bigger the muscles the bigger the temporary increase in testosterone we receive. It is advisable to go as heavy as safely possible in order to get the full testosterone increasing effects. Lifting sissy weight will not produce enough of a metabolic response for our body to respond favorably.
Lowering Stress Levels
Keeping stress levels low is another essential factor in increasing testosterone levels naturally because when we are stressed, we release a hormone called “cortisol.” This hormone is responsible for catabolizing muscle tissue which slows down the metabolism and increases fat storage. This increase of fat storage eventually leads to being overweight and obese which then decreases testosterone levels in the long run. In order to combat stress, engaging in activities like meditation, exercising, reading, writing, anything that gets the mind off of stressors is advantageous. It is also advisable to cut any unnecessary negativity out of your life such as negative friends, family, co-workers, social media, TV programs, etc. The aforesaid sources of stress will impact you significantly over time. These psychic vampires wreak havoc on our lives in such an insidious way that we tend to take for granted the immense impact it has on our physiology. In order to reduce and manage stress we must be vigilant in the minor details that act as leeches to our emotional energy.
In order to increase testosterone levels naturally we need to sleep properly. One study shows that a good portion of the American adult population, atleast 15%, get under 5 hours of sleep. This same study shows that males who were sleep deprived experienced up to a 15% drop in testosterone levels. This level of sleep deprivation is akin to aging 10 to 15 years(1% drop in testosterone per year). Getting about 7-8 hours of sleep is essential to maintaining healthy levels of testosterone. Sleep is responsible for proper hormone regulation in general. While we sleep, our cortisol levels are regulated while other hormones that are responsible for repairing the body from daily rigors spring into action to get the body ready for another day. When we deprive ourselves of sleep, we are inadvertently robbing ourselves of our well-being. Another study reported that young men who were sleep deprived experienced feelings of decreased well-being which can be linked to a sharp drop in testosterone.
So what have we learned about testosterone? When we maintain a healthy diet, go to the gym and engage in heavy compound lifts, manage our stress and wrap it all up with proper sleep, we are likely to increase our testosterone levels naturally without ever needing a needle. I guarantee that some of us can stand to fine tune some or all of the above mentioned aspects of our lives, plus, these are just 4 ways to increase testosterone levels naturally. There are different kinds of eating patterns such as intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet that have produced decent results in increasing testosterone levels naturally. At a later date, I will get into the details of how these eating patterns have helped me increase my overall well-being inside and outside of the gym.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 10). Male hypogonadism: Tests and diagnosis.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 10). Testosterone therapy: Key to male vitality?
- University of Chicago Medical Center. “Sleep loss dramatically lowers testosterone in healthy young men.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531162142.htm>.
- Vingren, J.L., Kraemer, W.J., Ratamess, N.A. et al. Sports Med (2010) 40: 1037. doi:10.2165/11536910-000000000-00000
The line of work that I do for a living has it’s many rewards. But none of the rewards I’ve earned while doing this line of work compares to the gem I’ve picked up recently. I’m certain this gem applies to all other fields, fields that are much more sophisticated than the field of work I’m in. In my line of work, which is blue-collar by nature, tends to be thankless, dirty, political, chaotic and downright fatiguing. This line of work has helped me develop core values as well as strengthen the values and principles I came into it with. By far one of the most important core values I’ve developed was to forego respect.
Now, I don’t mean that one shouldn’t value respect in the wholesome sense, when it comes to self-respect, bodily respect, safety, etc. And I don’t mean that one should lack ambition either. What I mean is:
- Do not do anything for respect
- Be a man of value
- Generate self-respect
- The Irony
Do not do anything for respect
Chasing validation in the form of desiring to be respected is like grasping at smoke. When we chase validation, not only does it evade us, it puts us at the mercy of other people. These same people are not superior nor are they inferior to us, yet the average person chases the validation in the form of getting respect from them to no avail. It actually makes them lose respect for us. More importantly, this causes us to lose our integrity. We lose the essence of who we truly are when we chase validation. Chasing implies that the object of our affection is running away from us, and just so long as we continue to chase, we are moving further away from our true life’s purpose.
Be a man of value
One of my core principles is to do what I believe in. It is how I do what I do for a living. I believe in serving people the best way that I can. I strive to be a man of value, as opposed to a doja, which is a person that allows himself to be taken advantage of and discarded. There is a clear difference between being a man of value and a doja. A doja has no boundaries and whores himself out for base pleasures while a man of value has solid boundaries around him. The man of value does what he believes in no matter what anyone says or thinks about him. This man does not care if anyone respects him because he understands that not everyone is for him and everyone is not obligated to respect him much less even like him. Unlike the man who chases validation, the man of value is not self-concerned every time he steps outside of his house. The man of value is only concerned with developing and giving his gift to the world. Through the process of developing this craft, this gift, he
Through the process of honing, developing, beating on his craft, the man of value generates self-respect. He is fully able to draw any emotional state from within because of the range of emotions his craft takes him through. His craft teaches him things about himself that he had never known. More likely than not, taking care of his craft means he has to take care of himself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Pouring himself into his craft means that he has to be in top-notch shape in all aspects of his being in order to produce the best work he possibly can. All of this self-love comes back full circle and transmutes itself into self-respect. He has set standards for himself therefore he doesn’t seek the validation of others in the form of respect. Others are fully able to love and respect him because he loves and respects himself.
The irony of the above is that when we forego respect, we gain respect. We do not seek it, it finds us. The man who does what he believes in while focusing on being of service to others, being a man of value, is ultimately respected. He doesn’t have to ask for it nor does he have to seek it. This comes to him similarly how sadness finds us. Notice we never have to go looking for sadness, typically nobody wants to be sad. Yet sadness comes to us without us even trying. The same goes for respect when we are just focusing on our purpose in life. When we focus on purpose, being of value we become full within, increasing our density, drawing respect instead of fishing for it. Everything a man needs can be found within. As a man, nothing is given, everything is earned, including respect.
Let’s not fall into the trap of seeking validation in the form of respect or any other form. It is important that we latch onto our God-given purpose and carry it out to its full extent. Just so long as we chase love, respect, attention, general validation, etc, we will be betraying our purpose.
“Directly after copulation the devil’s laughter is heard.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
- The Hedonic Reset Point: Striving exclusively for outcome. Outcome dependence leads to overall dissatisfaction it is here the “devils laughter is heard.”
- Unconscious Pursuit of Pleasure Leads to Conscious Pursuit of Pain: Mindless hedonism & destruction
- Developing A Grounding Discipline To Gain Power: Pleasure comes from the process itself & outcome independence.
- We Have True Power Now: In this sense, true power is predicated on mastery of a craft.
The Hedonic Reset Point
We want what we want and though we receive it, we aren’t satisfied. I’ve been told that the devil comes to us in the form of everything we’ve ever wanted. I’ve been told that we should be careful what we wish for because we just might get it. These proverbs are all predicated on one theme.
We start off with a desire, we stoke this desire to a point where it burns within us and churns our pistons which propels us into striving to obtain it. This is a healthy way to commence engaging our desires but can turn pathological once misguided. Once we have obtained our desire, this thing, we get our fill of it. It is akin to that post orgasmic clarity. It’s that refractory period in which we are left in the wet spot: cold, numb and sticky.
More often than not we are so focused on the end game that we aren’t fully enjoying the present moment during the process. We dither from where we were to where we want to be, from hopeless depression to anxiety. When we focus on where we were/are in comparison to the endgame we get depressed from hopelessness due to the gap, when we focus on the future exclusively in regard to the impending pleasure or reward, we get anxious. We can hardly contain the excitement. We plot out our plan, moving from point A to Z. We start at point A then go into a fugue state, end up at Z, receive the reward, get the dopamine ticks, enter the refractory period which is characterized by the “devil’s laughter.”
Unconscious pursuit of pleasure leads to conscious pursuit of pain
At this point we skip the striving altogether and go straight to pleasure seeking just for the sake of pleasure, outcome dependence. We indulge in hedonism to its fullest extent, engaging in any and everything that gives us the tingles. We reach the heights of pleasure. Once that height is reached, there is no where else to go but down. We seek pain as a source of pleasure. We engage in violent, thrill seeking activities. At this point, inflicting pain not only on ourselves, but others, becomes a cherished past time, a hobby that thrills us into euphoria.
Developing a grounding discipline to gain power
The path to mastery is the panacea to this pathological behavior. When engaging in a craft for the sake of engaging in the craft as opposed to seeking pleasure for it’s own sake, we forego the emptiness of base pleasure identification. The path to mastery is being in love with the process itself rather than the outcome of the craft. This is called outcome independence. This is the single most powerful thing the human mind can partake in. Pure genius is developed through the forging of the mind under the stress of a path to mastery. Under the process, the toil of mastering a craft, we transform into the actualized version of ourselves. We become like a torch that is capable of lighting other torches. This is called being of service to others.
We have true power now
We’ve mastered ourselves via our path to mastery of a craft. Now what do we do with it? We have the option of going back down the path of self-destructive hedonism. We can use our newly found power to attempt to light the torch in others. Even if it is one person who we reach, that is a win.
So, what have we learned? Essentially, it is much more beneficial to take the time to go deep within ourselves to find a passion that is not predicated on material wealth. Material wealth will come, ironically, when we don’t focus on it. When we focus on a passion, something that wakes us up and gets us going and something that keeps us up at night, we become to immune to emptiness.