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Does Sunbathing increase Testosterone?

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If you ask people what their perfect day would be, most would say it includes a nice hot day, sunbathing on a beach, and a cocktail involved. Why is that?

Well there’s just something about a nice day that puts us in a good mood – the sun improves not just our physical health, but also our emotional; mental and  social health too – more energy, more physical activity and most certainly a heightened libido.

But is that down to an increase in testosterone? In this article we’ll take a look:

Read on to learn more about:

  • Vitamin D – the sunshine nutrient
  • Can sunbathing increase testosterone
  • Safety and the sun
  • Summary

Vitamin D – the sunshine nutrient

There are two types of vitamin D – D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is the more biologically active and potent of the two. When sunlight comes into contact with the skin, its UV rays are able to produce an active form of D3 – this is why vitamin D is often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. The more sun exposure, the more of the vitamin you’ll have.

In addition to UV light, you’ll find Vitamin D in a small amount of foods such as milk and bioactive yogurts as well as oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. 

D3 is essential for regulating calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and has been linked to a protective effect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of autoimmune, cardiovascular and infectious diseases, respiratory diseases and the risk of falls and fractures as well [1]. It is an important nutrient for wellness.

Optimal vitamin D levels lie between 600-800 IU, although many experts suggest that doses above 1000 IU are more appropriate. 

The male reproductive tract is a big target tissue for vitamin D – what this means is that for optimal T production you need to ensure that your vitamin D is optimal too – and sunbathing is a great way to do this.

A study published in the journal Hormone and Metabolic Research found that T levels are low in vitamin D deficient men, but when 3332 IUs of the nutrient were included in the diet as a supplement, testosterone levels increased by over 25% [2].


Vitamin-D-and-Sun

Key Point: Exposure to UV light increases vitamin D. This reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as range of other illnesses.


The science – does sunbathing increase testosterone?

Austrian  researchers [3] recently published evidence that T levels follow a seasonal pattern – peaking in August and falling in the winter. They found that in the 2,299 men recruited for the study, those who had vitamin D levels of 30ng/dL or less had low levels of T too – there was a clear relationship between contact with the sun, vitamin D exposure, and testosterone. 

This is backed up with other research that suggests exposure to sunlight early in the morning is effective in increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) levels – an important moderator of testosterone. In a study published in Neuroscience Letters [4], 11 healthy young men were exposed to bright light for an hour over a 5 day period. By doing so their LH levels rose by a staggering 69.5%.

Whilst there were no direct measures of T taken, it would make sense that the increase in LH would at least stimulate it.

Additionally, a study in Clinical Endocrinology [5] reported that in 1362 male subjects, as vitamin D levels increase so does testosterone. Interestingly the relationship is linear until D levels hit 75–85 nmol/l, then T levels plateau out.

Vitamin D has also been found to increase muscle mass too. Researchers [6] have found that by adding vitamin D to insulin and the amino acid leucine – both very anabolic and important for muscle growth, the pathways needed to increase protein synthesis were significantly improved. 

Just in case you were still unsure of the many benefits of UV exposure – a study by Bhutkar et al [7] in the Asian Journal of Sports Medicine wanted to find out if ‘sun salutation‘ basically regular sun exposure for 6 days-a-week for 24 weeks, would improve either muscle strength, general body endurance or body composition.

The results showed that both strength and endurance improved. On top of that, there were positive changes to body composition and significant changes to body mass index observed as well. 

The authors of the study concluded that “from our observations we conclude that sun salutation can be an ideal exercise to keep oneself in optimum level of fitness”. 


Sunbathing-for-Vitamin-D

Key Point: Sunbathing allows vitamin D to stimulate the production of testosterone. Not only that – it has also been shown to enhance strength, endurance, body composition and muscle mass.


Safety considerations

It is recommended that lighter skinned individuals get around 15 minutes of sun exposure per day on the face and hands, and darker skinned individuals around 30 or more minutes per day.

You need to be aware that sunscreen blocks UV rays from the skin, therefore limiting vitamin D exposure and synthesis. However you also need to be aware of the risks of sunbathing for too long – make sure you stay safe and follow guidelines based on your skin type.

Although evidence suggests that sun exposure is important for testosterone production, this doesn’t necessarily mean that more is better. With the increased risk of skin cancer, it is important that exposure is closely monitored and the correct protection is taken as appropriate.


Summary – does sunbathing increase testosterone

There are two types of vitamin D – D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). D3 is the more biologically active and potent of the two. When sunlight comes into contact with the skin, the UV rays from the sun are able to stimulate production of an active form of D3 – this is why vitamin D is often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’.

Vitamin D is essential for keeping the body healthy – it ensures healthy bones and teeth, and has been linked to a protective effect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. It is also an important moderator of the male reproductive tract – what this means is that for optimal T production you need to ensure that your vitamin D is optimal too – and sunbathing is a great way to do this.

Research suggests that sun exposure important for stimulating production of vitamin D, and that in turn elevates testosterone. Not only that, some research studies have sound that spending time in the sun is also important for improving muscle mass, strength and endurance.

You need to be aware that ore is not necessarily better, and ensure that you get regular but intermittent sun exposure that doesn’t burn the skin. In order to follow safe sun exposure, ensure you follow guidelines for your skin type.


References

  1. Holick, MF et al. Health benefits of vitamin D and sunlight: a D‑bate. Nat. Rev. Endocrinol. 2011; 7: 73–75
  2. Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, Kuhn J, Dreier J, Obermayer-Pietsch B, Wehr E, Zittermann A. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men.  Horm Metab Res. 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5.
  3. Wehr, E et al. Association of vitamin D status with serum androgen levels in men. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2010; 73(2): 243-8
  4. Yoon, I et al. Luteinizing hormone following light exposure in healthy young men. Neuroscience Letters. 2003; 341: 25–28
  5. Nimptsch, K et al. Association between plasma 25-OH vitamin D and testosterone levels in men. Clin Endoc. 2012; 77(1): 106-112
  6. Salles, J et al. 1,25(OH)2-vitamin D3 enhances the stimulating effect of leucine and insulin on protein synthesis rate through Akt/PKB and mTOR mediated pathways in murine C2C12 skeletal myotubes. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013; 57(12): 2137-46.
  7. Bhutkar, MV et al. How Effective Is Sun Salutation in Improving Muscle Strength, General Body Endurance and Body Composition? Asian J Sports Med. 2011; 2(4): 259–266