Testosterone is a vital sex hormone, responsible for muscle building, cognition, fat loss, and a plethora of other biological functions. A lack of testosterone can lower your sex drive, leave you feeling listless, and interfere with your ability to build muscle.
Natural testosterone vs. anabolic steroids
Lots of men -- and, in some cases, women -- look for ways to increase testosterone levels. Anabolic steroids can replace your body's natural testosterone production in exchange for supercharged results at the gym, but they are illegal and can have nasty side effects. This has led many users to seek out natural alternatives that can provide the extra boost they need in the gym -- as well as the bedroom.
Natural testosterone boosters
There are a ton of biological processes involved in the production of testosterone and related hormones. Simply put, natural testosterone boosters are compounds that help enhance this process so your body can safely produce more of the hormone on its own without reaching outside the body's self-regulating boundaries on testosterone production. While these supplements will not produce the level of gains seen by using steroids, they can significantly improve mood, libido, and gains at the gym.
Natural testosterone boosters up hormone levels without damaging or interfering with your body's own testosterone production. When using unnatural substances, you are almost guaranteed to cause short term, and potentially even long term, damage to your body's biological processes. For many athletes, this has resulted in sterility. Lifelong dependence on prescription testosterone replacement therapy is one of the only ways to reverse or halt some of the damage.
Doesn't sound fun, does it?
Testosterone boosters and females
It may surprise some to find out that women have testosterone -- the hormone commonly associated with all things masculine, including muscles and sexuality. While women have far less testosterone than men, the small amount produced in the ovaries helps grow, repair, and sustain reproductive tissues.
For women, too much hormone can cause infertility, body hair growth, and balding. Low levels, which occurs naturally with aging, are believed to cause reduced muscle tone, weight gain, fatigue, and decreased mental focus.[16, 17] Despite the side effects unstable testosterone levels have on health, added testosterone does not seem to increase strength or muscle mass.
That said, for pre- and menopausal women, hormone therapy is a very common treatment. For that reason, it's important to communicate with your healthcare provider about your exercise regimen and diet. She can help you understand how testosterone supplementation can help or hinder your workouts.
There are many supplements on the market that claim to boost testosterone. Each have varying levels of effectiveness. Many of these ingredients come with very little evidence to support their use in humans, and some have been proven outright ineffectual for enhancing testosterone in humans. However, there are some diamonds in the rough.
The following ingredients found in some natural testosterone boosters can provide real benefits.
Research shows that Americans are not getting sufficient levels of vitamin D, via diet or sunlight. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) established by the Institute of Medicine is a meager 400IU to 800IU per day. Studies, however, indicate that doses of up to 10,000IU daily are safe. In a 2011 study, Vitamin D was demonstrated to increase testosterone levels by around 30% in humans.
But the benefits of vitamin D reach far beyond mere testosterone elevation. Ensuring proper intake can provide a variety of other advantages related to cognition, including build muscle, improve bone health, and reduce risk of cancer. It's also extraordinarily affordable. If you have to pick one testosterone-boosting supplement to sample, pick vitamin D.
Another essential nutrient for the body is zinc. More than half the world's population is believed to be deficient in the dietary mineral. While consuming a diet low in zinc is the most likely way to cause a deficiency, regular exercises are especially at risk. The mineral is excreted when you sweat, so strenuous exercise can deplete your body's zinc levels.
Since zinc deficiency can result in plummeting testosterone levels, consider taking a multivitamin or upping your dietary zinc intake.
One of the most popular testosterone boosters on the market today, D-aspartic acid (DAA) is a supplement that took the industry by storm in 2009. A study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology showed that the ingredient increases testosterone levels in humans. After 15 days, 3g DAA supplementation increased circulating T levels by 33% in men between the ages of 27 and 37, after 12 days, there was a 42% increase in 87% of the study participants. However, three days after supplementation discontinued, testosterone levels returned to baseline.
Fenugreek is a plant commonly grown and used in India. It has been shown in one study to elevate testosterone in a small cohort of resistance-trained males. Another study of healthy males free of erectile dysfunction (ED) showed significant increases in libido. Finally, fenugreek use resulted in the promotion of more healthy glucose metabolism in diet-controlled volunteers with diabetes.
Sotolon, a metabolite of fenugreek, can make your urine smell like maple syrup.
Horny goat weed
This herb has an extensive history of use in traditional chinese medicine as an aphrodisiac and treatment for ED. Recently, it has also been shown to boost testosterone in animals.[6,7] So far, human evidence is lacking, however with its growing popularity and the positive results shown in animal studies, hopefully these trials will arrive soon.
A component of horny goat weed, icariin, is a relatively potent phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5) and can help provide enhanced blood vessel dilation, which can reduce blood pressure.
Also known as Eurycoma longifolia, tongkat ali has made news in the bodybuilding industry for its effects on testosterone, cortisol, and sexual health. But more importantly, there are studies showing its abilities to build muscle and reduce body fat.
The best place to read about it is on our blog's Tongkat Ali article.
Ingredients to avoid
One of the oldest so-called testosterone boosters on the market, tribulus was popular in the 1970s despite limited evidence of enhanced muscle building and increased testosterone. It has since been shown conclusively in numerous studies to not boost testosterone in humans.[2, 3]
Part of the confusion stems from the fact that the herb does boost libido. A tendency among supplement marketers and users is to assume that the libido effects they can feel mean that the herb must have a beneficial impact on testosterone. In reality, while there is a correlation between low and/or elevated testosterone levels and libido, correlation does not equal causation.
Deer antler velvet
Deer antler velvet is a supplement that has been around for decades and continues rearing its head despite conclusive and repeated proof that it does not raise testosterone levels.[13,14,15] In fact, it doesn't even function as an aphrodisiac. No matter who's the seller, whether it be a pill, liquid, powder, or comes in a syringe, this supplement is useless.
Miracle supplements as a category
You've seen the late night infomercials on TV and the banner ads plastered all over the Internet: companies promising miraculous steroid-like results from random herbal testosterone boosters. Any website that attempts to attract customers by promising to reveal "secrets your doctor don't want you to know" or 'the secret herb" one awfully photoshopped bodybuilder used to get ripped, is undoubtedly a scam.
Natural testosterone boosters can be a great training aid for any type of athlete. Be sure to choose your ingredients wisely and manage your expectations. You're never going to get steroid-like results from a natural product but you can expect to see result.
Hopefully this article provides some clarity and will help you decide whether you want to try a natural testosterone booster, and how to look for and select a product that will be beneficial.
Where to buy
If you do decide that a natural testosterone booster is right for you then check out our price comparison aggregator. We scoured the web to find the best deals on our favorite products. If you want to stay up to date on supplement deals, new products, industry news, and helpful articles like this you can also sign up for our newsletter.
The supplement is widely available as an affordable single-ingredient bulk powder, or as a component of many multi-ingredient testosterone boosters.
- Topo E, et. al.; Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology; " The role and molecular mechanism of D-aspartic acid in the release and synthesis of LH and testosterone in humans and rats;" October 2009
- Brown GA, et. al.; International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism; " Effects of anabolic precursors on serum testosterone concentrations and adaptations to resistance training in young men;" 2000
- Brown GA, et. al.; Journal of the American College of Nutrition; " Endocrine and lipid responses to chronic androstenediol-herbal supplementation in 30 to 58 year old men;" 2001
- Vieth R; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; " Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety;" 1999
- Pilz S, et. al.; Hormone and Metabolic Research; " Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men;" 2011
- Liu WJ, et. al.; Asian Journal of Andrology; " Effects of icariin on erectile function and expression of nitric oxide synthase isoforms in castrated rats." 2005
- Zhang ZB, Yang QT; Asian Journal of Andrology; " The testosterone mimetic properties of icariin;" 2006
- Wilborn C; International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism; " Effects of a purported aromatase and 5?-reductase inhibitor on hormone profiles in college-age men;" 2010
- Steels E; Phytotherapy Research; " Physiological Aspects of Male Libido Enhanced by Standardized Trigonella foenum-graecum Extract and Mineral Formulation;" 2011
- Losso JN; Journal of Medicinal Food; " Fenugreek bread: a treatment for diabetes mellitus;" 2009
- Takeda A, Tamano H.; Brain Research Review; " Insight into zinc signaling from dietary zinc deficiency;" 2009
- Jalali JR; Renal Failure; " Impact of oral zinc therapy on the level of sex hormones in male patients on hemodialysis;" 2010
- Sleivert G, et. al; International Journal of Sport Nutrition Exercise Metabolism. " The effects of deer antler velvet extract or powder supplementation on aerobic power, erythropoiesis, and muscular strength and endurance characteristics;" 2003
- Conaglen HN, et al; Archives of Sexual Behaviors; " Effect of deer velvet on sexual function in men and their partners: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study;" 2003
- Syrotuik DG, et. al; International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism; " Effect of elk velvet antler supplementation on the hormonal response to acute and chronic exercise in male and female rowers;" 2005
- WebMD; " Normal Testosterone and Estrogen Levels in Women;"
- Linda Dyett; Huffington Post; " Should Women Consider Taking Testosterone?" 2013
- Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA; Sports Medicine; " Hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance exercise and training;" 2005
- Hickson R. C., Hidaka, K, et. al.; Journal of Applied Physiology " Successive time courses of strength development and steroid hormone responses to heavy-resistance training;" 1994