Testosterone is the principal hormone in men and it’s crucial for reproductive organ development. Additionally, it is essential for muscle and bone mass . Testosterone also helps with other aspects of health and well-being, including the prevention of osteoporosis (1).
It’s important for women as well as men.
Testosterone boosters are natural supplements that help to increase the levels of testosterone in your blood. They work either by directly increasing testosterone or by increasing related hormones (2).
Some testosterone-boosting ingredients even prevent the conversion of testosterone into oestrogen.
Reported Effects of Testosterone Boosters
They Can Increase Available Testosterone
The total testosterone in your body can be divided into three types.
The first type is tightly bound testosterone. Your body is unable to use about 66% of your blood testosterone because it’s bound by sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
Loosely bound testosterone, the second type, makes up about 33% of your total testosterone. You can use loosely bound testosterone but with some difficulty because it’s bound to albumin.
Free testosterone, the third type, comprises about 1-4% of your total testosterone. You’re able to use this easily, and you can convert it to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a particularly powerful male hormone.
Both loosely bound and free testosterone make up your available testosterone. Available testosterone is more important for your health than total testosterone
Testosterone boosters generally increase your overall production of available testosterone. Some increase only your free testosterone or DHT.
They Can Block Oestrogen
Substances that block the enzyme aromatase can indirectly boost your testosterone.
Aromatase converts testosterone to oestradiol, which is the main form of oestrogen. When the action of aromatase is curtailed, you lose less testosterone through conversion to oestradiol.
Men do need some oestradiol, but less than women do. When your oestradiol levels are low, your body will increase production of testosterone, which it needs to synthesise oestradiol.
If you take a testosterone-increasing supplement that doesn’t block oestrogen you may find yourself with too much oestradiol. Taking an aromatase inhibitor can prevent this.
However, aromatase inhibitors have much less effect on premenopausal women, because they produce most of their oestrogen in their ovaries.
They Can Help You Lose Fat
While testosterone helps you grow muscle, it may suppress fat gain as well.
For this reason, if you have a testosterone deficiency you may tend to accumulate more fat.
As you may know, muscle tissue burns many more calories than fat does. Therefore if you have a lack of muscle you may be at risk of inadvertently increasing your fat reserves.
Accordingly, diminished muscle mass is the main reason why low testosterone levels cause weight gain in men, some researchers maintain.
Common Ingredients Found in Testosterone Boosters
Fenugreek is an Indian herb that helps to increase your testosterone by creating the right hormonal environment. It helps to control both your blood sugar and insulin levels.
High insulin levels can decrease your testosterone, which is known as homeostasis.
If you have more of one hormone, consequently, you have less of another. During homeostasis, the higher your insulin, the lower your levels of testosterone will be.
The fact that fenugreek controls your insulin levels enables your body to produce more testosterone. Researchers at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas discovered that a group of men taking fenugreek experienced more significant and longer-lasting gains in strength from training compared to a group of men that took no fenugreek (3).
Zinc is particularly important for healthy testosterone levels.
Your brain uses zinc to produce Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which is subsequently converted to testosterone. The higher your levels of LH, the more testosterone your body will produce (4).
Ideally, a testosterone booster should have least 10 mg of zinc, but about 30mg is better.
Measured supplementation may help increase your testosterone. One study found that men who took 30 mg of zinc per day showed increased levels of free testosterone in their bodies (5).
A group of Tae Kwon Do practitioners took part in a study, together with sedentary individuals, to find out how magnesium supplements and exercise affect free and total blood testosterone. Their free plasma testosterone levels increased after exercise before and after supplementation compared to resting levels.
The results showed that magnesium supplements increased free and total testosterone in both the athletes and the sedentary group. However, the active group experienced greater increases than the sedentary individuals. (6).
Ashwagandha acts as an adaptogen, which means that it strengthens your response to stress and anxiety.
The fact that ashwagandha reduces the stress hormone cortisol could help increase your testosterone.
One study tested its benefits on sperm quality in infertile men, who received five grams per day for three months. The men experienced an increase in testosterone of 10-22% over this period.
Further research showed that ashwagandha also increases exercise performance, strength, and fat loss (7).
High levels of vitamin D may both increase your testosterone levels and improve sperm quality.
Your skin produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. Many people have a deficiency because they don’t get enough sunlight.
There’s a strong relationship between low testosterone and vitamin D deficiency, research has shown. Correspondingly, a clinical trial demonstrated that participants who spent more time in the sun experienced higher vitamin D levels and, consequently, increased their levels of testosterone (8).
Accordingly, you should get more sun if you want to increase vitamin D. You should also eat more foods such as oily fish and eggs.
Supplements work too, making Vitamin D a useful ingredient in a testosterone booster.
Side-Effects of Using Testosterone Boosters
Like other supplements and medications, testosterone supplements can run the risk of some side effects.
The effects that they may have on your heart and prostate can lead to a number of potential issues, including:
- Acne flares
- Enlarged breasts
- Sleep apnoea
- Testicular shrinkage
Some side-effects can also come from herbal extracts potentially putting strain on your liver and kidneys.
These side effects are rare, however, and are usually due to people abusing the supplements and dosing too high.
Testosterone Booster Dosage
The optimum dosage for testosterone boosters is three capsules more or less evenly spaced throughout the day.
It’s best that you take one in the morning and one each just before your two main meals of the day. This will help to space the benefits evenly.
- Mooradian AD, Morley JE, Korenman SG (February 1987). Biological actions of androgens. Endocrine Reviews. 8 (1): 1–28.
- Effect of testosterone boosters on body functions: Case report. Almaiman AA. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2018 Mar-Apr;12(2):86-90.
- Poole, C., Bushey, B., Foster, C., Campbell, B., Willoughby, D., Kreider, R., … & Wilborn, C. (2010). The effects of a commercially available botanical supplement on strength, body composition, power output, and hormonal profiles in resistance-trained males. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(1), 34.
- The effectiveness of zinc supplementation in men with isolated hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. Liu YL, Zhang MN, Tong GY, Sun SY, Zhu YH, Cao Y, Zhang J, Huang H, Niu B, Li H, Guo QH, Gao Y, Zhu DL, Li XY; Hypogonadotropic Hypogonadism Intervention Study (HHIS) Group. Asian J Androl. 2017 May-Jun;19(3):280-285. doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.189621.
- Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength L.R. BRILLA1 AND VICTOR CONTE. Exercise and Sports Science Laboratory, Western Washington University
- Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Vedat Cinar 1, Yahya Polat, Abdulkerim Kasim Baltaci, Rasim Mogulkoc. Affiliations expand PMID: 20352370 DOI: 10.1007/s12011-010-8676-3
- Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Sachin Wankhede, Deepak Langade, Kedar Joshi, Shymal R Sinha, Sauvik Bhattacharyya. Affiliations expand PMID: 26609282 PMCID: PMC4658772 DOI: 10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9
- Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. S Pilz 1, S Frisch, H Koertke, J Kuhn, J Dreier, B Obermayer-Pietsch, E Wehr, A Zittermann