What Are Testosterone Boosters and Do They Really Work?
Testosterone boosters promise to restore your masculinity, but do they really work?
What is it that makes you a man? Your muscle, your sex drive, your ability to produce semen on demand? Well, without testosterone all these things are at risk, so it’s unsurprising that some men, when their levels begin to wane, look for a way to boost their T.
If you think that sounds like hyperbole then take a look at this study published in the Journal of Sport and Health Science, whichdemonstrated just how important testosterone is for maintaining muscle.
Researchers from the Shanghai University of Sport took 15 male boxers and monitored them as they undertook 3 weeks of high-intensity training and 3 weeks of high-volume training sessions, separated by 4 weeks of rest. Half the group exercised as normal while the other half were given the testosterone boosting drug Tribulus Terrestris (TT).
The researchers found that taking 1250 mg capsules of TT extracts significantly alleviated muscle damage and promoted anaerobic performance.
More than just maintaining you masculinity, and your performance in the gym, though, having a good supply of testosterone is important for your general health and wellbeing.
Men with very low T-levels have been found to have bones that can become weak, which can potentially lead to a condition called osteoporosis. A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism also linked low testosterone to an increased mortality rate.
Still, there are things you can do to help regain your masculinity without resorting to buying supplements from some shady guy at the gym. Testosterone boosters can be found in safe and legal places like your local high-street chemist or, at the more dramatic end of the spectrum, from specialists in hormone therapy.
Likewise, there are also natural ways to pep up your testosterone through diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes. So if you’re the wrong side of 30 and not feeling as strong in the gym anymore, or if you’re gaining weight where there wasn’t weight before, or if you can’t find the energy to finish the day, let alone pleasure your partner, then keep reading — our expert advice may restore you to the peak of masculinity.
What Causes Men’s Testosterone to Fall?
Although testosterone is vital, falling testosterone levels aren’t necessarily something to worry about, and can be as natural as finding a grey hair or two.
According to the NHS, men in their 30s can expect to experience a 2 per cent drop in their T-levels each a year, and these kinds of numbers are unlikely to cause any problems by themselves.
It’s when it’s not genetics causing your testosterone to fall that you may have a problem, and often falling T-levels that can’t be put down to biology can be traced back to either lifestyle or mental health issues.
If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction or a loss of libido, then it may be worth exploring with your doctor whether stress, depression or anxiety are the cause.
If lifestyle or psychological problems aren’t responsible for your falling T, then the other possible cause is hypogonadism, where the testes produce few or no hormones. Men can be born with hypogonadism, or it can develop later in life, often from injury or infection.
What Are Testosterone Boosters?
Testosterone boosters is the catch-all term given to a range of supplements that increase levels of testosterone and, depending on how low your T-levels have got, there are a number of options open to you.
If your testosterone levels need a gentle push, herbal blends and products like Tribulus can be bought in places like Holland & Barrett or Amazon.
“I have seen them work for people,” says GP and hormonal therapy expert at Omniya London, Dr Sohere Roked. “I think sometimes people feel that it’s not a good thing to do or they’re just wasting their time taking it, but I have seen people who combine that with a good diet and exercise and have noticed a change in their physique, their energy, their mood, and the sort of things that testosterone would naturally help.”
If your need is greater though, there are other legal options to consider. DHEA is a precursor steroid hormone that is only available on prescription in the UK, but if taken under close supervision it can have dramatic effects. It must be taken under supervision though because too high a dose can cause mood changes and aggression — roid rage, in other words — as well as all the other unwanted by-products of too much testosterone.
Other medications, available from a specialist, include Clomifene and HCG, which women also use to boost their oestrogen levels.
Testosterone Boosters: Side Effects
Before taking any supplements, at either end of the spectrum, you need to check whether it’s low testosterone that is actually causing the problem. Taking something that you don’t need could potentially cause irreversible issues. For that reason, steroid hormones like DHEA should never be prescribed without having blood tests first. Roked also recommends regular blood monitoring to make sure you’re taking the correct dosage.
The biggest problem with supplementing your testosterone levels is it can shut off your own natural production and it can also permanently lower your sperm count. Taking testosterone boosters may also leave you open to some of the other unwanted side effects, like acne, male pattern baldness, mood swings and aggressive behaviour. To give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding these side effects, you need to see an expert before going for boosters.
“I see people who’ve been doing things in the gym and they’ve never been told that it can shut off your own production and it can also irreversibly lower your sperm count,” says Roked. “These are all quite serious issues that even though they may be rare if it happened to you it would cause a big impact on your life, so I’d say it’s always best to do things with a specialist, but also for anyone it’s not a great idea to take things that aren’t needed.”
While steroids like DHEA can be used to boost testosterone, if used in the wrong dosages or by people who don’t need them they can raise T-levels far beyond the normal range, which is what causes accelerated muscle gain. According to Dr. Emil Hodzovic, who is a competitive bodybuilder as well as a doctor with Medichecks, steroids come with “a set of risks, including liver damage, hormone imbalance, high blood pressure, and a higher risk of a stroke or heart attack”.
Lifestyle and Testosterone
Boosting testosterone without taking care of your basic health and well-being is walking before you can crawl. In other words, if you haven’t put the foundations in place then it’s utterly pointless.
“Poor lifestyle can mimic the symptoms of low testosterone and can actually cause low testosterone as well,” says Hodzovic. “The main culprits include lack of sleep, excessive stress, too little or too much exercise and too little or too much body fat. Getting healthy and active and eating a balanced nutritious diet along with enough sleep are the most important things to do.
Taking testosterone boosters without addressing these basics is likely going to have minimal effect even if testosterone levels are low.”
Natural Testosterone Boosters
Roked says that some herbal supplementation as well as making sure you’re getting enough Zinc and Omega 3 are good ways to naturally boost your T-levels. If you’re looking to boost your testosterone through your diet then you may also like to try these 10 testosterone-boosting foods.
If the natural boosts don’t work for you then it’s time to consult an expert, but as Roked says, when it comes to boosting your testosterone, “it’s not really going to work if you’re taking loads of stuff, but not looking after the basics.” Consider yourself warned.
Best Testosterone Supplements
To give you an idea of the best testosterone supplements out there, we’ve scoured scientific journals to find out which supps you can trust.
D-Aspartic acid is a natural amino acid involved in the synthesis and release of testosterone, which research shows can be used as a testosterone booster for infertile men. One 90-day study gave D-Aspartic acid to men with impaired sperm production, and found their sperm count rose from 8.2 million sperm per ml to 16.5 million sperm per ml, more than a 100 per cent increase.
However, if you have normal testosterone levels and are looking for a boost, for strength gaining purposes, then D-Aspartic acid use may prove less fruitful. A study published in Nutrition Research showed that when the booster was given to men who resistance trained four times a week, their body composition and muscle strength was no different to men who took part in resistance training without the aid of D-Aspartic acid.
While most people are aware that a lack of vitamin D can cause bones to become soft and weak, it has also been linked to low levels of testosterone.
A study titled Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Testosterone Levels in Men found that when healthy overweight men were given vitamin D supplements daily for one year, their testosterone levels increased, while a placebo groups levels stagnated. So if you can’t get your vit D from exposure to the sun, consider the benefits of supplements.
We’ve already mentioned the benefit TT can have on alleviating muscle damage and promoting anaerobic performance, but it can also have an impact on sexual function.
Although, most studies on TT have been conducted on animals, the results appear promising. One study that looked at sexually sluggish male albino rats found that having been given extracts of TT, the rats “mount frequency, intromission frequency, and penile erection index” all increased, while “mount latency, intromission latency, and ejaculatory latency” all decreased. Who said romance was dead?
Similar to vitamin D, magnesium deficiencies have been closely associated with low testosterone levels.
In a study of taekwondo athletes and sedentary men, researchers found that supplementation with magnesium can increase testosterone levels in both groups. However, the increases were higher in the athletes, which suggests that magnesium may be a supplement that can boost testosterone in men with normal levels.
Again, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that we’ve already mentioned DHEA, but for anyone who has been messing around at the back, we’ll tell you again that DHEA is a precursor steroid hormone that is only available on prescription in the UK.
Studies suggest that DHEA is quite an effective testosterone booster. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that DHEA supplementation can elevate testosterone levels in middle-aged men and prevent it from declining during HIIT workouts.