Supplements

Do Testosterone Supplements Work? We Investigate

Testosterone – the powerful androgen hormone men can’t live without. You’ve probably thought about how you can create an environment for it to thrive too?

If so, there’s a chance you’ve considered testosterone supplements.

The question is – do they actually work?

In this article, we examine all the current evidence on what will and won’t fuel the masculine sex hormones.

First though, we need to understand exactly what testosterone is, and the important role it plays in our bodies.

What is testosterone?

Testosterone is a primary male sex hormone found in both men and women. Yet, men create it in much greater amounts, with most being produced in the Leydig cells inside their testes.

This article will only talk about testosterone and its relationship to men.

Most people associate testosterone with their sex drive, but it’s a fundamental part of all male sexual characteristics.

As a hormone, testosterone is a chemical designed to direct messages and cause changes inside the body.  

Things testosterone influences include:

  • Bone mass
  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle size
  • Sex drive
  • Sperm production
  • Fat distribution
  • Red blood cell production
  • Mood

How much testosterone you produce rapidly starts to increase when you reach puberty. It then continues to thrive, triggering changes right through your teens.

As you may have felt, testosterone levels seem to hit a peak around age 18-19, before levelling out until 30.

Normal testosterone levels for a man are at least 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL). According to the American Urological Association, anything under that is considered low[1].

Level can also fluctuate greatly given the wide scope of age, activity, and lifestyle between men.

Experts believe that once you reach around age 30, your testosterone starts its natural decline. How much it does and how soon things happen vary from man to man. However, you might eventually start to feel it in yourself when it does.

Low testosterone in men – what causes it?

Low testosterone is a condition that can affect any man. While it’s usually seen in older men or those with clinical conditions, even men in their 20s can experience the symptoms. Lifestyle, diet, and exercise can all play a part in how well your testes produce the male hormone.

Symptoms of low testosterone include sexual dysfunctions such as:

  • Low libido
  • Impotence
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Less unannounced erections

Understandably, these symptoms can not only affect a man’s physical wellbeing, but his self-esteem too. Low testosterone can be very difficult for men to deal with or talk about.

There are also physical issues caused by underperforming production. These include reversals of the previously mentioned testosterone-promoting traits.

Non-sexual symptoms of low testosterone include:

  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Increased fat gain
  • Lower bone density
  • Lack of concentration
  • Decreased motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Gynecomastia (development of breasts)
  • Poor sleep

Low testosterone causes

Low testosterone caused by age is known as age-related testosterone decline. Other causes can include medical conditions you’re born with or issues developed during some point in your life.

Damage to the testes or pituitary gland can impact testosterone production, for example.

Lifestyle is another contributing factor to testosterone production that many men forget about. Stress, no matter how it’s caused, can raise cortisol levels which is a hormone that blocks testosterone.

A poor diet and drinking heavily can restrict the body’s ability to create it too. After all, we are what we eat, and a well-balanced nutrient-rich diet is designed to support our hormones.

Testosterone production relies on many vitamins, minerals, and compounds to thrive. Without them, your rate of production will suffer.

Another prevalent cause of low testosterone can even be a lack of sun exposure. Scientists across the planet have all seen how low levels of vitamin D are often associated with under-performing testosterone[2].

Much of this can be factored to our modern lives spent indoors at work, driving, and at home. Not to mention how many men live further from the equator than they realize.

Some states in the US might only get enough sunlight to support vitamin D levels for half the year.

What are testosterone supplements?

Do Testosterone Supplements Work? We Investigate 1

Testosterone supplements are natural aids designed to deliver testosterone-promoting nutrients. Put plainly, they give your body vitamins and minerals to help it make testosterone.

They’re not to be confused with harmful, synthetic steroids. Nor are they a type of testosterone therapy prescribed by a doctor.

Instead, a testosterone supplement is a formula of ingredients made to support your hormone system. Depending on their objective they might have more than a handful of ingredients, or just one or two.

A high-quality testosterone supplement will also be legal.

What a testosterone supplement offers is a less intense route than taking TRT. It should also be safer than considering illegal testosterone.

Dietary supplements are designed to help rebuild your body’s natural hormone production – not replace it.

Testosterone supplements are not designed to treat or cure medical illnesses. Therefore, they shouldn’t be used to as medicine unless prescribed by a doctor.

Do you need a testosterone supplement?

Nobody needs a testosterone supplement – they’re not medication. However, you might get some benefit from adding one to your diet.

They are particularly useful if you want to bolster your nutrition. For example, if you know you can’t get enough vitamin D from the sun, a testosterone supplement can be a smart move. Similarly, it could boost other areas of your diet like zinc or magnesium.

Your needs for a testosterone supplement are all about your goals. After all, they are dietary aids designed to deliver nutrients, not cure an illness.

Benefits of testosterone supplements

Taking a testosterone supplement can have many benefits. Here are some of the most standout pros.

Essential nutrients

Testosterone production is like any other biological action in your body. It requires certain compounds, vitamins, and minerals to function at its best. A testosterone supplement can supply these nutrients in potent amounts.

Convenience

One of the main benefits of testosterone supplements isn’t just that they supply these nutrients, but that they can do it in one package. For example, a nine-ingredient testosterone supplement gives you just under ten nutrients in one capsule.

That means that rather than take separate supplements, or find nine ingredients, one will suffice. A testosterone supplement can be a convenient all-in-one alternative.

Safety

High-quality testosterone supplements offer a safer alternative than synthetic hormones. Not only are they legal, but the ingredients inside shouldn’t pose the same risks as abusing steroids. This can be fact checked by comparing an ingredient label with evidence online, or by speaking to a doctor.

Many of the market-leading products are also produced in FDA facilities to current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). These should have minimized chances of cross-contamination which could make them safer.

Testosterone supplement side-effects

Most men are able to reap the reward of taking testosterone supplements without side effects. High-quality testosterone supplements should be tested and well-dosed to stop adverse effects.

However, like with any supplement, there is always a risk – no matter how small. Some men have reported side-effects such as headaches, nausea, and irritability from taking them.

If you experience side effects when taking a supplement, stop using it immediately. Speak to a trained medical professional if they persist.

Natural Testosterone Boosting Ingredients

Fenugreek seeds - natural testosterone boosting ingredients

The quality of a testosterone supplement relies entirely on its ingredients. After all, it’s these vitamins and minerals that will be absorbed by your body and which could make all the difference to your health.

The best testosterone-boosting ingredients are always natural. Your body simply prefers to take in these kinds of nutrients over chemically-created synthetics. As a result, you’re able to absorb and process natural nutrients much better.

Here are some of the most common natural testosterone-boosting ingredients:

D-Aspartic Acid

This naturally-occurring amino acid is shown to boost low testosterone levels. It’s said to do this by hiking up two key androgen-promoting hormones.

One of these is the luteinizing hormone, which tells Leydig cells inside the testes to produce more testosterone.

Early research showed that as little as 12 days of D-AA supplementation can boost both luteinizing hormone and testosterone production. According to the team behind it, D-AA also improved how well the hormone was transported around the body[3].

Other studies also show that D-aspartic acid might improve sperm count and quality[4]. However, current research suggests that D-AA is more effective for men already suffering with low testosterone.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D is created when your skin has direct contact with the sun. Once it’s generated, it acts as a steroid hormone inside the body.

Interestingly, vitamin D is also available from food as a fat-soluble vitamin. D3 is the most effective form and is derived from animal products, while D2 is taken from plant sources.

Scientists have established a relationship between low vitamin D levels and low testosterone. This is a huge concern for men, as experts estimate almost 50% of people are actually vitamin D deficient[5].

For example, when men with low testosterone managed to get more sun exposure, they saw their testosterone spike[6]. The same was seen in vitamin D-deficient men who took a supplement.

In one study, a group of men took 3,300 IU of vitamin D every day for a year. By the end of the study they almost doubled their D3 levels, and their testosterone increased by about 20% as well[7].

Zinc

Zinc is one of the most important minerals for your health. It’s involved in over one hundred biological functions, including testosterone production.

Experts say there’s a clear-cut connection between zinc and testosterone. According to their research, zinc can be used to create the luteinizing hormone, which is an integral precursor to testosterone[8]. Like we saw in the effects of D-AA, luteinizing hormone instructs the testes to produce more testosterone.

Developing a zinc deficiency can spell disaster for your testosterone. Studies show that restricting zinc from the diet of healthy men lowered their levels considerably[9]. Yet, when deficient men took a zinc containing supplement, they were able to restore their masculine-hormone production.

It’s predicted that around 17.3% of the world’s population is zinc deficient[10]. Supplementing could help men who suffer from this condition reignite their testosterone.

Tribulus Terrestris

This herb has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. But more evidence is mounting that it could actually raise testosterone levels and increase sex drive.

If you already have healthy testosterone, you might not get any benefit from taking Tribulus terrestris. On the other hand, though, this traditional herb might reap some reward for men with lower levels.

According to one study, men who took Tribulus terrestris for 90-days increased their testosterone levels by 16%[11]. What’s also important is that they reported increases in sexual health too.

Ashwagandha

Just like Tribulus terrestris, ashwagandha is also an herb rooted in traditional medicine. It’s been used for thousands of years for its therapeutic effects[12].

As an adaptogen, ashwagandha can help your body handle anxiety and stress[13]. Yet more recent research has proven its worth in increasing testosterone production too.

Increasing amounts of research are showing how ashwagandha can increase both testosterone and reproductive health[14][15][16].

A study from 2010 examined what would happen when 75 infertile men took the ancient herb. Interestingly, not only did it increase their sperm count, but it created a major shift in their testosterone production[17].

But the benefits of ashwagandha don’t just end there. Other research has also shown it can boost strength and improve body-fat-to-muscle ratios[18][19].

DHEA

DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, helps to boost testosterone by managing estrogen levels. It’s also one of the most well-researched testosterone-boosting ingredients available. Naturally, this makes DHEA one of the more popular compounds to use.

Studies suggests that as little as 50-100 mg per day can increase total levels by as much as 20%[20][21][22].  Because of this kind of potential, DHEA is banned in most competitive sports[23]. If you’re an athlete who wants to take DHEA, then check with your governing body first.

One thing to note is that the evidence isn’t fully conclusive. While many studies standby its effectiveness, others using similar protocols don’t. So, yes, DHEA is one of the most evidenced, but it’s also one of the most contested[24][25].

Ginger

There aren’t many human studies on the relationship between this popular spice and testosterone. However, one study looking at ginger’s impact on 75 infertile men saw their testosterone increase by 17% after three months[26].

It also appeared that ginger had doubled the test subjects’ levels of luteinizing hormone, and their sperm count had taken a 16% rise too. As a result, ginger could impact fertility as well as hormone levels.

FAQs

Do testosterone supplements help sexually?

Based on the studies cited in this article, a testosterone supplement could help sexually. However, they aren’t intended to treat medical illnesses and shouldn’t be used as such.

How long does it take testosterone boosters to work?

You may feel the effects of some testosterone-boosting ingredients after a few days. That being said though, most manufacturers recommend using testosterone supplements for a matter of weeks or months. This allows time for your body to adapt and build up its levels of the key nutrients.

Does testosterone help muscle growth?

healthy man doing pushups

Yes, testosterone does help muscle growth. It one of the primary drivers of muscle protein synthesis – the process of turning over proteins and building lean mass.

Do you need to cycle testosterone boosters? 

Some manufacturers suggest you cycle their testosterone boosters. Check the information supplied with your chosen product.

Do testosterone boosters make you lose weight?

Testosterone boosters are not specifically designed to help you lose weight. However, increasing testosterone might benefit weight loss by promoting lean mass and fat burning.

One symptom of low testosterone is fat gain, whereas healthy testosterone can promote a leaner body.

Do testosterone supplements work?

Given that all testosterone supplements are different, it’s impossible to say they work. That would imply that every single product out there has the ability to boost your hormones.

It’s much better suited to say they could work based on their ingredients. If their ingredients are backed by science and supplied in ample amounts, they could work. A high-quality testosterone booster should always have substantial evidence to back up its formula.

On the other hand, if a product is low-quality, it might have poor ingredient choices and doses. These types of testosterone supplements probably won’t work. That’s why it’s important to check the ingredient label and choose a reputable brand.

The final word

Testosterone is undeniably one of the most important hormones you have. It works hard to keep you lean, strong, and healthy in both body and mind.

So, it’s always in your best interest to protect it. Your lifestyle and nutrition should always take into consideration the powerful androgen hormone. After all, the symptoms of low testosterone can seriously impact your wellbeing.

Testosterone supplements offer an easy and convenient way to tailor your nutrition. They can supply you with all the essential nutrients your male hormone needs to thrive.

Quality and scientific evidence should determine how well a supplement works. When choosing the right product for your goals, look for a formula with substantial studies behind it. A well-researched product is always a better option – even if it costs more.

Men with lower testosterone and/or deficiencies seem to be the ones who benefit the most too. So, keep this in mind if your testosterone is already healthy and balanced.


References

[1] https://www.auanet.org/guidelines/testosterone-deficiency-guideline
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19860889
[4] http://file.scirp.org/pdf/ASM20120400001_62630923.pdf
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3356951/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20050857
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20446777
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8875519
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23209782
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23723641
[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19633611
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19789214
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796876
[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282
[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19501822
[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282
[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21170205
[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19883295
[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16487434
[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23417481
[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9820251
[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15636426
[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10613429
[26] http://www.iasj.net/iasj?func=fulltext&aId=71548

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