In this piece from our Guide To Gains series we explore a very important question: Do Testosterone Boosters Work? We’ve done the research and we’ve got the results to share.
The hard truth about testosterone supplements and which ingredients work best to boost your ‘T’
Research shows that increasing your testosterone can have numerous benefits on your body and mind. So naturally, the next question guys want to know is: “Do testosterone boosters work?”
Short answer: it depends.
There’s a mountain of research showing that men can boost their “T” by supplementing their diet with known testosterone-boosting nutrients. That’s a fact, plain and simple.
Where things get slippery is when you start using the blanket term “testosterone boosters” or “testosterone supplements.” That’s because there are so many different kinds of supplements on the market these days, and each one is different.
So, do certain kinds of T-boosters really work? And if so, which ones?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What Are Testosterone Boosters?
This question is also tricky to answer, because not all testosterone boosters are made equal.
If you’ve already been shopping around, then you know there are tons of so-called “T-boosters” out there, each claiming to benefit men in different ways.
Various supplements can be marketed as:
- Muscle gain supplements: These claim to help you build bigger muscles, so you can lift more at the gym.
- Aphrodisiacs: “Boost your sex drive!” That’s the common claim on these supplements, which promise better performance with your partner, instantly.
- Fertility-enhancement: Take a pill a day, and multiply your sperm. That’s the idea, anyway. Fertility-boosting supplements are marketed as aides to increase male fertility.
- Mental clarity & IQ: Yep, you’ll see some supplements that are specifically aimed at guys who want to boost their intelligence – but again, it’s all about the marketing claim.
- Testosterone replacement therapy: These are doctor-prescribed medications (oral or injected), typically only given to men with abnormally low testosterone.
- Testosterone-boosting supplements: These are supplements that typically contain a variety of known T-boosting ingredients. As you continue reading below, we’ll mostly be talking about this kind of supplement.
But here’s the problem…
Not all of these products are truly focused on increasing your testosterone.
So if you’re asking “Do testosterone supplements really work?” it really depends on how the boosters are made – or, more accurately: what’s in them.
Benefits Of Having Higher ‘T’
Before we dive into some of the ingredients that have been medically proven as true testosterone boosters, let’s look at why men might want to increase their “T” in the first place.
To help you separate myth from reality, we’ve put together some of the most common questions in a brief “Testosterone FAQ” …
- Can testosterone increase sex drive?
Testosterone is known as the “male sex hormone” because it directly influences a man’s libido, i.e. his sexual appetite. Numerous studies have shown a clear relationship between sex drive and testosterone levels. Men (and women) with lower “T” levels typically show less desire for sexual activity.
- Does testosterone build muscles and strength?
Testosterone plays an important role in building muscle mass. More specifically, the hormone increases protein synthesis, which in turn boosts muscle mass. Thus, higher levels of testosterone can naturally lead to greater muscle growth.
- Can testosterone make me leaner?
Yes, possibly. We know that testosterone helps with fat distribution. When the hormone levels are low, your body does not distribute fat as optimally as it should. This can lead to excess fat on various parts of your body. Conversely, higher levels of testosterone can result in a leaner, more sculpted figure, particularly if you are active.
- Does testosterone increase my sperm?
In men, testosterone is produced primarily in the testes, where sperm are also produced. Lower levels of “T” will naturally hurt sperm production, whereas higher levels will improve male fertility.
- Can testosterone make me smarter?
Yes – well, sort of. Research shows that having higher levels of testosterone can improve your concentration, problem-solving ability and your mood. Can it actually boost your IQ? Not necessarily. But what we do know is that low “T” levels can definitely hurt your cognitive health.
Clearly, the benefits of higher testosterone are well known. But that doesn’t specifically answer the question of whether testosterone boosters work.
Do they really boost your “T”? Here’s what the data says …
Which Testosterone Supplements Really Work?
Remember: all testosterone booster products are different. And naturally, there’s little research on specific brands of boosters, because the products are constantly being fine-tuned: new ingredients are being added (and removed) as more data becomes available on the most effective ingredients.
So if you want to know specifically, “Do testosterone boosters work?” then you need to focus on what exactly those supplements contain.
Ingredients Proven To Boost Testosterone
Here are some of the most well-known testosterone-boosting nutrients, foods and ingredients that you’ll typically find in the most effective supplements.
- Zinc: Studies show that zinc can be a very effective testosterone supplement, especially in men with low testosterone levels. One study of 40 men, ages 20 to 80, showed that zinc supplements resulted in a clear increase in testosterone. Experts caution, however, that zinc likely doesn’t increase your “T” far beyond normal levels. But rather, if your “T” is below normal, it can help to ramp up production.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that’s vital to the health of the human body, helping to maintain optimal blood pressure, bone density and heart health. Additionally, research shows it can be very effective as a testosterone booster. A 2011 study showed that men taking magnesium supplements (10 mg per kilogram body weight, for 4 weeks) showed an increase in their “T” levels. The increase was even higher in men who were physically active.
- Boron: Boron is already known for its own bone-strengthening benefits. And research shows that taking supplements of the mineral can bolster your testosterone levels, too. In fact, one study showed that “T” levels increased up to 28 percent in men who took 11mg of boron every day for seven days.
- Vitamin D / D3: Your body gets vitamin D naturally from the sun, as well as from food sources like eggs, fish and cheese. In supplement form, it’s delivered as vitamin D3. Research shows that the vitamin plays a vital role in testosterone production. Men with higher levels of vitamin D in their body were found to have higher testosterone levels, by as much as 90 percent.
- Vitamin B: Vitamin B groups, particularly B3, B6 and B12, are often found in multi-vitamin products because of their wide range of health benefits for your body and cognitive function. But research shows that vitamin B supplements can also help to increase testosterone. One study found that a deficiency in vitamin B6 was directly linked to low “T” levels.
- Vitamin K2: Vitamin K2 (aka menaquinone) is found in certain animal foods and fermented foods (unlike its cousin K1, which is found in plant sources). A prominent 2011 study found that vitamin K2 supplementation resulted in “significantly increased” testosterone levels. It’s worth noting that this study was done on rats, but that is typical of most medical research aimed at predicting the potential effects of various nutrients on humans.
- Ashwagandha: Ashwagandha is an herb found in parts of India and China. Also known as “Indian ginseng” and “poison gooseberry,” the root of this unique plant has long been believed to have medicinal and healing properties. In some cultures, it has been used to treat infertility in men. Researchers say the “healing” benefits of Ashwagandha are still up for debate, but there have indeed been studies showing that Ashwagandha is an effective testosterone boosting herbal supplement.
- Forskolin: Forskolin is produced by the Indian Coleus plant, which is part of the mint family. It too has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, and it is commonly found in supplements marketed for weight loss. But in recent years, it has been increasingly added to testosterone supplements. A 2005 study found that men who ingested 250 mg of 10 percent forskolin extract, two times a day for 12 weeks, had “significantly increased” levels of testosterone.
- Tongkat ali: Primarily native to Indonesia and Malaysia, tongkat ali is a flowering plant that is often used for medicinal purposes throughout Southeast Asia. Formerly known as “Eurycoma longifolia,” Tongkat Ali has been shown in medical studies to “stimulate release of free testosterone, improve sex drive, reduce fatigue, and improve well-being.”
- Luteolin: Luteolin is naturally found in certain vegetables and herbs, including broccoli, carrots, celery, parsley, peppermint and rosemary. It’s often added to dietary supplements for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. But an increasing body of research shows it may play a role in testosterone production too. That’s because luteolin is an aromatase inhibitor that can help lower estrogen in men, leading to greater levels of “T.”
- Shilajit: A common ingredient in Indian Ayurveda medicine, shilajit is tar-like substance extracted from the rocks of Southeast Asian mountain ranges. Recent data shows that shilajit may be a testosterone booster that works very effectively. A 2016 study found that men taking a twice-daily supplement of shilajit (250 mg) had “significantly increased” total testosterone and free testosterone levels.
- Mucuna Pruriens: Mucuna pruriens, also commonly called “the velvet bean” is a legume found primarily in Africa and tropical parts of Asia. A 2012 medical article states that mucuna pruriens “is an established herbal drug used for the management of male infertility, nervous disorders, and also as an aphrodisiac. It has been shown that its seeds potentially have ‘substantial medicinal importance.’” So, what about testosterone? Research shows that mucuna pruriens may indeed increase “T” levels, as well as sperm health, by significantly reducing the stress hormone known as cortisol.
- DIM (3,3′-Diindolylmethane): DIM is a compound found in Brassica vegetables, like kale, broccoli, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. Because of its known health benefits in veggies, DIM has become popular in supplement form in recent years and has found its way into testosterone boosters. Researchers say there’s not yet enough data on DIM as a supplement to determine exactly how it helps to regulate testosterone levels in men. However, studies show that plant-derived DIM can be very effective in fending off prostate cancer.
- Black pepper extract (Piper Nigrum L): Clinical studies have proven black pepper as an “important healthy food owing to its antioxidant, antimicrobial potential and gastro-protective modules.” The caveat is that studies have been done mostly on animals, not human subjects. Research shows that black pepper increases sex drive in mice, improves fertility and increases testosterone levels.
Additional Testosterone Boosters That Work – With Some Caveats
The reason why some testosterone boosters work better than others is that they contain ingredients that are more effective than others. But here’s the thing – researchers and manufacturers are constantly making new discoveries, so these boosters are constantly evolving.
Here are some additional ingredients that show promise for boosting testosterone but may need more research to determine their true effectiveness.
- Wild nettle root: The root of the stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioica) has a long history of being used for medicinal benefits in cultures around the world. We know from animal research that lignans from nettle roots help block SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin), which is good news for your “T. Researchers say more studies need to be done on humans to determine the benefits in men.
- Grape seed extract: A growing body of research shows that the antioxidants in grape seed extract can support better blood circulation, lower cholesterol and reduce swelling from injuries. A 2016 study showed that grape seed extract can also boost testosterone levels – however, it’s worth noting that the study was done on women.
- Panax ginseng: There’s a lot of debate about the exact health benefits of ginseng, and some people get very fired up about it. But there is some promising research (albeit on rats) that shows taking certain amounts of ginseng supplements can indeed result in higher “T” levels.
- Spilanthes acmella: Spilanthes is sometimes referred to as the “toothache plant,” because of its reported numbing effects. Medical research has revealed the “high therapeutic potential of Spilanthes acmella,” including documented cases of higher testosterone production, but researchers caution that more studies are needed.
- Anacyclus pyrethrum: This herb is often compared to chamomile because of its similar appearance and habitat. And it comes with good news for your “T” … a study found that the root extracts from anacyclus pyrethrum resulted in a “significant increase” in testosterone levels. But again, this research was on male rats.
- Curcumin: Found in turmeric, curcumin is believed to help reduce swelling and alleviate pain from conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As for your “T,” early research hints that curcumin may play a regulatory role – not necessarily boosting testosterone directly but creating better conditions that allow you to maintain optimal levels of the hormone.
- Selenium: A 2011 study found that selenium supplements boosted testosterone levels in men, particularly after “an exhaustive exercise bout.” This reinforces other research showing that most testosterone boosters work best when paired with a rigorous exercise routine.
- Bromelain: Derived from pineapple stems, this enzyme extract has long been used in alternative medicine and research shows it may be very beneficial to your testosterone levels. In 2016, one study found that large doses of bromelain supplements (1000 mg per day) helped competitive cyclists maintain their testosterone levels over the course of six days.
- DAA (d-aspartic acid): The relationship between DAA and testosterone is widely debated among the medical community, and here’s why: there’s conflicting research. A 2017 analysis points out: “Research on d-aspartic acid (DAA) has demonstrated increases in total testosterone levels in untrained men, however research in resistance-trained men demonstrated no changes.” So the jury is out on DAA for now.
- Tribulus terrestris: Sometimes referred to as “goat’s head” and “bindii,” this invasive plant is often touted as a male testosterone booster when taken as a supplement. Early research has indeed shown a correlation between tribulus terrestris and testosterone levels in men, but not necessarily causation. Researchers caution there’s not yet enough data to make a solid conclusion about the link.
- Fenugreek: Found in the spice blend garam masala, fenugreek is incorporated into numerous dietary supplements. Some early research has shown it can help lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, although the National Institute of Health says that more evidence is needed. One study found that fenugreek boosted testosterone levels in active men, although the increase was not statistically significant.
- Maca: Native to South America and the Peruvian mountains, Maca (Lepidium meyenii, aka Peruvian ginseng) boosted sexual desire in men in a prominent 2002 study, though it does not cause a significant change in testosterone levels.
Wondering how you can make testosterone boosters work harder for you? There’s one important commonality between several of the studies we’ve highlighted above …
Testosterone Boosters Work Even Better When You’re Physically Active
Exercise alone is one of the best things you can do to ramp up your testosterone. There’s virtually no debate about that – it’s proven by tons of scientific research. Being active boosts your “T.” Period.
But also, as we’ve established above, several natural testosterone boosters, like magnesium and fenugreek, can increase your “T” even higher when you’re taking those supplements as part of an overall exercise and wellness routine. They may boost your testosterone even if you’re not working out. But if you are, your “T” levels may go even higher.
What kind of exercise? For maximum results, try weight-lifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The data shows those are the most effective at boosting your hormone production.
Final advice: keep a level head when it comes to testosterone boosters
Waiting for the TL;DR answer to your question “Do testosterone boosters really work?”
According to the research, yes they do.
But it’s important to do your homework and set the right expectations.
Even the best testosterone supplements aren’t going to suddenly give you the muscles of a professional body-builder or turn you into some kind of sex machine. Your supplements may indeed be increasing your testosterone levels, perhaps even significantly. It’s important to get a baseline for your body’t natural testosterone production and compare against what’s considered normal testosterone levels. Keep in mind, you might not really know how big your results actually are without testing your blood or saliva.
Always look into what’s in a supplement before you buy, and be realistic about the improvements to your body as you continue your T-boosting journey.