This is part of our Guide To Gains series on natural testosterone boosters where we show you how they can have a profound effect on your mind, mood and muscles. But since there’s so much misinformation about testosterone out there, it’s important to separate myth from fact.
What are natural testosterone boosters? We’ll make it easy for you. We’ve done all the research and have compiled all of the professional advice into this guide.
What Will Natural Testosterone Boosters Do For Me?
Numerous medical studies over the last two decades have proven that certain foods and habits can indeed increase testosterone levels in men—sometimes dramatically. The data doesn’t lie; but you do need to know where to find the most credible information.
In this post, we uncover the 22 best natural testosterone boosters, based on current scientific research. To make things even easier, we’ve broken it down by category (food, exercise and lifestyle), so you have a complete 360-degree approach for boosting your “T.”
How testosterone benefits your body
Why boost your “T” in the first place? There are several reasons.
As the primary sex hormone in men (also found in women, albeit in small amounts), testosterone plays an important role in your overall health. When your hormone levels dip, it can make you more irritable, drain your energy and make you physically weaker.
On the flip-side, when your testosterone increases, it can positively impact your health in numerous ways:
- Greater sex drive
- Stronger muscle growth
- Improved intellectual and memory capacity
- Stronger bones
- Better performance during physical activity
- Deeper, more restorative sleep
- Fewer mood swings
In short, higher testosterone levels can benefit you both physically and psychologically. And in turn, those benefits can boost your confidence and your drive even higher, in virtually any area of your life.
But don’t get ahead of yourself. If you’re serious about reaping the benefits of natural testosterone boosters, then you need to set the right expectations first.
Will I notice changes overnight?
Too many men search for quick ways to boost their testosterone, believing they’ll suddenly be able to lift more at the gym tomorrow or somehow woo the girl of their dreams tonight.
It doesn’t work like that.
Yes, certain activities can provide a dramatic and instant boost to your “T,” like lifting weights. (We’ll explain how, and by how much, below.) But to truly maximize your body’s testosterone production, you need to think long-term. You need a balanced, multifaceted and consistent plan for boosting your “T.” That’s when you’ll notice the greatest changes to your body and mind.
Wondering how to increase testosterone levels naturally? The 22 natural testosterone boosters we’ve listed here will help you do just that.
Foods, Diet & Nutrients That Act As Natural Testosterone Boosters
Several medical studies have demonstrated that zinc is one of the best natural testosterone boosters you can have.
Men with a healthy intake of zinc had significantly higher “T” levels than those who were zinc deficient. This is why many men who aim to increase testosterone often take a zinc supplement (or multi-nutrient boosters that include zinc). But whenever possible, try to also get your zinc from natural food sources, like oysters (more on those below).
Keep in mind that perspiration will cause your zinc levels to drop, so if you’re actively working out (and you should be), then a zinc supplement is probably a good idea.
Tuna gets a bad rap because of the potential mercury content. But it’s also a great source of vitamin D, and as long as you’re eating it in healthy amounts, as part of a rounded diet, then your body could benefit tremendously.
Vitamin D is vital for the production of testosterone in men, and tuna is naturally loaded with it. One can meets 50% or more of your daily vitamin D requirement.
Men with optimal levels of vitamin D had up to 2x the testosterone level as those who were deficient in the nutrient, according to one study of 2,300 men.
We’re talking about moderate amounts of natural, saturated fats – not the trans fats found in chips and fried foods.
Trans fat is considered to be “the worst type of fat you can eat.” But saturated fats, in moderate amounts, can play a big role in boosting your testosterone levels.
For decades, we were taught that saturated fats were unhealthy, but numerous studies in recent years have flipped this research on its head. Doctors and researchers now recommend saturated fats as part of a balanced diet (15 percent of your daily calories).
The key is eating natural whole foods, like eggs, coconut oil and even butter (instead of margarine).
As for your “T,” studies have revealed a strong correlation between healthy fat intake and testosterone levels in men.
Let’s keep the focus on eggs for a minute.
Eggs are a great example of a food that got a bad rap for decades but is now recommended by physicians as part of a healthy diet. Whole eggs in particular (not just the whites) have been shown to have powerful effects on muscle growth and repair, as well as testosterone levels.
Egg yolks are also a rich source of protein, vitamin D and natural saturated fat. And, as we’ve already established, all of these can help to increase your “T.”
The makers of the Atkins diet won’t like this one, but there’s a mountain of scientific evidence that shows a moderate amount of high-carbohydrate foods is healthy for you and can also increase your testosterone.
Researchers have found a strong correlation between carb intake and male “T” levels. Men who round out their diets with foods rich in carbohydrates were found to have higher amounts of the hormone.
As for where to get your carbs, that debate is still ongoing. In our research, we found that most food experts recommend sticking to sources like whole grain pasta, milk, fruits, white rice and potatoes.
Oysters are often referred to as natural aphrodisiacs, but that’s not exactly a proven science. What they really are is natural testosterone boosters.
Oysters are loaded with rare amino acids (D-aspartic acid and N-methyl-D-aspartate) which have been touted by some supplement companies as key to boosting testosterone production. While oysters themselves have been proven to trigger increased production of testosterone as they are rich with zinc, which we’ve already established is vital for maintaining optimal “T” levels. It’s the other ingredients we question as the rare amino acids including N-methyl-D-aspartate and D-aspartic acid may not be responsible for long term testosterone boosting capabilities. It’s always best to do your research.
Be realistic about the benefits, though.
Eating oysters won’t supercharge your sex drive immediately after eating them. But by incorporating moderate amounts into your diet, you’ll be getting more of the essential nutrients that are medically proven to support a boost in hormone levels.
Here are some additional myths about oysters you should probably know about, before starting eating them in bulk.
In moderate amounts, protein-rich foods can give your testosterone a healthy boost.
Emphasis on the word “moderate.” Too much protein can actually have the opposite effect, causing your “T” to drop.
One often-cited study by Dr. Malcolm Carruthers of the Center for Men’s Health in London, found a strong correlation between low testosterone and protein deficiency. Men who followed a strict vegetarian diet had up to 14 percent lower “T” levels than the meat-eaters.
There’s plenty of online debate about protein as a natural testosterone booster, so don’t go devouring a bunch of steaks just yet. For now, the data points to a peak benefit when your protein comes from animal sources and is incorporated into a balanced diet.
As for which animal sources? Researchers at Harvard suggest moderate amounts of fish like salmon, haddock or tuna; poultry such as chicken or turkey; and dairy items like Greek yogurt, milk and cottage cheese. Eggs and mixed nuts are also recommended, not just for protein but for a wide range of health benefits.
It might not help your breath, but chewing a few cloves of raw garlic might just do wonders for your testosterone.
A caveat: while the data is convincing, and the study is cited widely on the Internet, it’s important to note that this research was conducted on lab rats, not humans. Rats that ingested garlic cloves showed a wide range of “proliferative and restorative” benefits, including a sizable increase in testosterone levels.
An earlier study, in which rats were fed garlic powder, had similar findings. After about a month of feedings, the rats who ingested the garlic had significantly higher levels of testosterone.
Researchers say it’s all about the allicin. Allicin is the biologically active component of garlic that is created when you bite into garlic. (When you mince a clove of garlic, the unmistakably pungent garlic scent is from the creation of allicin. Allicin reduces cortisol—the stress hormone that causes your testosterone to drop, as we discuss further below.
Thus, by eating garlic, your body is able to produce more “T,” more effectively.
Eat a pomegranate for breakfast a few days a week, and you could see a sizable jump in your testosterone levels.
That’s what researchers at Queen Margaret University in Scotland concluded after a 2012 study in which 58 men and women drank a glass of pomegranate juice every day for two weeks. At the end of the study, the subjects showed a wide range of positive health outcomes. Testosterone levels jumped between 16 to 30 percent. Blood pressure dropped. The subjects even reported more positive emotions, while negative feelings diminished.
Why is pomegranate such a big deal?
The exact correlations are still being studied. But here’s what we do know: pomegranates are rich with antioxidants and nutrients, including vitamins A, C and E, iron, fiber, polyphenolics, tannins and anthocyanins. Each of these contributes to our health in unique ways, including our hormone levels.
Low-sugar meals and snacks
Sugar is a known T-killer.
A 2013 study by Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that ingesting glucose (a sugar widely used in the food industry) caused an “abrupt” and “significant reduction” of testosterone levels in men.
But wait – don’t we get glucose from carbs, which we already established as good for your “T”?
Yep. That’s why it’s so important to focus on how you’re fueling your body and where you’re getting these sugars and carbs from.
You can significantly reduce your sugar intake by paying closer attention to the foods you buy, especially if you’re getting your meals from boxes and frozen packages. Manufactured foods are loaded with extra sugar your body doesn’t need or want. Even a box of pasta, or a can of crushed tomatoes, can have added sugar.
This is why it’s important to look for items labeled “no sugar added.” Even better: make your own meals with fresh, natural, unprocessed ingredients, which will give your body the fuel it needs and help you maintain the right levels of testosterone.
A 2015 medical article by Dr. Lara Pizzorno highlighted the wide-ranging health benefits of the mineral boron. Ample research has shown that boron “beneficially impacts the body’s use of testosterone” and plays a role in strengthening bones and promoting faster healing of bodily injuries.
A 2011 study, for example, showed that men who ingested a boron supplement (11.6 mg of boron) daily for seven days increased their testosterone levels by as much as 28 percent.
If you’re looking for food sources that naturally contain boron, try avocados (which are also great sources of healthy fat), raisins, prunes, dried apricots or Brazil nuts.
Here’s another testosterone booster that proved to be very effective in the form of a supplement.
The effects of a magnesium supplement were studied in two groups: sedentary men and active men who were Taekwondo athletes. Both groups showed an increase in testosterone levels.
This signifies that supplementing your diet with magnesium can boost your “T” even if you aren’t physically active. But there’s an important takeaway: the research found that the hormone increases were more dramatic in the active men. This underscores the importance of incorporating exercise into your T-boosting efforts, which brings us to our next section below.
These nutrients and food sources
There’s tons of research being done on the potential benefits of numerous other nutrients, minerals and foods that boost testosterone. We’ve highlighted the big ones above, but early data is looking good for several others, including:
- Grape seed extract
- Spilanthes acmella
- Panax ginseng
- Anacyclus pyrethrum
- Wild nettle root
More studies still need to be done, but as the T-boosting properties of these sources are becoming clearer, it’s no surprise that many are being added to popular testosterone-boosting supplements for men.
Is Exercise The Best Natural Testosterone Booster?
Does pumping iron really pump up your testosterone?
It absolutely does – as long as you’re doing it right.
The key to increasing your “T” with weight-lifting is creating maximum resistance against your muscles. In medical studies, this type of resistance training has shown to be the most effective at boosting men’s testosterone levels. Lower-body workouts were especially beneficial: squats, leg presses, knee extensions and so on. But upper body workouts, like bench presses, are just as important.
How do you maximize resistance?
For starters, use free weights, instead of the machines. A 2014 study concluded that “free weight exercises seem to induce greater hormonal responses to resistance exercise than machine weight exercises using similar lower-body multijoint movements.” The main problem with machines is that they don’t work as many muscles simultaneously as free weights do.
Secondly, you should be lifting as much as you can in each set. For example, if you’re doing 8 reps of squats, your muscles should experience failure the eighth rep. Increase your weights so that you’re doing shorter, more intense sets, instead of easier sets with lots of reps.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
High-intensity interval training is basically a combination of cardio workouts jam-packed into short, intense sessions. Think of it like an intense aerobic workout that works your muscles with the same intensity as weight lifting.
A 2012 study compared the natural testosterone-boosting effect of high-intensity interval training vs. “steady-state endurance exercise.” Specifically, the HIIT workout was an intense treadmill workout with “repeated periods of 90-sec treadmill running at 100-110% maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) and 90-sec active recovery at 40% VO2max for 42-47 min.” The steady-state workout was a “continuous 45-min run at 60-65% VO2max.”
Both workouts showed an increase in testosterone, but the results from the HIIT workout were 5x as high.
Again, it’s all about the resistance. You should be putting as much intensity on your muscles as possible, only for 20 to 90 seconds. Rest for about twice as long, then repeat.
Effective HIIT exercises include squats, pushups, superman lifts, kettlebell swings and tuck jumps, just to name a few.
Intense sprints will do more for your testosterone than long, leisurely jogs.
It’s the same principle as HIIT: when you do short bursts of intense physical activity, followed by a short rest period, your brain gets the signal that more testosterone is needed, STAT.
A 2009 study found that sprinting led to significant increases in testosterone in participants. Specifically, the workout consisted of four 250-meter runs on a treadmill, at 80% of the participant’s maximum speed, separated by 3 minutes of rest in between each. Blood samples taken immediately after each run showed a substantial boost in “T,” as well as other hormones.
If you’re a marathon runner, the news isn’t so good. Despite having other health benefits, longer-distance runs can actually decrease your testosterone levels.
The rule of thumb is: if you want to ramp up your “T,” then you should be focusing on high-intensity activities in short intervals, rather than endurance.
Lifestyle & Habits As All Natural Testosterone Boosters
More sex means more testosterone – and vice versa.
You already know that testosterone can boost your libido. That’s good news for you and your partner. But as it turns out, there’s a reciprocal effect on your testosterone too. The actual act of sex – actually, even the ejaculation itself – can provide a healthy boost to your “T.”
Here’s what the science tells us.
In a 2003 study, researchers studied the testosterone levels of 28 men in the days following ejaculation. When ejaculation was followed by a few days of abstinence, the men saw a huge increase in their “T.” Specifically, their hormone level peaked on the 7th day, when it hit a whopping 145.7% of the baseline.
In a separate study of 1,700 men, researchers concluded that a deficiency in sexual activities was causing lower testosterone levels, not the other way around. In other words, men who were more sexually active had higher testosterone levels as a result.
No partner? No problem. Both studies looked at masturbation and found the same effect on hormone levels. So intercourse with a partner is not a requirement.
In our recommended workouts above, we pointed out how rest in between workouts is so important for testosterone production. You muscles (and brain) need that downtime to re-acclimate themselves.
Sleep works in the same way. And its influence on your hormone levels is possibly even more powerful.
Research shows that men’s testosterone levels increase with the amount of deep, restful sleep they get at night.
In a 2012 study, researchers closely monitored the sleep habits of male participants using lab polysomnography and wrist activity monitoring. The results showed a direct correlation between the participants’ quality of sleep and testosterone levels. Those who slept better had more “T” in the morning.
A separate 2012 study found that sleep-deprived athletes (those getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night) had significantly lower testosterone levels than those who were getting 8 or more hours of sleep per night.
So, what’s the deal with sleep?
Most of your testosterone production happens while you sleep. So if you’re not getting a full 8 hours, then you’re cutting short the amount of time your body has to produce the hormone.
Aim for at least 7 hours every night and stick to a consistent schedule, which will help you fall asleep faster and wake up feeling less tired in the morning.
Yep, we’re talking about one of the best all natural testosterone boosters around again, vitamin D!
Ample research shows that vitamin D is a natural testosterone booster. And one of the simplest ways to get more vitamin D is to spend more time in the sun. Your body gets most of this essential nutrient when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
A 2010 study in Clinical Endocrinology looked at testosterone levels in 2,299 men and found those who were getting more vitamin D had more testosterone. The study took into account the changing seasons and found that vitamin D levels peaked in summer and dropped in the winter. This signified that the main contributing factor to vitamin D and testosterone levels was access to sunlight.
Another bonus: if you’re spending more time outside, you’re probably being more physically active than if you were sitting on the couch. That physical activity itself can provide an additional boost to your “T,” which brings us to our next point …
Let’s pretend you hate weight lifting. Perhaps you’re unable to do HIIT workouts. Or maybe your knees can’t withstand intense sprinting.
We understand – high-intensity resistance exercise is not for everyone. But if you can’t do the kinds of workouts we’ve highlighted above, at the very least you should try to be physically active however you can.
Even the smallest bit of consistent exercise can make a difference in your testosterone level. That’s especially true if you’re incorporating the other healthy eating and lifestyle habits we’ve mentioned.
In 2012, researchers studied testosterone levels in men who were physically active vs. those who were sedentary. Not surprisingly, the couch-sitters had significantly lower “T” than the active men. What’s more, the active men had healthier semen production too.
A separate study highlighted by Mayo Clinic found that “even a modest boost in physical activity increased testosterone levels.” That was true even for men who had just recently begun to exercise after previously being sedentary.
Key takeaway: a little bit of activity is always better than nothing when it comes to your “T.”
A prominent 2005 study found that increased levels of cortisol have a significant negative effect on testosterone. So it’s in your best interest to reduce your stress as much as possible to get that safe natural testosterone booster effect.
In an older, but well-documented study, researchers studied the effects of specific psychological stresses, including anxiety, hostility and depression among men ages 30 to 55. These men, classified as having “high psychological stress” had substantially lower “T” levels than subjects who were classified as having “low stress.”
Furthermore, a 2012 study analyzed the stress caused by pain: specifically, from electrical stimulation. Sure enough, the findings drew similar parallels with the other studies. The stress increased participants’ cortisol levels and lowered their testosterone significantly.
Men looking to boost their testosterone should attempt to identify the sources of stress in their lives, whether at work or at home. Making small lifestyle changes can go a long way to reducing your stress levels.
Wait, after recommending all the healthy eating options above, now we’re going to tell you to stop eating altogether?
No, not exactly. But shifting your meal schedule a little bit could help to increase your testosterone.
Swedish researchers found a significant increase in testosterone among men who practiced short-term fasting. This particular study focused on two groups: obese and non-obese men. Both groups saw an increase in their “T.”
Short-term fasting involves skipping certain meals to allow more time for your organs to rest. For example, you could “fast” for breakfast and then eat three smaller meals later in the day: noon, mid-day and dinner.
There is not a lot of data that explains how or why fasting has an effect on your testosterone. But there’s likely a strong benefit to giving your body more time to “rest” and process nutrients from the previous day’s meals. By now, you’ve probably noticed a similar theme of rest in the T-boosting benefits of other activities, like exercise, sleep and sex.
Getting Started With Natural Testosterone Boosters
Don’t get overwhelmed by all the tips above. If you need to make a lot of changes to your diet and exercise, then the easiest way to get started is to start small.
Are you sedentary? Go for a run—or even just a walk, and then increase your speed and intensity over time.
If you haven’t been eating healthily, start by cutting out your guilty pleasures and then incorporate a few of the foods recommended above.
Adding these all natural testosterone boosters to your routine can lead to a big boost in “T,” and over time you’ll be able to ramp up your efforts for a full 360-degree testosterone-boosting routine.