It’s a simple yet fair assumption, that most men are mildly obsessed with testosterone boosters. Testosterone is a vital hormone that plays an imperative role in the proper function and regulation of hormones, muscular development, and sex drive. It also impacts everything from mood, memory, building muscle, and improving recovery. But when it comes to testosterone boosting supplements, the question is, do they really work?
As the idiom goes, not all supplements are created equal and when it comes to testosterone boosters, the phrase still applies. It’s true that testosterone boosters can increase natural testosterone production, improve body composition, and enhance overall vitality. However, having the right ingredients at the correct doses, is what makes all the difference.
We’re going to discuss some of the best testosterone boosting ingredients you need, to increase your natural levels of testosterone so you can improve performance, in more ways than one.
What Is Testosterone
Testosterone is a primary androgenic and anabolic steroid naturally produced by your body. Testosterone plays a critical role in the development of muscle mass and contributes to the activation of the nervous system, resulting in more power and strength, better mood, and improved libido.1
Symptoms Of Low Testosterone
Testosterone deficiency affects 10-40% of the world population and is known to increase with age, exponentially rising after age 30. Increasing testosterone levels has been shown to improve strength, reduce body fat, and increase muscle mass. No wonder we’re obsessed. The more testosterone, the more pronounced these effects become.
Low testosterone levels can have a dramatic impact on sex drive, physical appearance, and body composition. Some of the most common symptoms of low testosterone are
- Increased Body Fat
- Loss of Muscle Mass
- Hair Loss
- Reduced Sex Drive
- Chronic Fatigue
- Difficulty with Erection
Several factors can have a negative impact and lower testosterone levels such as sleep quality, alcohol consumption, micronutrient deficiencies, increased stress, and refined sugar.
Optimizing testosterone levels by first correcting a few of these factors and supplementing with a natural testosterone booster can increase testosterone production and also improve symptoms of low t.
It’s important to note, that despite the banality that testosterone is primarily a male dominant hormone, the truth is, it’s not.
Testosterone plays a pivotal role in women’s health and can affect mood and libido much the same as it does in men. Imbalances of testosterone, both high and low in women, can have serious and often damaging effects on a woman's overall health, including the ability to produce new blood cells, sex drive, athletic performance, muscle building, mood, and more. Testosterone is also a key component in the balance of estrogen.
Women who suffer from testosterone deficiency, are commonly misdiagnosed since the symptoms resemble those associated with stress, anxiety, and depression. Low testosterone is also associated with muscle weakness, especially in more athletically inclined women.
The number of estimated women with decreased libido and testosterone deficiency is between 10 and 15 million in the United States alone.
There are no clear guidelines for diagnosing women who might have low t, and only recently has there been an acknowledgment of the need for clear guidelines. However, women who suffer from a low-sexual desire or sexual appetite, may have normal estrogen levels, but decreased androgen levels and could benefit greatly from an increase in testosterone to create an optimized hormonal balance.
The 6 Best Testosterone Boosting Ingredients
Researchers at the University of Southern California investigated the active ingredients and advertised claims of the first 50 testosterone boosting supplements, in a Google search. Researchers reviewed the published scientific literature on testosterone and the 109 components found in the supplements. Zinc, fenugreek, and vitamin B6 were three of the most common proven components in the supplements.
The team also compared the content for each supplement with the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and the upper tolerable intake level (UL) as set by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.
Of the 50 supplements, researchers came across 16 general claims to benefit patients, including claims to "boost T or free T," "build body lean mass or muscle mass," or "increase sex drive or libido."
While 90% of the testosterone booster supplements claimed to boost testosterone, researchers found that less than 25% of the supplements had data to support their claims. Many also contained high doses of vitamins and minerals, occasionally more than the tolerable limit.2
Although this is alarming, I cannot say that it’s surprising. The takeaway here - do your research before investing and spending your money on a testosterone booster supplement. Make sure the supplement you purchase has clinical studies to back their claims, and that they include proven ingredients like zinc, fenugreek, DIM, and Tongkat Ali.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a leguminous, annual plant originating in India and North Africa. Recently, Fenugreek has been touted as an ergogenic aid and effective testosterone boosting ingredient.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined the effects of Fenugreek on strength, body composition, and power output.
In a double-blind randomized control trial, 49 participants, were administered 500 mg Fenugreek or placebo. Subjects participated in a supervised 4-day resistance training regimen split into two upper and lower body workouts per week, for a total of 8 weeks.
Results showed that Fenugreek significantly increased strength, reduced body fat, and thus improved total body composition as compared to the placebo group with an increase in free testosterone.3
Zinc is the second most distributed trace element and essential micronutrient in the human body, behind iron. Zinc has many known benefits in cellular function, specifically human metabolism, regulating gene expression, and supporting healthy testosterone levels.
According to a study done at the School of Physical Education and Sports in Selçuk, Turkey 10 male elite wrestlers were administered 3mg of zinc per day for four weeks.
The results indicated that total and free testosterone levels were significantly higher following zinc supplementation without preventing the inhibition of testosterone concentration, concluding that zinc may benefit athletic performance.4
Evidence also suggests that zinc modulates the conversion of androstenedione, an androgen precursor, to testosterone.5
A cross-sectional study published in the journal Nutrition examined the relationship between zinc concentrations and testosterone concentration. The study found that study participants with zinc deficiency or that lacked zinc in their diet were associated with a significant decrease in serum testosterone concentrations. Zinc supplementation resulted. After six months of treatment with 30mg of Zinc per day, serum testosterone concentration and levels significantly increased amongst all participants.6
Zinc is easily one of the best testosterone-boosting ingredients. When you’re purchasing a test booster, make sure it contains zinc.
Magnesium controls over 300 bodily functions and hundreds of enzymatic reactions. While, the biological functions of Magnesium are relatively broad, which include the production of nucleic acids, involvement in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and helping muscle contraction magnesium’s most imperative function is to help regulate proper bone structure through mediating and coordinating calcium concentration, improving sleep quality, and increasing the bio-active free testosterone.7
Research suggests that nearly 70% of Americans eat below the recommended daily amount of magnesium, with 19% eating less than half the recommended amount. Studies have shown that magnesium frees testosterone and makes it more bio-active. Research also suggests that one gram of magnesium combined with exercise can increase testosterone levels by 24%.
4. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 also known as pyridoxine plays a direct role in cellular metabolism. It also stimulates testosterone production as it suppresses the synthesis of estrogen and affects enzyme induction through estrogen and androgen receptors.
Studies have shown that lower vitamin b6 is also correlated with reduced testosterone concentration, suggesting that vitamin B6 has a function in the action of testosterone (and other steroid hormones), possibly in the recycling of receptors from the nucleus back into the cytosol after initial translocation.8
5. Malaysian Ginseng
Tongkat Ali also known as Malaysian Ginseng is a popular herb traditionally used in Chinese medicine, due to its rich bioactive plant compounds. Studies have shown Tongkat Ali contains a variety of phytonutrients called quassinoids, most notably eurycomanone, which stimulate the release of free testosterone, improve sex drive, reduce fatigue, and improve well-being.
A study published in the Journal Of the International Society Of Sports Nutrition, examined the effects of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones balance specifically cortisol and testosterone. 64 subjects were randomized and received either 200mg of Tongkat Ali per day or a placebo for 4-weeks.
Cortisol and testosterone levels were significantly improved by Tongkat supplementation, with cortisol dropping by 16% and free testosterone increasing by 37%.9
Research indicates that the effects of Tongkat Ali in restoring normal testosterone levels appear to be less due to actually “stimulating” testosterone synthesis, but rather by increasing the release rate of “free” testosterone from its binding hormone, sex-hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG). Therefore, Tongkat may be considered less of a “testosterone booster” but rather a way to maintain and restore normal testosterone levels.
6. Diindolylmethane (DIM)
DIM is a metabolite derived from a compound called indole-3-carbinol, found in cruciferous vegetables such as brussel sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, and kale.
Research indicates that DIM exhibits both selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM) as well as selective androgen receptor modulators (SARM), regulating estrogen and testosterone balance. Studies have shown that DIM stimulates progesterone and can eliminate high levels of estrogen. DIM also works to inhibit the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen. DIM contributes to a better metabolism naturally through the promotion of hormonal homeostasis and supports more efficient fat metabolism, which helps testosterone circulate more freely throughout the body. Free or non-protein bound testosterone adds to the structural proteins of muscles allowing for hypertrophy or muscle growth to occur.10
Do Testosterone Boosters Work?
Men and women who want to improve their libido, build more mass and increase free testosterone levels, may benefit from using high-quality testosterone boosting supplements. However, most testosterone boosters do not contain high enough doses or have the ingredients to support their claims, when compared to traditional testosterone replacement therapy.
Many supplements contain vitamins and minerals, or “ancient herbs” yet do not contain the actual testosterone boosting ingredients needed to simulate free testosterone production.
Unlike hormone replacement therapy (HRT), testosterone boosters will not transform your physique and physical appearance. What they can do is help decrease stress levels, improve sleep quality and duration, improve body composition, and enhance overall vitality which will help restore testosterone levels back to normal.
People spend thousands of dollars on testosterone booster supplements, that use hype ingredients with no clinical evidence to support their claims. If a test booster is “pharmaceutical grade” or claims it can increase testosterone by 500%, be cautious. If that were true, it wouldn’t be sold as a supplement, but an actual anabolic steroid only prescribed by a physician. Testosterone boosters do work, but if you can incorporate a well-balanced nutrition plan, and exercise program with it, they will work even better.
- Cunningham GR, Stephens-Shields AJ, Rosen RC, Wang C, Bhasin S, Matsumoto AM, Parsons JK, Gill TM, Molitch ME, Farrar JT, Cella D, Barrett-Connor E, Cauley JA, Cifelli D, Crandall JP, Ensrud KE, Gallagher L, Zeldow B, Lewis CE, Pahor M, Swerdloff RS, Hou X, Anton S, Basaria S, Diem SJ, Tabatabaie V, Ellenberg SS, Snyder PJ. Testosterone Treatment and Sexual Function in Older Men With Low Testosterone Levels. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2016 Aug;101(8):3096-104. doi: 10.1210/jc.2016-1645. Epub 2016 Jun 29. PMID: 27355400; PMCID: PMC4971331
- Clemesha CG, Thaker H, Samplaski MK. ‘Testosterone Boosting’ Supplements Composition and Claims Are not Supported by the Academic Literature. World J Mens Health. 2020 Jan;38(1):115-122. https://doi.org/10.5534/wjmh.190043
- Poole, Chris et al. “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 vol. 7 34. 27 Oct. 2010, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-7-34
- Kilic M, Baltaci AK, Gunay M, Gökbel H, Okudan N, Cicioglu I. The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2006 Feb-Apr;27(1-2):247-52. PMID: 16648789.
- Arreola F, Paniagua R, Herrera J, Díaz-Bensussen S, Mondragón L, Bermúdez JA, Pérez Pastén E, Villalpando S. Low plasma zinc and androgen in insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Arch Androl. 1986;16(2):151-4. doi: 10.3109/01485018608986935. PMID: 3741026.
- Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, Hess JW, Brewer GJ. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. 1996 May;12(5):344-8. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(96)80058-x. PMID: 8875519.
- Boyle, Neil Bernard et al. “The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress-A Systematic Review.” Nutrients vol. 9,5 429. 26 Apr. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9050429
- Symes EK, Bender DA, Bowden JF, Coulson WF. Increased target tissue uptake of, and sensitivity to, testosterone in the vitamin B6 deficient rat. J Steroid Biochem. 1984 May;20(5):1089-93. doi: 10.1016/0022-4731(84)90348-0. PMID: 6727359.
- Talbott, Shawn M et al. “Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 10,1 28. 26 May. 2013, doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-28
- Ishikawa T, Glidewell-Kenney C, Jameson JL. Aromatase-independent testosterone conversion into estrogenic steroids is inhibited by a 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Feb;98(2-3):133-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2005.09.004. Epub 2005 Dec 28. PMID: 16386416.