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Last updated October 1, 2020. 5 minute read

What are testosterone boosters? Do they work?

The terms “testosterone booster” and “natural testosterone booster” mainly refer to herbal supplements and other compounds that are touted to increase sex drive or improve sexual function, muscle mass, sperm count, and body composition.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Testosterone is the key to the kingdom of masculinity (such as it is). It’s an androgen, or male sex hormone, which is present from birth and is what makes a fetus male. It’s produced by the testicles and adrenal glands. During puberty, surging testosterone levels produce secondary sexual characteristics like muscle growth, body hair, and sperm production. And testosterone plays an important role in men’s health throughout life, regulating key functions like libido, erectile function, bone density, muscle mass, and mood.

Vitals

  • Testosterone is a crucial, multi-functional male sex hormone that naturally declines with age.
  • Testosterone boosters are supplements that claim to increase testosterone levels, potentially improving sexual performance, libido, and muscle mass.
  • Some studies have found that certain supplements may increase testosterone levels, but overall more research is needed.
  • You can also support testosterone naturally via diet and exercise, or via provider-prescribed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

Your testosterone level is measured with a blood test. A normal blood testosterone level in men can range from 270–1,070 ng/dL. According to the American Urological Association (AUA), a value below 300 ng/dL indicates low testosterone (AUA, 2018). However, these exact values vary depending on the lab or resource you go to.

Low testosterone (or testosterone deficiency) tends to appear as men get older. One study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that low testosterone levels affected 20% of men in their 60s, 30% of men in their 70s, and 50% of men over 80 (Harman, 2001).

The symptoms of low testosterone can include erectile dysfunction (ED), low sex drive, decreased muscle mass, changes in sleep patterns, and hair loss (Urology Care Foundation, n.d.). Read more about the ten most common symptoms of low testosterone here.

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What are testosterone boosters?

The terms “testosterone booster” and “natural testosterone booster” mainly refer to herbal supplements and other compounds that are touted to increase sex drive or improve sexual function, muscle mass, sperm count, and body composition.

They’re sold in various forms, including pills, powders, and capsules.

Some herbal and natural supplements purported to boost testosterone include:

  • DHEA: Some studies have found that taking a DHEA supplement can boost free testosterone levels along with exercise, while other studies have found no difference (Liu, 2013).
  • Fenugreek: A 2016 study found that men who took a fenugreek supplement increased their testosterone levels, had more sex, and had more frequent morning erections than men who were given a placebo (Rao, 2016).
  • D-aspartic acid: Supplementing with this amino acid, which is naturally found in the endocrine system, has been found to boost testosterone in some trials (Roshanzamir, 2017).
  • Tribulus terrestris: This is an Ayurvedic herb that some research has found may boost testosterone levels (Pokrywka, 2014).
  • Ashwagandha: In one 2019 study, overweight men who took this supplement for 16 weeks experienced an average 15% increase in testosterone levels versus men who took a placebo (Lopresti, 2019).

There’s another class of testosterone boosters, and if you’ve been inside a vitamin or health-food store, you can’t miss them: That group of brightly colored bottles whose names include words like Power, Andro, Monster, and Stack. They promise muscle growth, an increase in testosterone, and things like “anabolic” and “prohormone” effects. They may claim to contain some of the herbal ingredients above, along with various other substances. 

There is little to no evidence that these products do what they claim, and taking them can be dangerous, resulting in liver or kidney injury (Almaimian, 2018).

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Potential risks and side effects of testosterone boosters

As with many supplements, testosterone boosters have risks that could outweigh their potential benefits.

Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are only loosely regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. Because of this, they could contain dangerous or unreported ingredients.

In addition, boosting testosterone with “anabolic” boosters or using testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) without a prescription could actually lower the natural amounts of testosterone your body makes—doing the opposite of what was intended. The testosterone boosters that are most likely to do this are the ones that mimic testosterone or testosterone precursors in the body, such as prohormones.

This is because testosterone production is a negative feedback loop—that’s when a product of a reaction actually causes a decrease in that reaction. By taking certain testosterone boosters, you’re making your body think it doesn’t need to produce its own anymore. (Supplements like vitamin D and zinc don’t have this effect, because they support your natural testosterone production; your body doesn’t think they’re trying to hijack it.)

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Testosterone boosters are not recommended for use by everyone. There’s little to no evidence they work. Substances like “prohormones” can actually cause significant side effects like acne, gynecomastia, liver or kidney damage, and mood problems.

People who don’t have low testosterone don’t need to use testosterone boosters. If you do have low testosterone, it’s a better idea to address it with lifestyle modifications and TRT via a healthcare provider.

Ways to safely boost testosterone

It may be possible to boost your testosterone levels by making lifestyle changes like improving your diet, getting regular exercise, ensuring you’re getting quality sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol use.

Read more about 8 ways testosterone can be boosted naturally.

TRT is an option for men who have actually been diagnosed with low testosterone. Also called androgen replacement therapy, TRT is available in several forms: topical gels (brand names AndroGel, Testim, and Fortesta), patches (brand name AndroDerm), solutions (brand name Axiron), injections, buccal (cheek) testosterone systems (brand name Striant), implanted testosterone pellets (brand name Testopel), and oral testosterone tablets (brand name Andriol, Restandol).

Read more about TRT here.

Last updated July 7, 2020. 5 minute read

Do testosterone boosters work? What the research says

Testosterone plays an important role in men’s health throughout life, regulating important functions like sex drive, erectile health, bone density, muscle mass, and mood.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH


Chances are, you’ve seen the TV commercials warning against “low T,” and shelves of colorful bottles at vitamin and health-food stores that claim they can increase your testosterone levels naturally. But do these so-called testosterone boosters really work?

Vitals

  • Testosterone is an important male sex hormone that naturally declines with age.
  • Testosterone boosters are supplements that claim to increase testosterone levels.
  • Some studies have found that certain supplements may increase testosterone levels, but more research is needed.
  • Some commercially packaged “testosterone boosters” can actually be dangerous.
  • If you’re concerned about your testosterone level, talk with a healthcare provider.

Testosterone is an androgen, or male sex hormone, which is present all the way back to the gestation of a male fetus. Produced by the testicles and adrenal glands, it’s what helps develop the anatomy related to being a male, such as the penis and testicles. During puberty, increased testosterone levels produce secondary sexual characteristics like muscle growth, body hair, and the ability to produce sperm. Testosterone plays an important role in men’s health throughout life, regulating important functions like sex drive, erectile health, bone density, muscle mass, and mood.

Advertisement

Roman Testosterone Support supplements

Your first month’s supply is $15 ($20 off)

Learn more

Low testosterone, also known as low T, hypogonadism, or testosterone deficiency, tends to become an issue as men get older. One study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that low T levels affected 20% of men in their 60s, 30% of men in their 70s, and 50% of men over 80 (Harman, 2001).

Your testosterone level is checked by a blood test. A normal blood testosterone level in men can range from 270–1,070 ng/dL. A value below 300 ng/dL qualifies as low testosterone (AUA, 2018).

Symptoms of low testosterone include ED, a lower sex drive, decreased muscle mass, and low sperm count.

What are some testosterone boosters?

The term “testosterone booster” generally refers to a nutritional supplement that is purported to increase your testosterone levels.

Some herbal and natural supplements purported to boost testosterone include:

  • DHEA: Some studies have found that taking a DHEA supplement can boost free testosterone levels along with exercise; others found no difference (Liu, 2013).
  • Fenugreek: One study found that men who took a fenugreek supplement increased their testosterone levels and had more sex and morning erections than men given a placebo (Rao, 2016).
  • D-aspartic acid: This amino acid, which is naturally found in the endocrine system, has been found to boost testosterone in some studies (Roshanzamir, 2017).
  • Tribulus terrestris: This is an Ayurvedic herb that some studies have found may boost testosterone levels (Pokrywka, 2014).
  • Ashwagandha: In a 2019 study, overweight men who took this supplement for 16 weeks had an average 15% increase in testosterone levels compared to men who took a placebo (Lopresti, 2019).

These herbal supplements are relatively benign, and there is some evidence they might be helpful.

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On the other hand: There’s another class of testosterone boosters, and if you’ve been inside a vitamin store, you’ve probably seen them—that group of brightly colored bottles with names like Power, Andro, Monster, and Stack. Their labels promise muscle growth, an increase in testosterone, and “anabolic” and “prohormone” effects. They may claim to contain some of the herbal ingredients above, along with various other substances.

Do testosterone boosters really work?

There isn’t enough evidence to say definitively that herbal and natural supplements work to boost testosterone. Although some studies have shown positive results, more research is needed.

As for the Power Andro Growth Monster Stacks of the world, there is limited to zero evidence that they work, and they can have severely negative health effects (Rahnema, 2015).

If you have clinically low testosterone, testosterone boosters aren’t a legitimate treatment for it—and they can actually be counterproductive.

Potential risks and side effects of testosterone boosters

As with many supplements, testosterone boosters have risks that could outweigh their potential benefits. 

Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are only loosely by the Food & Drug Administration. Because testosterone boosters aren’t regulated, they could contain dangerous or unreported ingredients. There’s no way to be sure of their purity or potency. 

Boosting your testosterone with supplements or prescribed therapies may affect the body’s ability to produce testosterone naturally. Like a number of bodily processes, testosterone production creates a negative feedback loop—that’s when the product of a reaction causes a decrease in that reaction. Rising levels of testosterone signal the hypothalamus to inhibit luteinizing hormone (LH), which is what tells certain cells in the testes to produce testosterone and release it into the blood. That’s right: Some “testosterone boosters” can actually cockblock testosterone.

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Substances like “prohormones” can also cause significant side effects like acne, gynecomastia, liver or kidney damage, and mood problems (Rahnema, 2015). 

If you have low T, it’s a better idea to address it with lifestyle modifications and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) via a healthcare provider.

Other ways to boost testosterone

It may be possible to support your testosterone levels by making lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Improving your diet
  • Getting more exercise, including resistance (weight) training
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol use
  • Getting more quality sleep 

Read more about 8 ways testosterone can be boosted naturally

Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is also an option for some men. Also called androgen replacement therapy, TRT is available in several forms: topical gels (brand names AndroGel, Testim, and Fortesta), patches (brand name AndroDerm), and solutions (brand name Axiron), injections, buccal (cheek) testosterone systems (brand name Striant), implanted testosterone pellets (brand name Testopel), and oral testosterone tablets (brand name Andriol, Restandol).

Read more about testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) here.