Many products promise to increase testosterone levels. The demand for these supplements is linked to the marketing that it enhances male characteristics. Some believe that having more testosterone increases sex drive, fertility, and even muscle gain. And while there is a definite relationship among these factors, it does not mean that testosterone levels cause them.
However, because testosterone is almost identical to desirable male traits, men still decide they can benefit from having more testosterone. But does it work?
A sex drive placebo
Many testosterone-boosting supplements primarily market themselves as sexual performance enhancers. They promise to increase sex drive and stamina. And while some users report that they work, most supplements do not increase testosterone levels at all. So where do the positive reactions come from?
Simply put, they work like a placebo.
If a supplement delivers on its promise to increase testosterone levels, then a man’s sex drive will probably increase as well. But most supplements do this the other way around. These make you feel easily agitated and restless. Promoting symptoms of heightened libido makes you think that it was testosterone increasing.
But if this is why you are taking testosterone supplements, then you may be satisfied with the improved sex drive. Just do not expect that your actual testosterone levels to spike.
Can I boost testosterone levels?
Yes, you can. But not in the way you probably think. Real testosterone boosters cause levels to increase by 20-50%. It may sound impressive but they will hardly have any impact. For comparison, even a steroid cycle in small dosages may result in about a 300% increase.
Besides, the only way to accurately measure testosterone increase is through blood tests. And as testosterone levels are highly volatile, the results may fluctuate as well from minute to minute.
This means that if testosterone boosters work, it would still be hard to verify.
What are the most popular supplements that promise to increase testosterone levels?
Tribulus Terrestris is the leading testosterone supplement in terms of sales. It is a perfect example of sex drive enhancers that do not affect the amount of testosterone present.
Many East Asians attest that it works well saying that it helps with their confidence and sexual performance. But studies have proven that it has no direct effect on testosterone. Some findings hypothesize that it can alleviate stress which could explain some of its libido-enhancing effects.
D-Aspartic Acid or D-AA was a breakthrough drug that caused a market frenzy. It began when a study claimed that D-AA could increase testosterone to 42% in about two weeks. In only a week, many users excitedly reported massive sexual performance gains and enhanced libido. Some even reported symptoms of increased testicle size.
The hype around the wonder supplement dropped when another study disputed the supposed effects. The study found that testosterone levels returned to normal in one month after primary supplementation. It found that a month of increased testosterone was not enough to have significant long-term effects on male virility and muscle growth.
Fortunately, D-AA was found to have other practical uses. They are now used to treat impotence problems among infertile men. However, it might be important to note that it does not work on men with regular testosterone levels.
Zinc and Magnesium
Zinc and magnesium are also widely marketed as testosterone-boosting supplements. They are especially recommended to athletes as exercising can easily expel zinc and magnesium through sweat.
However, similar to D-AA, zinc, and magnesium are usually taken to restore testosterone to normal levels. Taking increased doses does not increase testosterone any more than the baseline.
Maca is a vegetable root that is famous among both young and menopausal women as an alternative contraceptive. However, some men have tried Maca as a “non-hormonal” libido enhancer. Its libido-enhancing effects can be felt after long-term intake. Some studies are researching how maca increases libido without altering hormones. Maca does not affect testosterone which is a hormone.
Fenugreek is one of the few supplements in this list that is a testosterone-boosting supplement. It contains 5-alpha reductase inhibitors that suppress the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that counteracts abnormal levels of testosterone.
This means that testosterone levels increase relative to its counteracting hormone. In short, more testosterone and less DHT mean an increase in libido. It also has properties that improve sexual health and function. Also, fenugreek has the weird effect of making a man’s sweat and urine have a maple syrup scent.
However, if you are looking to use fenugreek as a muscle growth stimulant, then you are out of luck. The marginal testosterone gains will not result in any significant muscle gains.
Originating from Malaysia, Tongkat Ali has been used mainly as an aphrodisiac. Similar to D-AA, it has properties that improve infertility problems.
Tongkat Ali is an effective libido enhancer, however. It might be more expensive than the other alternatives in this list such as maca and Tribulus Terrestris, but it is worth a try. Just a reminder that it still does not boost T-levels in healthy men. Treat it as a libido enhancer.
Mucuna Pruriens is a plant that is rich in levodopa, a chemical alternative that gets converted to dopamine.
Contrary to most beliefs, other hormones aside from testosterone play a role in determining sex drive level. Dopamine is one of the major contributors to libido. An increase in dopamine is linked to increasing libido.
Furthermore, Levodopa (also known as L-DOPA) is sometimes considered a testosterone booster because of its interaction with prolactin, a hormone that inhibits the effects of sex hormones.
Prolactin normally increases alongside increasing testosterone to maintain normal levels. But increased dopamine from levodopa supplementation prevents this.
However, it is important to note that levodopa will only lead to suppressing prolactin if prolactin levels were abnormally high, to begin with. Similar to other supplements, healthy men will not benefit as much as a person who has elevated prolactin levels.
Vitamin D is strange as far as testosterone supplements go. It started when findings in a study suggested that obese men experienced higher levels of testosterone after taking Vitamin D. It has not been replicated since, but it has led to several dietary supplements claiming testosterone-boosting effects.
It may potentially be a legitimate supplement but current studies have yet to find conclusive evidence. Following a certain trend, Vitamin D most likely functions as a supplement to restore testosterone to normal levels.
The wonder supplement does not exist
Aside from taking a round of steroids, there is no magic pill that will magically increase testosterone to excessive levels. Most popular supplements in the market claim multiple effects and testosterone-boosting effects. But as we have seen from the discussion above, they simply have corrective properties that restore lower levels of testosterone to its baseline.
We advise to stick to the traditional practices of keeping testosterone levels high:
- Exercising with increasingly heavier weights
- Slimming down on fat
- A varied diet of vegetables and animal fat
- Getting enough sleep
If you suspect lower testosterone levels as a cause of a medical condition, it would be best to consult your physician before self-prescribing any of the supplements above.
Conclusion: Are supplements just over marketed cons?
Hopefully, by reading this article most of the misconceptions around T-level supplements have been dispelled. However, you might be wondering if any supplements work. The short answer is that they work, but a few do not.
The supplement market is pretty young in comparison to the heavily regulated sectors of pharmaceuticals. This means that while some supplements are backed by research, there are still cases where cherry-picked information and outlier studies influence a lot of exaggerated claims.
It might be troublesome but self-research and understanding what you are getting inside your body are still essential. There are many effective supplements out there. It only boils down to finding the right one for you.