Testosterone plays a role in muscle mass, bone density, depression, self-confidence, motivation, libido, sexual function, brain health, and more.
In my article, What You Need to Know About Testosterone, I discuss why it's so important to maintain optimal testosterone levels, and what you can do with nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices, to support testosterone production.
Whenever I get into a discussion on testosterone, I'm almost always asked about supplements to increase or optimize testosterone levels.
There is not a definite answer on what works for everyone, but I’ll share a number options below. Each person is different, so it really comes down to personal experimentation.
A Word About Research
While I cite of a number of research studies, and there are many more I didn't include, there is far more anecdotal evidence than published human studies.
Many of the herbs below have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And contrary to what the media would have you believe, dietary supplements have a very strong safety record.
I left the history lessons out of this article, but if you're into history or geography, you'll be fascinated by learning where many of the plants come from, and how they've been used in traditional medicine.
Most of our knowledge of natural therapies has been passed down through generations. It's the result of experimentation. Even today, we can learn a lot from our own experiments.
That’s what I did over the past few years. The graph below is my trend in testosterone. 100% natural, safe, and obviously effective. Not bad for a 40-year-old male.
I can’t share specifically what I did (and continue to do) or I might end up making non-FDA-compliant claims. What I can tell you is this:
The reason I showed you my labs was just to point out that with a commitment to some fundamental nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and supplement strategies, you can have a pretty significant effect on testosterone, naturally.
Each person is different though. What works well for me, might not work for you. So, my recommendation is to find an uncompromising company with pure and efficacious products, learn from some people who’ve used some of the products, and test them out for yourself.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Prior to Supplementation
If you want to improve testosterone levels, you need to measure them before and after. If you don’t, you won’t know whether your plan is working. I use WellnessFX.
Also, supplements won’t offset poor nutrition, lifestyle, and exercise choices.
I covered this in What You Need to Know About Testosterone. Be sure to read it before you start your supplement program.
Tribulus terrestris is also known as Gokshur, Gokharu, and puncture vine. Both men and women seem to benefit from tribulus terrestris. Although this article is about testosterone, I felt it was valuable to highlight some of the other benefits of tribulus terrestris.
Tribulus terrestris contains saponins, which increase leutinizing hormone (LH), testosterone, estrogen, and other hormones.[i],[ii],[iii] Other constituents increase DHEA, which can then be converted to testosterone.
Supplementing with Tribulus improved sexual desire, vaginal lubrication, and arousal.[iv] Women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, who took 750 mg/day of tribulus terrestris, experienced improved sexual desire and elevated testosterone levels.[v] Women with elevated blood sugar experienced lower glucose levels following supplementation.[vi]*
An animal study showed tribulus terrestris reduced symptoms of depression.* Depression and testosterone levels are often related, possibly because the depressed feelings contribute to reduced testosterone, or because the lower testosterone increases feelings of depression. It’s also possible that depression stems from a disruption in the hypothalamus, which also affects testosterone levels.[vii]
In animal studies, tribulus terrestris prevented increases in total cholesterol and triglycerides in animals with normal levels, and lowered total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides in those with elevated levels.[viii],[ix]*
Other studies on animals showed that tribulus terrestris supports healthy brain function, protects the liver, helps maintain normal inflammatory levels, dulls pain, and may protect cells from development of cancer.[x]*
In a study of rugby players, the addition of tribulus terrestris to a training program did not enhance muscle mass or strength more than the training program alone.[xi] However, in a study of men with low testosterone levels, a dose of 250 mg, 3 times per day did improve testosterone levels and erectile function.[xii]*
Ashwagandha (also known as Withania somnifera, Indian Ginseng, and Winter Cherry) is an adaptogenic herb that has been shown to support normal blood pressure, stimulate thyroid function, maintain normal cortisol levels, and support optimal testosterone levels.*
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of exercising men, supplementation with ashwagandha significantly increased testosterone levels compared with the placebo group. Muscle strength and size was greater, body fat percentage improved more, and muscle recovery was enhanced as well in the supplemented group.[xiii]
Ashwagandha supplementation increased testosterone levels in infertile men.[xiv] Like tribulus, ashwagandha has also been shown to improve sexual function and interest in women.[xv] Whether it’s a result of increased testosterone, reduced stress levels, or something else, remains to be determined.
Others Herbs and Extracts to Consider
Fenugreek (also known as Trigonella foenum-graecum) is another adaptogen that seems to support optimal testosterone levels, possibly my helping to modulate cortisol levels. As with Tribulus, fenugreek also seems to support those with symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).[xvi]
Longjack root, or Tongkat Ali, grows in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Evidence suggests it supports optimal testosterone levels in both men and women.[xvii]
To avoid making a book out of this article, let me just suggest some other herbs and extracts that have good anecdotal evidence, even if scientific research hasn’t yet supported them: Horny Goat Weed (epimedium), Maca, Holy Basil, Coleus forskohlii, Cordyceps, and Velvet Antler (just to name a few).
Zinc deficiency is common throughout the world. Of all the vitamins and minerals, zinc deficiency has been most clearly associated with low testosterone. When zinc-deficient men supplemented with zinc for 6 months, their testosterone levels almost doubled![xviii]
In some people, the issue with their hormones is not that testosterone is too low. Estrogen is too high.
In men, excess estrogen can lead to gynocomastia, a decrease in facial hair, and other feminine characteristics. In women, excess estrogen can lead to a state of “estrogen dominance.”
Though they are not necessarily “testosterone-enhancing,” aromatase-inhibitors block the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, leaving more testosterone available as tesotosterone. With less estrogen, testosterone has a more powerful effect. Other supplements enhance the removal of estrogens from the body.
Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), and Diindolylmethane (DIM), which are found in cruciferous vegetables, help to support normal estrogen levels.[xxii],[xxiii] I3C is a precursor of DIM, and there is a lot of debate about which one is better. In my opinion, it’s just trial and error to see which works better for you.
One of the easiest, and cheapest ways to help normalize estrogen levels is to eat more fiber. Fiber binds to estrogens in the intestines, and helps remove them from the body.
Two Common Testosterone-Related Questions
To wrap this up, I want to address two related questions I’m often asked. “Is testosterone therapy bad?” and “Should my kids be using testosterone-supporting supplements?”
1. Is testosterone therapy bad?
As I mentioned in What You Need to Know About Testosterone, the best way to support testosterone is through lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, and supplementation first. I’m dead-set on doing whatever you can to naturally support optimal health, including your hormones.
However, these changes may not be sufficient for some people to achieve optimal testosterone levels.
Too often, I see people dig their heels in, refusing to use any kind of medication or prescription, while they suffer with symptoms from poor health. I believe God gave us a wealth of natural health products. He also blessed some pretty smart scientists to create medication as well.
In my opinion, you're better off using a prescription and feeling your best, than feeling lousy and remaining “all natural.”
I just have to repeat, though. Don't be lazy and go with pharmaceuticals because it sounds easier. If you don't need them, I don't recommend using them.
The two most common medical options are human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), and exogenous testosterone.
HCG stimulates production of testosterone, just as luteinizing hormone does. Exogenous testosterone bypasses the body’s job in producing testosterone, and you just get it into your body on your own.
2. Should teens or young adults use testosterone-boosting supplements?
Most sports performance supplement consumers are high-school and college-aged young adults.
While there are a lot of kids today who are unhealthy, and display symptoms of low testosterone and/or excessive estrogen, for the most part, it's a result of their lifestyle and nutrition choices. Introducing testosterone-boosting supplements would be a waste of money, in my humble opinion.
For young adults who are healthy and fit, I wouldn’t expect them to see much of a difference from using these supplements. Their bodies at their hormonal peak. I think young adults can maximize what their bodies are meant to do, without using testosterone-boosters.
I wouldn’t mess with testosterone-boosting supplements until reaching an age where hormone levels start to decline, like around age 30.
Wrapping it Up
Don’t suffer through the symptoms of low testosterone. Life is much more fun and exciting when your testosterone levels are optimal. And your attitude is a lot better, so others appreciate it too.
There’s so much you can do to maintain optimal levels at any age. You also don’t have to take all of this on at once.
Start with your nutrition and lifestyle choices. Then get in the habit of strength training three to four times per week. And while you make these longer-term changes, experiment with some of these nutritional supplement options above.
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