Testosterone Booster Supplements: An Evidence-Based Review
Want to learn how this “one weird trick” instantly allowed me to lose fat, gain muscle, skyrocket my energy, feel confident, look 10 years younger, and become a beast in bed?
I’ll stop right there because if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably heard this pitch before.
Whether it’s on the Internet or on a late-night TV infomercial, marketers make it sound like increasing your testosterone levels is a simple matter of popping a few pills everyday.
The reality is that the majority of testosterone booster supplements available today will do next to nothing for your T levels.
As humans, it is in our nature to look for the “quick-fix”. We want results and we want them fast. This is part of the reason why the supplement industry sells over $37 billion worth of supplements in the US alone. Popping a few pills just seems like a more viable option than making the lifestyle and habit shifts required to naturally increase testosterone levels over the long-term.
NOTE: The focus of this article is on natural testosterone supplements and not on anabolic steroids or testosterone injections. Marketers make it sound like their supplements will give you the same results as steroids, but this is simply not true. Injecting testosterone and using steroids can significantly increase your testosterone levels, but this topic is beyond the scope of this article.
Why Men Think They're Working
Whether you visit your local GNC or browse online at Amazon, the majority of testosterone boosters out there are in fact just libido enhancers in disguise.
It is important to note that testosterone impacts libido, but that the inverse is not true – increased sexual desire does not translate to higher T levels.
Men continue to buy these supplements like hot cakes thinking that they must be working since their sex drive is through the roof, but in reality their T levels are exactly the same.
If your objective is to increase libido, then sure, these supplements may work. The impact on testosterone, however, is negligible.
Do Testosterone Boosters Work or Not?
There are a few supplements that can increase your testosterone levels, but probably not to the extent that you have been made to believe. In no way will they significantly impact your ability to put on muscle, lose fat, or experience any of the other life-enhancement benefits that come with higher T levels.
The supplements that I will recommend coming up merely provide your body with the raw materials, i.e. vitamins and minerals, it needs to produce optimal levels of T. Even then, the impact is wholly dependent on the extent to which you are deficient in these key nutrients.
Zinc is an important micronutrient for T production. But:
If you're already getting enough zinc through your diet, zinc supplementation will not further increase your T.
Always remember that supplements are just that - something to supplement your nutrition, workouts, and lifestyle with. They should NEVER be relied upon as the sole means towards achieving the results you are after.
Testosterone Booster Ingredients
The majority of T-booster supplements available today include some combination of the ingredients listed below.
Before moving on to my particular supplement recommendations, it is important to understand how each of these ingredients affects T levels according to clinical research. In this way, regardless of the test booster you come across in a store or online, you can browse the ingredients and understand whether or not it affects testosterone as the label or sales message claims.
D-AA is an ingredient found in most testosterone boosters that found its way into the spotlight after a study came out showing that it increased T levels in men by 42% in as little as 12 days of use (1).
Another study came out showing that D-AA had no effect on testosterone after 28-days of use (2).
A third study came out claiming that high doses of D-AA supplementation actually reduced testosterone levels (3).
This is an example of why we shouldn’t always go with what the studies say. One comes out claiming to show particular results followed by another that shows the complete opposite.
When looking towards clinical research, it is important to look at the methods of the research as well, e.g. over how long of a period was the study performed, how many subjects were studied, design of the trial, etc.
It is possible that a supplement company itself sponsored that first study on D-AA, and marketed it as a supplement that was “scientifically proven” to increase testosterone levels.
Bottom line: D-AA supplementation seems to increase T levels in the short term (6-12 days). This increase may persist in infertile men, but in men with normal T, levels return to original baseline within 28 days. High doses of D-AA can lead to lower T levels.
Tribulus terrestris is probably the best selling test booster out there. It is also a prime example of a supplement that boosts libido with absolutely no effect on testosterone.
Users think that it’s working because of their raging morning wood, yet multiple studies have shown that tribulus terrestris does next to nothing for T levels (4), muscular strength (5), or body composition (6).
The only way to actually know if T levels have increased is by getting them measured, not by the stiffness of your boners.
Bottom line: Supplementing with tribulus terrestris has no effect on T levels.
Fenugreek is a herb from India that has traditionally been recommended as a support for male health and virility.
In one study (7), 30 resistance trained men were put on 500mg of either a placebo or fenugreek supplement. After 8 weeks, the group that took fenugreek had significantly higher T levels and lower body fat.
This is all good and well, but the problem is that this is the only human study to have found fenugreek to positively impact on testosterone.
Bottom line: Although there is one human study that shows fenugreek to increase testosterone, additional evidence does not support this stance. Further research is needed to study the impact of fenugreek on T.
In one study, subjects who received 200 mg of Tongkat Ali for one month saw a 46% increase in T levels (11). But an important point to note is that all of the subjects administered had very low levels of testosterone to begin with.
In another study, subjects who received Tongkat Ali for one month experienced a 16% decrease in cortisol and a 37% increase in testosterone (12). But then again, the subjects were screened to have stress before the study began.
Bottom line: Although Tongkat Ali has been shown to increase testosterone levels in men who are infertile and in men who are chronically stressed, there is no evidence to support the fact that Tongkat Ali has the same effect on men with normal T levels and do not suffer from stress.
Mucuna Pruriens (aka Velvet Bean) is a bean that grows from trees that has widely been used as a treatment for Parkinson's disease.
There are two main studies that have looked towards the effect of Mucauna Pruriens on testosterone.
Bottom line: Supplementing with Mucuna Pruriens increases testosterone in infertile men, but there is no evidence to support that this same effect occurs in otherwise healthy men.
Withani somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha, is a herb that has been used to treat a variety of conditions ranging from anxiety to Alzheimer's.
Ashwagandha means "smell of horse", referring to the traditional Indian belief that ingesting it will give you the strength and virility of a horse.
Supplementing with this herb significantly reduces cortisol concentrations in the body (15, 16). Cortisol is known as the stress hormone and it holds an inverse relationship with testosterone, i.e. lower cortisol means higher testosterone.
Also, untrained men put on a strength training program who received ahswagandha supplementation saw greater increases in muscle size, testosterone levels, and muscle recovery compared to placebo (20).
Bottom line: Supplementing with ashwagandha has been shown to increase T levels in infertile men and men undergoing strength training. Further research is needed to show the effect of ashwagandha on men who do not meet the above two conditions.
Boron is a trace mineral that is found in many testosterone boosters.
It has not been extensively studied like some of the other ingredients listed here, but it seems to have some T-boosting effects.
One human study has shown boron supplementation to increase free testosterone levels after just one week (21). But the problem with this study is that there were only 8 subjects and the trial lasted only one week.
In another study, male bodybuilders given 2.5 mg's of boron for 7 weeks saw no difference in T levels or muscle gains compared to placebo (22).
Bottom line: There seems to be some interaction between boron and testosterone, but more robust trials are needed to confirm the effect.
Magnesium is an essential mineral in the human body that controls over 300 bodily functions.
A magnesium deficiency is amongst the leading nutrient deficiencies in adults, especially in western developed countries. The reasons for this are diverse, but can largely be narrowed down to: soil depletion that lowers the magnesium in crops; digestive disorders that don't allow proper mineral absorption; high rates of prescription medication that damage the digestive tract (23).
Magnesium supplements are especially important for athletes because a lot of it is lost as sweat.
Bottom line: Magnesium supplementation seems to increase testosterone levels, but only to the extent that you are deficient in it.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient that our body needs to survive.
Common sources of zinc include meat, eggs, legumes, and oysters.
Like magnesium, zinc is also lost through sweat, making it an especially important supplement for athletes.
Bottom line: Zinc seems to increase testosterone levels, but only to the extent that you are deficient in it.
Like zinc, vitamin D is an essential micronutrient that our body needs for survival.
The sun provides a natural source of vitamin D, but eggs, fish, and dairy also provide trace amounts.
Supplementing with vitamin D is associated with a wide array of health benefits ranging from increased mental cognition, stronger immune system, stronger bones and even increased well-being. Vitamin D supplementation also reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis (28).
Bottom line: Vitamin D seems to increase testosterone levels, but only to the extent that you are deficient in it.
Forskolin is the active ingredient in Coleus forskohlii, a herb that has traditionally been used in India to improve cardiovascular health.
Today, forskolin is used as a fat-burner.
The only human study done with forskolin was done with overweight and obese men (33) where supplementation was shown to increase T levels.
Bottom line: Forskolin supplementation increases testosterone levels in obese men, but further research is needed to confirm whether this effect carries on to otherwise healthy men as well.
After going through this list of testosterone booster ingredients, it should be clear to you that none of them have been clinically proven to have a significant positive impact on the big T. Even if a positive impact has been found, the effect is not big enough for you to experience faster muscle growth or anything like that.
It is important to understand that naturally maintaining testosterone levels above a particular range is a signal that your body is lean, muscular, and receiving all the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
The healthier you are the higher your testosterone levels will be, and the higher your testosterone levels are (naturally) the healthier you'll be.
This is why the supplements that I am about to recommend are not T-Boosters in the traditional sense. Rather, they are the meant to provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to maintain optimal function, and thus produce optimal levels of T.
The Best Testosterone Boosters In 2017
In no way will taking these supplements turn you into a shredded sex-god, but they will help support your body to produce testosterone at its full capacity.
These are supplements that all men should take regardless of whether their main goal is to increase testosterone levels or not.
A multivitamin provides your body with micronutrients.
Micronutrients are comprised of vitamins and minerals. They are required by your body in small amounts, but play a critical role in human development, well-being, and of course, T production.
An adequate micronutrient balance can be achieved through a varied diet based on whole foods. Nonetheless, large portions of the US population are estimated to be deficient in many key micronutrients.
Large portions of the US population are deficient in vitamins A, C, D, and E (35, 31, 74, and 67% respectively), calcium (39%), and magnesium (46%) (34).
Let’s look at how each of these factor in to the testosterone equation:
- Vitamin A is involved in the regulation of many testicular functions. Adequate vitamin A intake is positively correlated with testosterone production (35).
- Vitamin C is mainly an antioxidant but it has also been shown to have cortisol lowering abilities (36).
- Vitamin D regulates more than 1000 bodily functions. Compared to men with vitamin D deficiency, men with sufficient vitamin D levels have significantly higher T levels (37).
- Vitamin E is also an antioxidant. One study showed subjects to experience significant increases in LH, FSH, and serum testosterone levels after supplementing with vitamin E (38).
- Magnesium is a key mineral in human metabolism that holds a direct relationship with testosterone production (39).
Although possible, it can prove difficult to get adequate amounts of micronutrients through diet alone. This is where a multivitamin can help.
About half of Americans take multivitamins (40). This should be surprising given the fact that a bulk of the population still has deficiencies. This is where the quality of multivitamin you choose becomes extremely important.
Before buying a multivitamin, read the nutrition label and make sure that it delivers as close to 100% as possible of the daily value (DV) for all of the following:
- Vitamin A (only if it is mostly beta-carotene; otherwise keep it under 4000 IU)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Depending on the extent of your current deficiency, correcting micronutrient balance can have an immediate impact on T production.
The Best Testosterone Booster On The Market : TRIUMPH
Is it surprising that I have listed a multivitamin as the best T-booster out there? Well, it shouldn't be. Other than meeting all of the requirements above, Triumph also delivers 200% of the DV for zinc, 93% DV for magnesium, 500% DV for vitamin D, and 500 mg's of ashwagandha root extract, all of which are clinically proven to have a positive impact on testosterone. The only downside is that you have to pop 8 capsules per serving. It is priced at $35 for a 1 month supply.
Creatine is a bodybuilding supplement that has stood the test of time and has been proven to increase strength, cellular hydration, and lean muscle mass in countless clinical trials. On top of all that, it's dirt cheap.
Creatine also holds a positive relationship with testosterone.
Upon consumption, creatine tends to convert testosterone into its more bioavailable form called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT has a 3-10 times higher potency than testosterone.
In a study of 20 college-aged rugby players, creatine loading resulted in an increase of DHT by 56%, which remained elevated by 40% during the maintenance phase (41).
My Creatine of Choice: Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder
As far as the type of creatine that I recommend, go for monohydrate. It is the one that has been studied the most and is also cheapest. Plus it tends to work better than the newer and more expensive types. I use the one made by optimum nutrition which sells for under $20 for about a 2-3 month's supply.
3. Calcium Carbonate
We all know of calcium as the mineral that helps our bones stay strong, but to see calcium under a list of testosterone boosters may come as a surprise.
Now, calcium does not have a significant impact on testosterone, but some research has shown it to be effective at raising T levels in men who exercise (45). Also, one test tube study has found calcium to be a possible trigger in testosterone production (46).
If you already consume a lot of dairy, then you don't need a calcium supplement. The reason calcium is not included in multivitamins is because it interferes with the absorption of other key vitamins and minerals.
My Calcium Supplement of Choice: NOW Foods Calcium Carbonate
I don't consume dairy products due to a lactose intolerance. This is why I opt for a calcium supplement. I go for the calcium carbonate because it is closest to the natural form. The NOW Foods calcium carbonate sells for under $10 for over 200 servings.
A Review of The Best Selling Testosterone Boosters
Before closing off, I wanted to provide quick reviews of the the best selling test boosters on the market based on 3 simple criteria:
- Proven Ingredients
- Customer Reviews
1. Test Booster By True Grit
Zinc and ashwagandha extract are the only clinically proven ingredients included.
Rated at 7.6/10 on bodybuilding.com by 117 verified buyers.
2 month's supply for $29.99.
Summary: The main ingredient in Test Booster By True Grit is fenugreek. As you read above, fenugreek has minimal clinical evidence supporting its effectiveness in increasing T levels.
Vitamin D3, zinc, and magnesium are the only clinically proven ingredients included.
The only testimonials available are on their own website.
1 month's supply for $65.
Summary: The main ingredients in Testofuel are D-aspartic acid, ginseng, fenugreek, and oyster extract. All of these ingredients have been proven not to be effective at increasing T levels over the long term. As for the ingredients that do work (vitamin d, zinc, magnesium) you can easily buy them separately for a far cheaper price.
3. Prime Male
Vitamin D3, Magnesium, and Zinc are the only clinically proven ingredients included.
The only testimonials available are on their own website.
1 month's supply for $69.
Summary: The main ingredients in Prime Male are D-aspartic acid, ginseng, and mucuna pruriens, all of which have minimal clinical evidence surrounding their effectiveness at increasing testosterone levels. Prime Male also includes a proprietary blend called BioPerine.
The supplement marketplace is flooded with test boosters and they are selling by the boatload. But by now, you understand that the majority of them are an utter waste of cash.
The Down & Low On T-Boosters
After bashing all the hype surrounding testosterone booster supplements, it should be abundantly clear that, in general, they're useless. Some may help increase T by correcting certain micronutrient deficiencies, but that's about the extent of their impact.
This should also give you insight on how the supplement industry functions. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, and for good reason.
The magic-pill solution is very easy to market because human nature is always looking for the easy way out. We are designed to conserve our resources. So when a company releases a supplement claiming that it can increase T by 147%, many pounce at the opportunity. The supplement industry, as a whole, functions in a way that makes it very easy for companies to make technically correct statements. Using studies on rats, animals, or single case, it becomes easy to make grand claims that don't carry on to affect the human body in the same way.
The most important step when considering what supplements to take is to research what the supplement is and how it impacts the human body as performed in clinical trials.
Anything worth having and sustaining over the long term can only occur with particular lifestyle and habit shifts, and this is especially true for testosterone enhancement.