Low testosterone levels have caused countless men to seek out ways to counteract the problem with many embracing testosterone boosters. But do testosterone boosters work?
In a word, “Yes”. Various types of supplemental testosterone have proven effective in boosting testosterone levels in men with low testosterone. These boosters range from clinical-grade testosterone prescribed by doctors to over-the-counter supplements and natural remedies.
In this article, we will examine the various types of testosterone boosters that have proven the most effective.
- Many men are turning to testosterone boosters to counteract the negative effects of low testosterone.
- Testosterone boosters take many forms including prescription gels and patches and over-the-counter supplements.
- Diet and exercise also play a role in boosting and maintaining testosterone levels.
What Is A Testosterone Booster?
A testosterone booster is any product or substance that boosts testosterone levels. There are three kinds of testosterone boosters:
- Testosterone replacement therapy
- Over-the-counter testosterone supplements
- Natural methods
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)
Testosterone replacement therapy (1) is a medical treatment prescribed for patients with low testosterone levels. TRT as it’s called has become increasingly popular in recent years as the number of older men in the US has grown. TRT takes numerous forms and all must be prescribed by a qualified physician. Those forms include:
Injectables: Injectable testosterone is the most popular type of TRT mostly because it is the most affordable and because it is fast acting. Nonetheless, many physicians will try and direct their patients away from injectable testosterone because of the pain involved and because of potential side effects such as skin rash, increased blood pressure and lightheadedness.
There are four kinds of injectable testosterone:
- Cypionate: Cypionate (2) is metabolized by the body over the course of about a week. How much is prescribed will depend on the severity of the testosterone shortfall.
- Enanthate: Enanthate (3) is another slow-acting testosterone that metabolizes over about five days.
- Propionate: Propionate (4) is a fast-acting form of testosterone that typically reaches peak saturation in the bloodstream a few hours after administration. The downside of Propionate is that it may convert to estrogen.
- Testosterone suspension: Testosterone suspension is a form of water-based testosterone that is rapidly taken up by the muscles. For this reason, it has become a favorite of bodybuilders looking to pack on muscle mass (5).
Gels: With this form of TRT a gel infused with testosterone is rubbed into the skin, typically on the upper body, once per day. The testosterone is gradually absorbed by the skin raising testosterone levels. Several types of testosterone gel come with dispensers that ensure you get the correct dosage.
Skin patch: Most people are familiar with the nicotine patch used to help people quit smoking. The testosterone patch works in much the same way. The person attaches the patch to their skin and during the day it slowly releases testosterone that is absorbed by the body. Testosterone skin patches are only available by prescription.
Oral patch: The oral patch is more like chewing gum than a traditional patch. The patient presses it into the area where the gum recedes above the teeth. The testosterone is then slowly absorbed through the gums. A patient will usually require two or three of these patches during the course of a day.
Testosterone boosting supplements
Prescription-strength testosterone is practically guaranteed to be effective. But it’s not the only kind of testosterone booster available. Several different over-the-counter supplements have proven effective when it comes to boosting testosterone. Those OTC supplements include:
DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone (6) is an endogenous steroid hormone precursor. It is produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands and, by itself, has very little influence on a person’s physiology. Its primary purpose is to aid in the production of other hormones, most notably testosterone and estrogen.
DHEA is readily available over-the-counter and is a favorite of men looking for ways to boost their testosterone levels. There is a fairly robust debate among researchers about the actual effectiveness of DHEA supplements in boosting testosterone (7), with some claiming it works (particularly when paired with high-intensity workouts) and others claiming little effect.
DAA or D-aspartic acid is an amino acid that plays a role in the process that triggers testosterone production. Testosterone production starts in the brain with the hypothalamus then moves on to the pituitary and finally to the testicles.
DAA jumps starts the process by triggering the hypothalamus to release gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which then prompts the pituitary to release luteinizing hormone (LH) which then prompts the Leydig cells in the testicles to produce testosterone from cholesterol. In theory, by taking DAA supplements a man should be able to increase the amount of testosterone he produces (8).
Magnesium is one of the most important nutrients and plays a key role in protein synthesis, nerve function, muscle contraction, blood pressure regulation, bone health and the regulation of blood pressure. Recent research also suggests magnesium may play an essential role in maintaining testosterone levels (9).
Zinc is another over-the-counter supplement that, according to science, plays an important role in boosting and maintaining testosterone levels. Numerous studies have confirmed that zinc supplementation can raise levels of serum testosterone in both men (10) and women (11). Because zinc can cause headaches, stomach upset, and more, talk to your doctor before taking zinc supplements.
There is evidence to suggest that vitamin D can provide at least a modest boost to testosterone levels (12). Even better, you do not have to change your diet or take a supplement to raise your vitamin D levels. The best way to do so is to simply stand in the sun. Just don’t overdo it. Research indicates as little as 13 minutes of midday sun per day should be sufficient (13).
Natural methods to boost testosterone levels
There is no doubt that doctor-prescribed clinical-grade testosterone boosters are the most effective way to counteract low testosterone levels. There is also ample scientific evidence to support the notion that certain over-the-counter supplements can help counteract the effects of low testosterone.
However, for those disinclined to use either of those methods several natural alternatives exist that have also proven effective in combating low testosterone levels. They include:
Strength training is finally getting the recognition it deserves as a way for people of all ages to maintain robust health. For those with low testosterone, strength training provides the added benefit of boosting testosterone levels. In the words of one study published in 2010 “acute increases in testosterone can be induced by resistance exercise” (14). In other words, if your testosterone levels need a boost, hit the weight room.
You are what you eat. If you eat foods such as lean meat, salmon, oysters, spinach and garlic you stand a good chance of maintaining healthy testosterone levels. On the other hand, if you eat foods known to have a negative effect on testosterone levels such as heavily processed foods, vegetable oil and soy-based products like tofu you may well wind up with low testosterone levels (15).
The past few years have been stressful for everyone. But even without the unique and highly stressful circumstances created by lockdowns contemporary life was already exerting unprecedented levels of stress on the average person. Turns out those stress levels are not just bad for your blood pressure, they can also have a negative effect on testosterone levels (16).
Enacting changes to your lifestyle that mitigate your stress levels is likely to have a beneficial effect on your testosterone levels. But that’s not the only lifestyle change that could pay dividends. Getting more sleep (17) and regular exercise such as strength training (as discussed above) can also help restore healthy testosterone levels.
Are testosterone boosters safe?
The above-listed testosterone boosting methods are generally considered safe for otherwise healthy men who suffer from low testosterone. That said, the wisest course of action is to consult your doctor before taking up weight training or making major changes to your diet.
It should be noted too, that one of the reasons testosterone replacement therapy requires medical consent and supervision is because of the potential side effects which include:
- Skin problems including acne
- Testicular atrophy
- The development of “man boobs”
- Hair loss
- Reduced libido
Injectable testosterone should only be prescribed by a reputable healthcare professional, but countless men decide to circumvent normal protocols and purchase it online without consulting their doctor first.
This is a very risky approach because A) the safety and efficacy of products purchased in this way cannot be guaranteed and B) administering injectable testosterone without medical supervision could lead to serious health consequences including pulmonary oil microembolism or POME (18), wherein potentially fatal blood clots form in the lungs.
Do testosterone boosters boost libido?
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone, so it only follows that if someone with low testosterone restores their testosterone levels to normal that their libido would be positively affected.
In theory, restoring normal testosterone levels should make it easier for a man to achieve and maintain an erection and also make him more willing to actively pursue sex.
However, it should be noted that testosterone boosters do not guarantee a robust sex life. There are any number of reasons why a man’s sex life may be suffering including alcohol or drug abuse, relationship issues, work pressures, depression or undiagnosed illness. Testosterone boosters will not be much help if any of those issues are in play.
There are several different kinds of testosterone boosters available, ranging from clinical grade injectable testosterone to OTC supplements and natural methods. Each of them has the potential to help men suffering from low testosterone levels.