Many men are looking for the best testosterone boosters and end up spending a lot of money with little results.
While some testosterone boosters do nothing to increase your testosterone levels, some testosterone boosters pose serious health risks. Some testosterone boosters marketed as containing steroids or steroid-like substances can cause serious harm to your health, including liver failure. Remember, anything you eat pretty much goes straight to your liver.
Some examples of products cited by the FDA in 2009:
- TREN-Xtreme: 19-Norandrosta-4,9-diene-3,17 dione, marketed as “similar to Trenbolone”
- MASS Xtreme: 17α-methyl-etioallocholan-2-ene-17b-ol, marketed as “similar to Methyl Testosterone”
- ESTRO Xtreme: 4-hydroxyandrostenedione (4-OHA)
- AH-89-Xtreme: 5α-androstano[3,2-c]pyrazole-3-one-17β-ol-THP-ether, marketed as “similar to Stanozolol”
- HMG Xtreme: 2α,3α-epithio-17α-methyl-17β-hydroxy-5α-etioallocholane
- MMA-3 Xtreme: Androsta-1,4-dien-3,17-dione, marketed as “similar to Boldenone (Equipoise)”
- VNS-9 Xtreme: 17α-methyl-4-chloro-androsta-1,4-diene-3β,17β-diol, marketed as “similar to Turinabol”
- TT-40-Xtreme: 1-androsterone, marketed as “very similar to 1-Testosterone” and “converts to 1-Testosterone”
It turns out a lot of the products above were a little too “extreme” as many young men had serious side effects from these “bathtub steroids”.
Due to the potential serious health risks, FDA recommends that consumers immediately stop using these products. Consumers should also consult their health care professional if they are experiencing symptoms possibly associated with these products, particularly nausea, weakness or fatigue, fever, abdominal pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, or brown/discolored urine. FDA also recommends that consumers talk with their health care professional about body building supplements they are taking, particularly if they are uncertain about the product’s ingredients.
Even pre-workout products on the shelves of your local GNC® store have, as recently as 2015, been shown to contain dangerously high levels of unapproved stimulants, such as aegeline. The ingredients were sourced from suppliers in China and led to several serious health issues and multiple criminal charges. GNC® has since said that they will work harder to prevent illegal drugs from ending up on there shelves.
However, there are some safe ways to naturally increase your testosterone and there are certainly some safe testosterone boosters out there. We hope this article helps you make more informed choices and helps you find the best testosterone boosters.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or stopping any of your medications.
Low Testosterone Symptoms
It is critical that doctors understand that declining testosterone levels are not a natural part of aging and that they are most likely due to health-related behaviors or health status itself.
- Decreased motivation/drive
- Decreased mental clarity
- Increased body fat
- Decreased libido
The above symptoms are common but other symptoms may include reduced night time erections, aka “morning wood”, difficulty getting and maintaining erections, irritability, low mood or mild depression, and reduced sense of wellness. Some may experience only one symptom and other may experience all the symptoms.
Many guys feel like they have adequate libido, the desire for sex, but if you were to compare it to when you were younger you would likely admit that your libido has reduced over time.
Our testosterone levels peak when we are around 25 years old and starts declining after we’re 30 years old. However, low testosterone can occur when you are in your 20’s. Personally, I was 28 years old when I was diagnosed with low testosterone and I wish I had checked it years before.
Maybe someday getting your testosterone level checked will be like getting screened for diabetes. Research is showing men today have lower testosterone levels than men at the same age 20 years ago.
In 1988, men who were 50 years old had higher serum testosterone concentrations than did comparable 50-year-old men in 1996. This suggests that some factor other than age may be contributing to the observed declines in testosterone over time.
In fact, I hear from many patients who asked their primary care doctor to check their testosterone level and were denied. Often, I see patients who do get their testosterone level checked either have it checked incorrectly or misinterpreted.
That isn’t to say that boosting your testosterone level will be a magical cure for all your health issues or make you superman. But, in some men low testosterone can cause serious issues at work and at home. Low testosterone can lead to a reduced confidence level and reduce your motivation to succeed in life.
Before you start spending hundreds of dollars per month on testosterone boosters we suggest you have your testosterone levels checked. We say “levels” because three are two types of testosterone, free and total.
Total vs Free Testosterone
Your total testosterone levels are just that, the total amount of testosterone found on lab testing. The problem is that most of this testosterone is bound by substance in your blood, called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), making it inactive.
The remainder of the testosterone not bound is the free testosterone. This is the active portion of your testosterone that is affecting your body. Testosterone enters the cells in your body and affects your DNA synthesis and more.
Also, rather than trying to measure the very small amount of free testosterone in your blood with a lab test we have found it more useful to measure total testosterone and SHBG and then do a calculation. You can learn more at the link below.
Identify the Cause of Your Low Testosterone
There are a number of potential causes of low testosterone and some of them can be quite serious. That is why it is always a good idea to have a doctor assist you with your lab testing and low testosterone treatment options including testosterone boosters.
For example, iron overload syndrome can cause low testosterone but it can also cause diabetes and joint pain. When you come to our clinic we always discuss iron levels and how iron overload can cause low testosterone.
Another condition that we don’t want to miss is hyper-prolactinemia where your body produces too much prolactin causing low testosterone. If the condition progresses it could cause a brain tumor requiring surgery to correct.
While the above conditions are rare they are important to consider when we find low testosterone or there are significant symptoms of low testosterone. Often it is difficult to identify the specific cause of the low testosterone.
Treat the Cause of Your Low Testosterone
Primary vs Secondary Hypogonadism
In primary hypogonadism, the problem is located more in the testicles. The testicles are unable to produce enough testosterone despite adequate signal (LH) being sent from the brain telling them to produce testosterone.
In secondary hypogonadism, there is apparent lack of signal being sent from the brain to the testicles (LH). If more signal is sent then the testicles will likely produce more testosterone.
In reality, many men with low testosterone have a combination of primary and secondary hypogonadism. There is a lack of signal being sent from the brain to the testicles but even with an increased signal they don’t produce a significantly higher amount of testosterone.
Thus, if you’re trying to optimize your natural production of testosterone you may want to focus not only on improving testicular function, but also increasing the signal from the brain to the testicles.
Many men are looking for safe and effective ways to optimize their testosterone levels. While these steps may seem simple it is important to have an experienced doctor to work with to make sure nothing gets missed and to help you avoid wasting your money on worthless supplements.
- Know your total and free testosterone levels
- Check the signal from the brain to the testicles (LH) with a simple blood test
- Review the info below and create a plan with your doctor
- Repeat the lab tests: total testosterone, SHBG, and LH
Remember, you may not notice significant changes right away. Changes in your symptoms can be subtle and there may be other factors preventing you from seeing benefits such as diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
Men with low testosterone may benefit most from testosterone replacement therapy which usually involves testosterone injections. However, we understand that every patient is different and we’re here to help. Based on your lab results and symptoms we can help you explore multiple low testosterone treatment options.
Many men are concerned that testosterone replacement therapy may reduce their fertility. While this is true, there are medications that can be used to potentially increase your testosterone levels and fertility, such as HCG injections.
Natural Testosterone Boosters
Boosting your testosterone naturally can be confusing and some testosterone boosters can actually make you ill. Before taking any testosterone booster supplements or making any major lifestyle changes we advise talking to your doctor.
Foods That Increase Testosterone Naturally
There really isn’t any particular food that magically increases your testosterone levels but being overweight can reduce your testosterone levels.
One way to boost your testosterone level is to lose weight and at Revive Low T Clinic we usually recommend a reduced carbohydrate diet to our patients. Before you embark on any major diet changes check with your doctor.
Certain fats like coconut oil have been shown to actually help with weight loss due to their medium chain triglyceride (MCT) content. You can read more about low carb diets and MCT’s on our blog post, The Keto Diet Plan and Weight Loss for Men. More info below.
Eating adequate protein can also boost your testosterone levels. A study in 2000 found that aging men who ate less protein tended to heave lower free testosterone levels. Talk to your doctor about how much protein you should be eating.
Thus, diets low in protein in elderly men may lead to elevated SHBG levels and decreased testosterone bioactivity. The decrease in bioavailable testosterone can then result in declines in sexual function and muscle and red cell mass, and contribute to the loss of bone density.
Sleep & Low Testosterone
We often refer patients for sleep studies at Revive Low T Clinic. Many guys have major sleep issues that likely add to their symptoms, lower their testosterone levels, and increase their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Sleep apnea is a condition where you don’t get enough oxygen while you’re sleeping and is usually accompanied by heavy snoring and periods where you’ll stop breathing. Often if there is someone else sleeping nearby they will let you know if you are snoring heavily and they may even notice you stop breathing. Men with severe sleep apnea have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
Research has shown that sleeping too little in young men can reduce their testosterone levels by about 10-15% after only one week. Also, growth hormone is produced at night so getting adequate and high quality sleep is important. Most doctors recommend about 7-8 hours sleep per night.
If you’re issue is falling asleep a common cause these days is too much light in the bedroom. Using good sleep hygiene is important. Avoid looking at your cell phone or reading in bed.
Blue light from your phone or lights inside the room, as well as light coming through the window, will trick your brain into thinking it is day time and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Stress & Low Testosterone
We live in a stressful world and, unfortunately, technology has added new stress. Some men now feel the need to constantly check their cell phones and they are being called the “constant checkers”.
A decade after the emergence of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter, more than four out of five adults in the U.S. (86 percent) report that they constantly or often check their email, texts and social media accounts, according to part two of the American Psychological Association’s report “Stress in America™: Coping with Change”.
Another major stressor in the USA, aside from finances, is politics. In part one of the 2017 American Psychological Association’s report they found that 2 out of 3 American’s are stressed out about the future of our nation.
Stress tends to increase cortisol production and cortisol tends to lower testosterone levels. Cortisol is catabolic and testosterone is anabolic. You can read more about catabolism vs anabolism is my recent article, “The Keto Diet Plan and Weight Loss for Men“.
Stress not only tends to lower your testosterone levels but can also effect male fertility. Men with higher stress levels tend to have lower sperm counts and their sperm are less likely to be fast enough swimmers to fertilize an egg.
Finding healthy ways to reduce stress and anxiety is always a good idea. Stress management is an important part of boosting your testosterone as well as your fertility. Mindfulness has become an increasingly popular was to manage stress over the past few years.
Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention into the present with a focus on internal and external experiences. In my opinion, there are many ways to bring your attention into the present and finding one that works for you is important.
It makes sense in a way. Engineers who write code often talk about “being in the zone” the same way a successful athlete can be, which mindfulness teachers say is the epitome of being present and paying attention. (Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said his meditation practice was directly responsible for his ability to concentrate and ignore distractions.) Of course, much of that world-class engineering continues to go into gadgets and software that will only ratchet up our distraction level.
Drugs That Lower Your Testosterone Levels
There are several prescription drugs that have been shown to lower testosterone levels. These medications either lower your testosterone itself or reduce the ability of your testosterone to convert to its more active form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Prescription drugs that may lower your testosterone levels include the following:
- Glucocorticoids such as Prednisone
- MS Contin
- Fentanyl and other opiates
- Finasteride and Dutasteride
Be sure to ask your doctor before changing any of your medications. Stopping a medication abruptly, such as Prednisone, can cause serious side effects and can life threatening.
Recreational drugs that can lower your testosterone levels include:
- Opiates such as heroin
Drugs That Boost Your Testosterone Levels
There are a number of prescription medications that can be used to boost your natural testosterone production. These medications should be prescribed by a doctor as they can cause side effects. Prescriptions drugs that boost low testosterone include the following:
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
- Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid®)
- Anastrozole (Arimidex®)
HCG is an FDA approved drug that is often used in males to increase the signal from the brain to the testicles. Clomid® is also FDA approved for increasing female fertility but many doctors use it off label in men as well to increase the signal from the brain to the testicles.
Anastrozole is FDA approved for use in women to shut down their estrogen production. Some doctors use it off label in men to reduce the conversion of testosterone estrogen and this can help increase the signal from the brain to the testicles as well as boost testosterone levels and fertility.
Testosterone Booster Supplements
The testosterone booster supplement industry has grown significantly over the years. Interest in testosterone boosters has skyrocketed since 2004 as shown on the graph below.
Many of these testosterone boosters can quite expensive, have zero benefit, and may actually be dangerous. Always talk to your doctor before changing your medications or trying a new supplement.
If you think you might have low testosterone talk to your doctor. Men in the Seattle area can contact our clinic with any questions or concerns. We offer all new patients a free lab test to check their testosterone levels as part of their first visit.
D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA)
D-Aspartic Acid is an amino acid found in high concentrations in our brain and testicles and may have an effect on our testosterone production if we don’t have enough. It use by our testicles to help convert cholesterol to testosterone.
A small study in Italy, in 2009, found that supplementing with D-AA significantly increased men’s testosterone levels by about 42%. However, they were testing a specific product, DADAVIT®, so there was likely some bias involved. Also,they only had men supplementing with D-AA for 12 days.
Other studies on D-AA have been unable to repeat those results. A study in 2013 published in Nutrition Research found that after 28 days of D-AA supplementation there was no significant increase in testosterone levels.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding Tribulus as a potential testosterone booster and aphrodisiac. Part of the confusion is cultural.
Many people in our society confuse the ability to get an erection with sex drive (libido). For example, some men at my clinic when asked about their libido respond by saying that their erections are fine. Libido is the desire for sex and has little to do with the ability to get an erection.
You could have a huge sex drive and due to a physical problem be unable to get any erections at all. Sounds awful right?
Some men think that if they take Viagra® their sex drive will increase. This is incorrect. Taking Viagra® may make it easier for you to get and maintain an erection by increasing your nitric oxide levels in the penis but it does not cause you to want to have sex more often, necessarily.
This appears to be the case with Tribulus. Tribulus has been found to have a similar affect as Viagra® in that it helps increase nitric oxide levels which in turn may help some men be able to get and maintain erections more easily. It does not, however, cause you to want sex more often or increase your testosterone levels.
Evidence to date suggests that Tribulus is ineffective for increasing testosterone levels in humans, thus marketing claims are unsubstantiated. The nitric oxide release effect of Tribulus may offer a plausible explanation for the observed physiological responses to Tribulus supplementation, independent of the testosterone level.
In a recent study, 50 men were given 500mg of Fenugreek seed extract per day and saw major increases in their free testosterone levels. Again, there may have been some bias in this study as they were using a “patented, 20% protodioscin-enriched extract”.
Free testosterone levels were improved up to 46% in 90% of the study population. 85.4% of the study population showed improvements in sperm counts. Sperm morphology improved in 14.6% of volunteers. Majority of the subjects enrolled in the study demonstrated improvements in mental alertness and mood. Furthermore, cardiovascular health and libido were significantly improved.
Other research has shown Fenugreek can actually be dangerous by lowering your blood sugar levels too much and suppressing thyroid function. Always ask your doctor before taking any new supplements.
Last, but not least, is ZMA, also known as zinc monomethionine aspartate. Many men who come to my clinic are already taking ZMA and I am often asked about ZMA as a supplement to boost testosterone levels. In a 2000 study researchers found ZMA supplementation increased testosterone levels in men but then later in 2004 another study found ZMA did not boost testosterone levels in men.
Taking too much zinc or magnesium can be dangerous. We already discussed D-AA above which is basically aspartate. Magnesium supplementation can have a calming effect and can help improve sleep if taken before bed. Zinc is important for immune function and almost every other function in our bodies and the best source of zinc is animal protein, especially oysters.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any nutritional supplements. Taking high doses of any nutrient can lead to problems.
Testosterone boosters may or may not be effective and certain can have side effects. The safest way to boost your testosterone levels naturally is by working with a doctor and improving your lifestyle, diet, and sleep habits.