‘Natural Testosterone Boosters’: They come in many shapes and sizes and often ‘boost’ the supplement supplier’s sales rather than your testosterone. However, they are not necessarily nonsense: nature does supply us with substances that – under certain circumstances – can increase our testosterone level.
1. Fluctuations within the natural testosterone range normally have no direct effect on muscle growth. And with normal testosterone levels you will probably hardly notice any other effects, such as in the area of energy and libido.
2. Natural testosterone supplements may be a helping hand when your testosterone production is temporarily under pressure, for example if you are cutting heavily and for a long time. Always study the composition critically before purchasing such a supplement: they do not always contain ingredients with a scientific basis and/or the doses are insufficient.
3. Natural testosterone boosters are in no way comparable to anabolic steroids in terms of effect on muscle growth and fat loss. Unfortunately, that suggestion is all too often made by supplement manufacturers.
‘BOOSTING’ YOUR TESTOSTERONE: IS IT NECESSARY?
Testosterone and muscle mass are inextricably linked. Usually, the higher the basal testosterone level a person has naturally, the greater the amount of muscle mass (seen without strength training). However, a higher testosterone level does not mean that you also build muscle mass faster than someone with lower values, at least not as long as the testosterone levels are within the natural range (264-916 nanograms/decilitre).
Fluctuations within that natural range are usually not or barely noticeable. If you manage to increase your testosterone level naturally, for example through lifestyle changes, this will have little or no effect on the speed at which you build muscle mass. However, some effect may be noticeable when a testosterone level is increased that is at the lower end of the natural range. Perhaps other positive effects of that increase are noticeable, such as more energy and a higher libido.
If your testosterone level is structurally low or too low, there may be a medical indication for this. In that case, you should see your doctor and you may need treatment such as Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT). But with young men (twenties and thirties) this is rarely the case.
Artificial increases in testosterone levels, by means of anabolic steroids and to a lesser extent TRT, do ensure that you can build muscle much faster than normal. And with long-term use, you can build more muscle mass than your genetic potential would allow.
In your twenties, thirties and even forties you normally don’t have to worry about your testosterone level with a normal, healthy lifestyle. Only if you often sleep badly, are under a lot of stress, eat an unhealthy diet, are very overweight and/or consume a lot of alcohol, can your testosterone level significantly lower. In that case, it is therefore a matter of improving your lifestyle on the aforementioned points.
Finally, bodybuilders who cut for a long time sometimes have to contend with low testosterone levels. The advice is then to continue to eat as many carbohydrates as possible despite the calorie restriction (taking into account the recommended minimum amounts of proteins and fats), to monitor the intake of micronutrients (if in doubt, use a supplement) and not to cut too long in one piece. . Also, don’t do too much cardio.
With a healthy lifestyle, ‘boosting’ the testosterone level is usually not necessary, except perhaps if you are cutting for a long time. Fluctuations in the testosterone level within the natural range have little or no influence on the speed at which you build muscle mass.
DO TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS WORK?
Good sleep, a healthy diet and a healthy body weight are the most important factors that you can influence yourself to maintain or increase your testosterone level. Supplements are therefore usually not necessary or they are at most an extra helping hand.
Natural testosterone boosters are supplements that contain one or more substances that are supposed to promote testosterone production. However, there is only a limited number of substances that have more or less been shown to have a (small) positive effect on testosterone levels as a supplement.
“More or less”, because the scientific basis is by no means always convincing. For example, sometimes only animal research has been carried out on a substance. And evidence based on animal research alone is not conclusive. Humans have a relatively short small intestine, and therefore absorb all kinds of substances in plants less well than, for example, mice and rats. In addition, humans have a metabolism that is quite efficient at neutralizing foreign substances. Many substances that have an interesting effect in a laboratory animal often do little or nothing for us.
The substances you will find in most testosterone-boosting supplements fall into two categories.
On the one hand, it concerns micronutrients that are already frequently in our regular diet, such as zinc and magnesium. Supplementing it only makes sense if you don’t get enough of these substances from yourself, which is rarely the case with an average diet, perhaps with the exception of vegan and highly calorie-restricted diets.
On the other hand, it concerns substances, mostly plant extracts, that are not or hardly in our food and are often handed down by the old (exotic) medicine. Some such substances that may ‘do something’ for your testosterone production are bulbine natalensis, boron, ashwagandha and D-aspartic acid. Sometimes several such substances are put in one product and thus touted as ‘testosterone boosters’.
We think that testosterone supplements are only worth a try if your testosterone production is temporarily under pressure, despite good health (so no medical indications) and a healthy lifestyle, for example during a prolonged cut.
If you have a structurally (too) low testosterone level, there may be a medical indication for this and you should, as mentioned, contact your doctor.
Natural testosterone boosters are in no way comparable to anabolic steroids in terms of effect on muscle growth and fat loss. Unfortunately, that suggestion is all too often made by supplement manufacturers.
Testosterone supplements can sometimes help a little bit in maintaining your testosterone level, for example during a prolonged cut. Study the composition critically before purchasing such a supplement. At normal testosterone levels, a supplement will not produce noticeable effects.
WHAT ARE THE BEST NATURAL TESTOSTERONE BOOSTERS?
Below is our selection of supplements that, based on scientific literature, may have a positive effect on your testosterone level. One is not necessarily better than the other, which is why the order of the list below is rather arbitrary.
ZMA is a combination of zinc monomethionine and aspartate (30 mg), magnesium aspartate (450 mg) and vitamin B6 (10.5 mg), three important micronutrients for energy, muscle protein synthesis and hormones.
According to its creator, supplementation with ZMA promotes testosterone levels and strength performance, and therefore muscle growth. Two independent studies have disproved these claims: ZMA only has an effect if there is a shortage of one or more of the ingredients. ZMA is therefore primarily a support supplement and not so much a booster.
The fact that many strength athletes say that they have had positive experiences with ZMA may be because strength athletes sometimes have a deficiency of zinc, magnesium and/or vitamin B6. In addition, there may be a synergy between the ingredients when taken together in these proportions. However, that has not been proven.
Supplements with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 can be useful if you combine intensive exercise with a calorie-restricted diet, such as during the cut. A one-sided or unhealthy diet can also cause a deficiency. ZMA is then a useful support supplement, although the ingredients are also available as separate supplements or as part of a multivitamin.
ZMA is a combination of zinc monomethionine and aspartate (30 mg), magnesium aspartate (450 mg) and vitamin B6 (10.5 mg). These micronutrients influence testosterone production, but supplementation is only useful if you do not get enough of them through regular food.
D-aspartic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid. Linked to a mineral, for example calcium or sodium, it is called D-aspartate (English: D-aspartic acid, or D-AA). The body always needs such a mineral compound to be able to absorb an amino acid. Unlike other amino acids, D-aspartic acid is not used to build proteins, but plays a role in making and releasing hormones. D-AA provides higher concentrations of signaling molecules in the pituitary gland and in the testicles. This stimulates the production and release of luteinizing hormone (LH) and testosterone.
D-aspartic acid has been a fairly popular supplement among bodybuilders for many years. Supplementation with 3 grams of D-AA per day would increase the testosterone level. However, studies into the influence of D-AA supplementation on testosterone production and muscle growth have yielded divergent results. For example, the testosterone level only seems to be increased in men who produce (too) little testosterone. In experiments on young bodybuilders with a normal concentration of testosterone, there was no effect on the testosterone levels, probably because enzymes quickly neutralize the amino acid. There was also no effect on muscle mass and strength.
In terms of side effects, D-AA is risk-free enough to give it a chance and you probably don’t have to leave it for the money either. A pot of 200 grams, more than enough for five 12-day cures, costs about 10 euros.
D-aspartic acid is a non-essential amino acid that fulfills a signaling function in the pituitary gland and testes. Supplementation with 3 grams per day increases the testosterone level in men who produce little testosterone.
Ginger has a long history of use as a spice and as an herbal remedy, particularly in Asian, Indian and Arabic folklore. Ginger has also been on the menu in our regions for centuries.
Okay, for the taste: you have to love it. But ginger may also offer some health benefits, although these have not yet been scientifically proven.
What is less well known is that ginger may also increase testosterone levels. At least that is suggested by one human study [ xi ] . The somewhat obscure Iraqi study is methodologically far from perfect, but is nevertheless often cited in the absence of more research. The Iraqis treated 75 infertile men with an unknown dose of ginger (probably several grams per day) for three months, resulting in an average testosterone increase of 17.7%. The ginger consumption also improved the quantity and quality of the sperm.
In addition to this human study , another study was conducted on rats [ ix ] . After thirty days of eating ginger, the critters showed an increase in testosterone levels and an improvement in sperm quality. The latter also emerged from other rat studies [ x ] .
Whether ginger does anything for your testosterone level is therefore mainly a matter of trial and error. If desired, this can be done by means of a supplement. Ginger is also included in some combination supplements, such as Grow! from Body & Fit (see below).
Ginger is a plant that contains anti-inflammatory and analgesic substances. According to one (obscure) study, ginger consumption slightly increases testosterone levels.
Bulbine natalensis is an herb used in southern Africa as a means of increasing libido and potency. Bulbine natalensis has never been extensively tested in humans, but in (male) rats the testosterone level rose by almost 350 percent after being given the herb for a while, because it activates enzymes in the testes [ vi ] . The positive effect of the herb on testosterone levels is also apparent from two other studies on rats, which increased their sex drive [ vii ] [ viii ] . According to researchers, bulbine could therefore possibly be used in people in situations of reduced libido, premature ejaculation and erection problems.
Nevertheless, caution is advised. In the rats in the last two studies mentioned, the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood increased during use. Negative effects on the liver and kidneys were also recorded. Because it cannot be ruled out that these side effects also occur in humans, it is advisable to use bulbine only occasionally (to ‘cure’ it), for 4-6 weeks, and not for a long time or permanently.
In any case, we will only be convinced if the alleged positive effect is also demonstrated in human research. And even then the question is whether as a bodybuilder you can build muscle mass and strength more easily.
The human equivalent of the effective doses is 8 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. At higher doses, the positive effect disappears.
In animal studies, bulbine natalensis extract increases testosterone concentration in rats. The human equivalent of the effective doses is 400-750 milligrams per day. Long-term use may cause side effects, which is why it is better not to use the supplement for too long in a row.
Ashwagandha is a shrub whose roots mainly contain substances to which medicinal effects are attributed. Because of those effects, ashwagandha herbal extracts have been used in Indian medicine for thousands of years. The good properties of the herb are also known in the western world. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. Adaptogens help you cope better with stress and mental challenges.
Ashwagandha is also known as a testosterone (and libido) booster. Four studies have been conducted to date on the effect of ashwagandha intake on testosterone. All four showed an increase in testosterone levels in men [ i ] , of which one study notes a 10-22% increase, compared to an 11–32% decrease in the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol [ ii ] . In the latter study, the 60 male participants were given 5 grams of ashwagandha from the root daily. It should be noted that of the four studies mentioned, three were conducted in infertile men who had reduced testosterone levels.
Specifically for strength athletes, however, there are promising results from the fourth study, which was conducted on 57 healthy men aged 18 to 50 [ iii ] . The subjects, who had little or no experience with strength training, were subjected to a small strength training program of two months. Afterwards, ashwagandha users not only had higher testosterone levels, but also more muscle growth, more strength gains and a stronger decrease in fat percentage. The dose used was 300 mg twice daily.
The effects on body composition are striking. After all, an increase in the testosterone level only has a significant influence on this if the level exceeds the natural ceiling, such as with the use of anabolic steroids. Because it concerns only one study in healthy, strength-training men, we are still cautious about drawing celebratory conclusions.
Be sure to buy ashwagandha made mostly from the root, the part of the plant that contains the most effective compounds, such as KSM-66.
Ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels and may promote strength performance and muscle recovery. To date, only one study has directly demonstrated these things. The results of a handful of other studies do give similar indications. An effective dose is 300 milligrams twice a day.
Boron (also called boron, borax or boron) is an essential trace element, a mineral that the body needs very little. It is found in legumes, apples, pears, raisins, prunes, tomatoes and potatoes and carrots grown on boron-rich soil. Boron hardly ever occurs in the moist clay soils on which we live. Boron is mostly found in volcanic soil, which is mainly found in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.
Boron is particularly important for healthy bones and joints. In addition, the mineral contributes to wound healing and the reduction of inflammation, among other things. It also enhances the absorption of magnesium and ensures that vitamin D remains active in the body for longer [ iv ] .
With a normal, somewhat healthy diet you usually get enough boron, all the more because your body only needs a small amount. However, boron is used as a supplement in certain indications, such as rheumatism, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and joint complaints associated with menopause.
Boron also influences the hormonal system, both in men and women. In 2011, a study was published that shows a convincing increase in the amount of free testosterone after supplementation of 10 mg baron daily for one week in six healthy men. The value of the female sex hormone estrogen also decreased. Baron supplementation also appeared to increase vitamin D levels and vitamin D is important for testosterone (although supplementation is probably of no use if your vitamin D status meets the requirements). Based on this study, boron is now also offered as a testosterone booster, whether or not as part of a stack .
However, we have to make caveats. A 1993 study of nineteen young bodybuilders showed no higher increases in testosterone, muscle mass and strength in boron supplement users compared to placebo users [ v ] .
Boron is an essential trace element. Supplementation with 10 milligrams of boron per day seems to increase testosterone levels.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is essential for converting calcium from food and thus important for healthy bones and teeth. The vitamin also plays an important role in the central nervous system and the immune system, and in maintaining good muscle function.
Vitamin D also influences the production of testosterone, which is what a number of scientific studies have shown. For example, men with a vitamin D deficiency appear to have significantly lower testosterone levels than men who have sufficient vitamin D in their blood [ xii ] . And older men with a low vitamin D level are less likely to have a (too) low testosterone level when they take vitamin D supplements [ xiii ] [ xiv ] . Vitamin D supplementation has also been shown to increase testosterone levels in overweight men (and therefore possibly low testosterone levels) [ xv ] .
Does that mean that vitamin D supplements boost your testosterone? Not necessarily. If your vitamin D status is optimal and your testosterone level is within the normal range, such a supplement will probably have no effect [ xvi ] . But how do you know if you have enough vitamin D?
According to the Nutrition Center as an adult you should get 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D daily; men over seventy and women over fifty need 20 micrograms per day [ xvii ] . Authorities abroad recommend higher doses. The tolerable upper limit for adults is 100 micrograms (4000 IU) per day.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, to be precise: ultraviolet B radiation (UV-B). We make at least two thirds of the amount of vitamin D that we need per day, via synthesis. You have to be outside for at least 15 minutes to half an hour every day, in daylight of course. We get the rest from the diet, provided there is a healthy and varied diet according to the Nutrition Center’s ‘Disc of Five’. Vitamin D is mainly found in fatty fish (such as salmon, herring and mackerel), and with somewhat lower levels in meat and eggs.
According to an ancient study , the vitamin D that we make through sunlight has a greater effect on testosterone production than vitamin D that you get through food [ xviii ] .
But many people, especially on weekdays, don’t go out much. In addition, fatty fish is not on everyone’s daily menu. A vitamin D deficiency is therefore quite real, especially in the over-fifties. In that case, supplementation can offer a solution. In addition to maintaining testosterone levels, vitamin D supplements can also positively influence exercise performance, maintenance of muscle strength and mass, and maybe even muscle growth. But this, again, is especially true in the elderly and possibly only if they have a substantial vitamin D deficiency.
The best form of vitamin D is vitamin D3 and that is also usually the form used in supplements.
Vitamin D promotes testosterone production. Not everyone gets enough vitamin D, usually caused by a lack of sunlight. Vitamin D supplementation can in that case increase the testosterone level.
Tongkat ali, also known as longjack, is a traditional herbal remedy made from the roots of the tongkatali tree (Eurycoma longifolia). This tree grows almost exclusively in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia. The locals have used the herb for centuries as a libido booster.
According to a number of human studies, tongkat ali can increase testosterone levels [ xxi ] , probably because it stimulates the release of hormones such as LH and FSH in the brain. However, this effect has only been demonstrated in men with a very low testosterone level and, moreover, the effect is quite small (an increase of at most a few tens of percent). In that respect, young people will therefore benefit little from the supplement. Nevertheless, there is one study that suggests that tongkat ali supplementation could improve exercise performance in young men [ xxii ] .
In addition, there are several studies demonstrating positive effects of tongkat ali on sexual health, possibly also through mechanisms other than testosterone [ xxiii ] . For example, your libido and erections could improve if you took 300 mg of the extract every day for 12 weeks, something that has been shown in men between the ages of 30 and 55 [ xxiv ] . According to that study, the substance could also increase the quality and quantity of sperm, which was also shown by two studies in rats [ xxv ] [ xxvi ] .
Some tongkat ali users report side effects, including difficulty sleeping, aggression, irritation and abdominal pain. Sometimes they are even so serious that they make normal social functioning impossible. Until further notice, the drug is therefore not available in the usual European online stores.
Tonkgat ali may promote testosterone levels, but the potentially major side effects are no longer available in the Netherlands.
Fluctuations within the natural testosterone range normally have no direct effect on muscle growth. And with normal testosterone levels you will probably hardly notice any other effects, such as in the area of energy and libido.
Natural testosterone supplements may well be a helping hand when your testosterone production is temporarily under pressure, for example if you are cutting heavily and for a long time. Always study the composition critically before purchasing such a supplement: they do not always contain ingredients with a scientific basis and/or the doses are insufficient.
Natural testosterone boosters are in no way comparable to anabolic steroids in terms of effect on muscle growth and fat loss. Unfortunately, that suggestion is all too often made by supplement manufacturers.
- [ i ] https://examine.com/rubric/effects/view/a42299063269c89b14ced47e812decef/d7cb526b5896d0051a93a131651574ce/all/
- [ ii ] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19789214
- [ iii ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282
- [ iv ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4712861
- [ v ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8508192
- [ vi ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20645801
- [ vii ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18710410
- [ viii ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735182
- [ ix ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23862759
- [ x ] http://www.bioline.org.br/abstract?rm09002
- [ xi ] https://www.iasj.net/iasj?func=fulltext&aId=71548
- [ xii ] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20050857
- [ xiii ] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18351428
- [ xiv ] http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/9734509
- [ xv ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21154195
- [ xvi ] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2265.2012.04332.x
- [ xvii ] https://www.voedingscentrum.nl/encyclopedie/vitamine-d.aspx
- [ xviii ] https://academic.oup.com/endo/article-abstract/25/1/7/2772602
- [ xix ] https://examine.com/rubric/effects/view/02bd2e38a1a19ec46be009a88847f9cd/9a2890960bb9e0fc1e2c6987f0e43d03/all/
- [ xx ] https://examine.com/rubric/effects/view/02bd2e38a1a19ec46be009a88847f9cd/d7cb526b5896d0051a93a131651574ce/all/
- [ xxi ] https://examine.com/rubric/effects/view/17d032858dc5d68b18171469e8843e52/d7cb526b5896d0051a93a131651574ce/all/
- [ xxii ] https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-10-3737-5_20
- [ xxiii ] https://www.t-nation.com/supplements/the-most-proven-sexual-performance-supplement
- [ xxiv ] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23243445/
- [ xxv ] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23261482/
- [ xxvi ] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815289/