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Are Testosterone Boosters Actually Useful for Boosting Male Hormones?

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Hundreds of testosterone boosters are available in stores and online. They are widely marketed, with ads full of amazing stories and promising incredible results. Here we look at the most common ingredients found in testosterone boosters and ask, do testosterone boosters work?

What is Testosterone?

Testosterone is a hormone vital for both men and women. However, in men, it plays a more significant role. Testosterone triggers male sexual development, sperm production, muscle building and offers many other health benefits 1.

What are Testosterone Boosters?

Testosterone boosters are supplement pills that may include plant extracts, minerals, and vitamins. They claim to have mystical testosterone boosting powers. These pills often play on people's insecurities, luring them into the hope of increased energy, muscle, and libido.

While some supplements like vitamin D help support healthy testosterone levels, most don't make any real difference. With muscle-bound men commonplace on the packaging, it's understandable how men think boosters will help in the gym. Some of these supplements may support testosterone levels somewhat. Some may even help you build muscle to a minor degree. In reality, if you have low or reduced testosterone, they will do pretty much nothing.

There are very few studies2 looking at the various T-boosters you see in health shops and on major retail sites online. The lack of evidence for their positive benefits is thin on the ground. Yet, testosterone boosters remain extremely popular in stores across the USA. For example, if you look at the Walmart or Amazon websites, there are 345 and 379 results respectively for testosterone boosters.

There are way too many products to go through individually and assess if they are effective or not. So, let's look at the most common ingredients they use and their effects on testosterone.

D-Aspartic Acid

D-Aspartic Acid (D-AA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that many companies claim increases testosterone levels and sperm count. D-AA is common testosterone booster athletes use to improve performance, muscle tone, and strength. Many people believe that D-AA can help increase testosterone levels.

D-Aspartic acid increases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone levels. These hormones travel to the testicles and stimulate the Leydig cells to produce testosterone. However, no studies3 show D-AA increases testosterone to any level that will improve your health. It can temporarily increase testosterone, but it soon drops again, offering no real improvement in levels.

Does D-Aspartic Acid Increase Testosterone?

Some evidence shows D-AA to be effective for increasing sperm counts. With one study highlighting its positive effects on sperm motility. But as far as increasing testosterone, the evidence is limited at best. One of the latest studies4 showed that a daily dose of 6g lowers testosterone with a 3g daily, making no increases at all. D-AA is not a reliable testosterone boosting supplement for men suffering from symptoms of low testosterone.

Even if D-AA can temporarily increase testosterone levels, it is best not to take it for more than 90 days, making it useless for long-term optimization. Testosterone is illegal for use by athletes because it works. On the other hand, D-AA is not illegal because it doesn't work.

Vitamin D

Confusingly vitamin D is not a vitamin. It's a prohormone that converts in the body into the hormone calcitriol. Usually, vitamins are nutrients your body cannot make itself. However, your body can produce vitamin D, mostly from sunlight through the skin.

Vitamin D is essential for many reasons:

  • Promotes healthy bones and teeth
  • Supports immunity, brain, and nervous system health
  • Helps control insulin levels and diabetes management
  • Supports cardiovascular health
  • Helps protect against certain cancers

Does Vitamin D Increase Testosterone?

There is a definite link between vitamin D and testosterone. Some symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency are similar to low T. For example, muscle weakness, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, and brittle bones. If you have any of these symptoms, it is best to get a blood test to confirm the cause. 

There are conflicting studies with varying results using Vitamin D as a testosterone booster. The first study5 looked at a control group with low vitamin D and low testosterone, giving them vitamin D supplements over a year-long period. They saw an increase in vitamin D and testosterone levels, but not anywhere near enough to reach optimum hormone levels.

The second study13 showed that healthy middle-aged men with 'normal' testosterone levels had no increase. And the final study6 showed the same results in the 18-35 age group, with no significant increase in testosterone. So, what is clear from these studies is that no clear data shows that Vitamin D can increase testosterone levels to any significant degree.

Studies7 do show a link between vitamin D deficiency and low T. Supplementation of vitamin D can slightly increase levels. However, if you are suffering from clinically low T, vitamin D is unlikely to optimize hormone levels to healthy levels.  

DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced in the body. It is a prohormone, meaning that it converts into other more active hormones for use in the body. DHEA converts in the adrenal glands and liver into the longer-lasting and more active DHEA-Sulphate (DHEAs). Then further down the line into testosterone, estrogen, and estradiol. DHEA is present in every cell in the body; therefore, its effects are far-reaching.

DHEA has many benefits for the body and is said to help the following:
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Depression
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Menopausal symptoms (in women)
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease

At around 35-40 years old, DHEA levels begin to decline due to adrenal fatigue and the natural fall in hormone levels. Stress is also a contributing factor. If you have a stressful life, you increase cortisol levels, which speeds up any decrease in DHEA.

Synthetic DHEA made from soy and yams is available in tablet form over the counter but should only ever be taken under the guidance of a qualified doctor. However, DHEA's effectiveness has been the subject of much debate, with a distinct lack of evidence supporting its use. The FDA does not approve DHEA supplements, and there are no regulations, meaning the quality of the products is not always consistent. 

Treating low levels of DHEA is a simple process. Nevertheless, even though it is available over the counter, you should only use DHEA medication prescribed by your doctor. Our doctors are specialists in spotting the symptoms of a hormone imbalance. Our in-depth assessment and blood profiling can pinpoint exactly why you feel the way you do and make it right.

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris (TT) is an herbal extract used as an aphrodisiac to increase virility. It is an ancient medicine from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. It has become very popular as a testosterone booster due to intensive marketing. However, exaggerated claims that it increases testosterone are not proven. Studies prove that the effects are sporadic. In addition, studies7 on the effects of TT on testosterone and sexual desire were on animals, and the results were contradictory. They highlight the lack of evidence Tribulus Terrestris has in increasing male testosterone levels.

Widely publicized in Bulgaria during the '70s, Tribulus Terrestris became well known for its supposed muscle-building effects. During the following years, Bulgarian weightlifters dominated the world weightlifting circuit. Their fame increased the popularity of this wonder herb. However, the public had the wool pulled over their eyes. The world champion weightlifting team was disqualified from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for using illegal anabolic steroids. Tribulus Terrestris was likely to have had nothing to do with their success. They were using anabolic steroids, with Tribulus Terrestris taking the credit.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek is another common ingredient in many off-the-shelf testosterone boosters. Fenugreek seed extract (sometimes sold under the brand Fenu-FG or Furosap) claims to increase testosterone levels, aid fat loss, and increase muscle. But, again, no reputable studies support this.

Fenugreek supplements claim all sorts of health benefits, including:

  • Reduced Cancer risk
  • Reduced Diabetes risk
  • Reduced Obesity
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved heart health
  • Fights bacterial, fungal, and viral infections
  • Reduced Inflammation

We did find one study8 that observed men during resistance training, one a placebo group and another given Fenu-FG. The study showed a significant increase in testosterone levels amongst those taking supplements. However, if you dig deeper, the company that funded the study is the company that produces the supplements. So, this brings into question the credibility of the evidence.

Another study claims impressive testosterone boosting results. This study9 looked at a fenugreek supplement with 20% protodioscin extract (Tribulus Terrestris). They [7] gave 50 men with low t this supplement for 12 weeks, who saw an average 50% increase in free testosterone from 8pg/ml to 12 mpg/ml. This rise in levels sounds like an impressive testosterone boost. However, this study fails to show an accurate picture.

In summary, if you have a deficient free testosterone level of 8pg/ml and these tablets increase levels by 50% to 12pg/ml, you are still low. A 50% increase of such a small number means a minimal increase. This slight rise in testosterone highlights that fenugreek supplements don't optimize testosterone levels. The only way is using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

Zinc

A zinc deficiency can hinder testosterone production. However, if you are not zinc deficient, taking a supplement will not increase levels. Zinc only enters the body via food and supplements, and many common foods contain high zinc levels, so developing a deficiency is unlikely.

Research into zinc supplements for men with clinically low testosterone is minimal, so don't rely on zinc as a testosterone booster. Finally, zinc deficiency is pretty uncommon in the USA, so it is unlikely to be a significant cause of low testosterone in men.

Ashwagandha

Arguably the best-known herbal testosterone booster is ashwagandha. It originates from India and the surrounding areas, where the ground root is commonly given to men to boost libido and vitality. Also known as Indian ginseng, this remedy is usually taken in pill form or blended with other herbs and spices to treat various conditions.

Ashwagandha allegedly cures stress, prevents cancer, and improves libido. It's even supposed to help you lose fat and gain muscle. But there are very few studies into the effectiveness of ashwagandha as a testosterone booster. Ashwagandha is a common ingredient in testosterone boosters because of its mythical powers to increase vigor and fertility.

Does Ashwagandha Increase Testosterone?

Ashwagandha may have a calming effect and reduce stress. If this is the case, it could lower cortisol levels, which in theory could increase testosterone. However, the study used mice, not humans, so therefore not particularly reliable.

Evidence shows that ashwagandha can help guys with infertility with some impressive results. Possibly this is where the association between ashwagandha, testosterone, and virility originates. In one study of 75 men, semen quantity and quality improved significantly using ashwagandha.

In another study, this time using humans, they showed that ashwagandha does help reduce stress. But, whether it increases testosterone levels is yet to be proven. One study12 noted a 14.7% rise in testosterone levels, an increase nowhere near enough to gain any real benefits.

Black Maca Root

Maca is the edible root of the Lepidium meyenii, a member of the Brassicaceae family. This group of plants includes broccoli, radishes, and cabbage. Maca is grown in the Central Andes at limited altitudes, between 4000 – 4500m above sea level.

There are a few maca root colors, white, red, and yellow, with black being the most common. Black Maca is the main variety sold as a testosterone booster. Maca (much like many other herbal remedies on our list) is a traditional aphrodisiac and fertility medicine for both men and women.

As far as maca being a testosterone booster, there are no studies to prove this. However, many studies say it doesn't. Notably, one study10 in Peru following 56 healthy male subjects showed black maca does not affect serum testosterone levels.

The Bottom Line: There Is No Magic Testosterone Pill

There is extensive marketing surrounding testosterone boosters. Companies invest in emotive ads full of amazing stories and incredible results. Go to any online 'supplement retailer' such as Walmart, and you'll find hundreds of testosterone boosters. For example, Test X180 contains D-Aspartic acid, Tribulus, Fenugreek, and Black Maca. Many claim their products are clinically proven to increase testosterone, energy, and vitality.

The fact is that none of these 'T boosters' can increase testosterone levels to any degree that will benefit your health. Even Roman Health sells a capsule called "Roman Testosterone Support" containing the ingredients listed in this article. They even have a disclaimer further down in the FAQ's stating:

"Roman's Testosterone Support supplement itself is not testosterone nor is it a precursor to testosterone. Rather, the supplement is made with ashwagandha, which has been shown to increase testosterone levels. Roman’s Testosterone Support supplement is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you do suffer from low testosterone, this supplement is not a treatment for your condition. You should talk to your healthcare provider about the best next steps in treatment. You may require treatment with testosterone replacement therapy or a different intervention."

This admission highlights how ineffective these supplements are when it comes to any marked increase in testosterone levels. Remember, lifestyle significantly impacts testosterone levels, as does age, and no testosterone booster will change that.

Do Testosterone Boosters Work?

People must have a realistic picture of what to expect with T boosters. Indeed, they are no substitute for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy under the watchful eye of a clinic. Some may indeed contain certain plant extracts, minerals, supplements, and vitamins that support testosterone health, for example, vitamin D and DHEA. There is a blurred line between testosterone support and boosters, and neither is anywhere near as effective as TRT. So our advice would be don't waste your money on products that sell empty promises.

Studies11 show no proof that testosterone boosters effectively increase testosterone levels. They quote:

"T-Boosters are readily available online. Our investigation revealed that limited human studies have evaluated T-Boosters, resulting in no definitive findings of efficacy. In the absence of additional human studies, patients should be cutious before considering T-Boosters, given the availability of highly effective Food and Drug Administration-approved therapies."

If you suspect reduced testosterone could be slowing you down and are considering talking testosterone boosters why not try our free online assessment? It only takes a minute or two to compete and could give you an insight into your hormone health.

Take FREE Hormone Assessment Now

G. D’Aniello, S. Ronsini, T. Notari, N. Grieco, V. Infante, N. D’Angel, F. Mascia, M. Fiore, G. Fisher and A. D’Aniello, "D-Aspartate, a Key Element for the Improvement of Sperm Quality," Advances in Sexual Medicine, Vol. 2 No. 4, 2012, pp. 45-53. doi: 10.4236/asm.2012.24008.

Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37):e17186. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017186

Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466


Balasubramanian A, Thirumavalavan N, Srivatsav A, Yu J, Lipshultz LI, Pastuszak AW. Testosterone Imposters: An Analysis of Popular Online Testosterone Boosting Supplements. J Sex Med. 2019;16(2):203-212. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2018.12.008

Rutkowski K, Sowa P, Rutkowska-Talipska J, Kuryliszyn-Moskal A, Rutkowski R. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): hypes and hopes. Drugs. 2014 Jul;74(11):1195-207. doi: 10.1007/s40265-014-0259-8. PMID: 25022952.

Lopresti AL, Drummond PD, Smith SJ. A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males. Am J Mens Health. 2019;13(2):1557988319835985. doi:10.1177/1557988319835985