“Do any testosterone boosters really work? Are testosterone boosters bad for you?”
These are questions I’m often asked in my office as I counsel men with low testosterone levels.
Some men want to go the natural route before starting testosterone therapy. Others are hoping to augment the benefits they are already seeing with testosterone pellet therapy.
Unfortunately, once you start diving into the natural, non-traditional medicine space, the science is sometimes lacking. That’s not to say that testosterone boosters can’t help you but we may not have any scientific proof they work either.
Instead of “poo-pooing” testosterone boosters, I’ll present the information I’ve researched sprinkled in with 10+ years of clinical experience as a board-certified urologist. When there is evidence, I’ll do my best to provide a reference.
Testosterone Booster Supplements
Nutraceuticals and supplements are big business. In 2016, the nutritional supplement industry made $122 billion. (I’ll let that sink in for a moment.) Keep that in mind the next time you walk into GNC (a $2 billion company) for testosterone boosters.
Again, this does not mean that supplements won’t make you feel better. Just temper your expectations, be thoughtful with your money, and understand what a testosterone booster supplement can and can’t do for you.
Here are the best and/or most common testosterone boosters currently available:
These three vitamins together are essential for normal testosterone function. They are fat soluble and seem to work synergistically (fancy doctor term for working better together than separately).
Vitamin A plays an important role in reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system and normal male development. Supplementation in boys with delayed puberty caused increased testicular size and maturation better than actual testosterone.
Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic in the U.S. regardless of age or where you live. (Anecdotally, 80% of patients from a clinic in Miami, FL were vitamin D deficient. So don’t try to tell me you get enough sun!)
There isn’t a bodily function that doesn’t require adequate vitamin D levels. This includes maintenance of muscle volume and testosterone levels.
Lastly, there’s vitamin K. Found in green, leafy foods (see below), there’s basic science evidence that vitamin K plays an important role in testosterone production by the testicles.
If you’re interested in purchasing a high quality vitamin ADK supplement, then click here and we can help.
Testosterone booster conclusion: Go for it! Almost everyone needs these essential vitamins. Be sure to purchase a high quality supplement that keeps you within the recommended daily allowance.
A proprietary formulation developed by Thorne Research, DIM SGS+ combines:
- Diindolymethane (DIM)
- Pomegranate extract (ellagic acid)
DIM is a phytonutrient found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. It increases free testosterone levels and decreases the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Most importantly, it may decrease the amount of testicular shrinkage often seen with testosterone replacement therapy (nobody likes shrinkage)
Sulforaphane is found in the same foods as DIM, improves testosterone metabolism, and has antioxidant properties.
Pomegranate extract takes the best anti-inflammatory properties of this superfood and packs it into a well-tolerated supplement.
How does DIMS SGS+ perform as a testosterone booster? Although studies are lacking to specifically answer this question, there is plenty of evidence supporting its anti-cancer and anti-estrogen properties.
There are no reported serious side effects to DIM SGS+ but like anything, stop it immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Remember, DIM SGS+ is a special formulation only sold legitimately through BioTE® providers. If interested in ordering DIM SGS+ click here and we will help you out.
Testosterone booster conclusion: If you’re on testosterone replacement therapy, DIM SGS+ is a great addition. As a stand-alone product for testosterone boosting, it’s worth a try.
Right behind iron, as the most common mineral in your body, zinc is an essential nutrient. You may have heard that zinc helps your little swimmers for baby making, but let’s talk testosterone boosting.
A study in which young men were placed on a zinc-restricted diet showed significantly decreased testosterone levels. The researchers then supplemented an older group of men and found that zinc increased testosterone levels.
Too much zinc can be a bad thing, however. The ideal dose for testosterone boosting is not well known. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc is 11 mg for men. Most commercially available zinc supplements are 200-500% of this dose!
What should you do? If your diet is rich in zinc, then supplementation will likely not have testosterone boosting effects and may be dangerous. It can deplete magnesium and copper levels.
On the other hand, if a good dietary assessment suggests you might be low in zinc, then taking a zinc supplement 15 mg/day for 2 months should be enough of a trial.
Make sure to take a magnesium supplement as well (which is a fantastic sleep aid) and to STOP zinc immediately if you feel any side effects.
Testosterone booster conclusion: Supplement at a low dose with caution for 2 months. Stop if there is no benefit or you experience any side effects.
This is not a plant from potions class at Hogwarts. Tribulus terrestris (TT) is technically a weed (gross) and also known as bindii or goat’s head. But more importantly, it may be a testosterone booster.
It must be popular because there are a lot of large, masculine-looking jugs of this stuff for sale on Amazon.
Does it work for testosterone boosting? One formal review of the available data led the group of researchers to conclude that the testosterone boosting ability of Tribulus terrestris is “at best, inconclusive.” Not encouraging.
Testosterone booster conclusion: Pass. Leave this one for Harry, Hermione, and Ron. (If I have to explain to you who these people are, then ask your kid 😉
Fenugreek is a plant that has been eaten and used in eastern medicine for centuries. When the seeds are ground, the potent “testosterone booster” compounds furostanolic saponins are concentrated.
One study showed that although fenugreek supplementation at 500 mg didn’t boost testosterone, it had a positive impact on strength and body composition over 8 weeks.
Other research supports the testosterone booster potential of fenugreek by raising free testosterone levels by 46%.
Don’t get too excited, however, because the research was sponsored by the company which profits off of fenugreek supplements. It’s hard to be truly unbiased if you’re making money off the results.
Is it safe? The National Institute of Health (NIH) has stated that compared to dietary sources, the safety of fenugreek supplements in “larger doses is uncertain.”
Testosterone booster conclusion: More research required, pass for now.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a herb used in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine to promote virility and improve overall health. It is commonly found in available testosterone boosters sold in the U.S.
In one study of overweight, older men, ashwagandha supplementation improved DHEA levels and testosterone levels however there were no reported clinical benefits. In other words, the men didn’t feel any different. Don’t be discouraged. Since these men were older and overweight, it’s possible they have other reasons for not feeling better.
More encouraging data exists supporting ashwagandha as a testosterone booster. Researchers found improved testosterone levels and sperm quality in infertile men. Another showed improved strength with a novel weight lifting program in men taking Ashwagandha.
As far as safety is concerned, the NIH has classified ashwagandha as “possibly safe for up to 3 months.” Not exactly encouraging, but also not unexpected for herbal supplements. It can affect blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Therefore, it should be used with caution if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Testosterone booster conclusion: Encouraging data and worth a try for a month or two. Not the best choice if you take high blood pressure or diabetes medication.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone naturally produced in your adrenal glands. It acts as a precursor to testosterone. Commercially available in oral forms, it makes sense why DHEA is used as a testosterone booster.
You might be asking yourself “if DHEA turns into testosterone, then it must be a great testosterone booster?” Not necessarily.
Your body first converts DHEA into androstenedione (“Andro”) which was made famous during the 1990s baseball scandal. “Andro” then is metabolized into testosterone AND estrogen (hello moobs). What does this mean? Unpredictable levels and unwanted side effects.
So does DHEA work? According to a review of the data by the NIH, DHEA is listed as “possibly effective” for muscle strength and physical performance. It raises testosterone levels, but at what cost?
Side effects may include all of the androgen effects (acne, facial hair, and again “moobs”), worsening cholesterol profiles and increasing levels of IGF-1 a cancer promoting compound (uh oh).
Testosterone booster conclusion: Yes, it will work, but I cannot recommend it at this time due to unpredictable levels and side effects. If you’re going with a hormone, you’d be safer to use testosterone replacement therapy under the care of a board-certified urologist.
Magnesium is the unsung hero of our essential minerals. It’s not as talked about as calcium or iron, but yet magnesium plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy life. Our cardiovascular, nervous and musculoskeletal systems require adequate levels for proper function.
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 420 mg for men. Found in whole grains, seafood and green leafy vegetables, this testosterone booster is often deficient.
In 1992, researchers found that magnesium supplements increased strength and testosterone levels. A follow up study confirmed these findings when magnesium supplements caused free and total testosterone levels to increase in both athletes and couch potatoes.
As long as you stick around the recommended daily allowance, (aim for 200-400 mg of magnesium supplements per day) supplementation is safe and side effects are uncommon.
Added benefit . . . magnesium supplements help you get a great night’s sleep as well (more to come on sleep!).
Testosterone booster conclusion: Unless you eat REALLY healthy, optimizing your magnesium levels is a good idea and may boost your testosterone.
D-Aspartic Acid (DAA)
D-aspartic acid (DAA) is an amino acid; the building blocks of protein in our body. D-aspartic acid (DAA) also plays a role in hormone function by stimulating the brain and testicles to produce more testosterone.
Is D-aspartic acid (DAA) a dependable testosterone booster?
Although the science is promising, the results in clinical studies are mixed.The most compelling study showed an improvement in LH and testosterone levels in 23 men. Studies which focused on men who were actively exercising showed no benefit, however. This data suggests D-aspartic acid (DAA) may be a better testosterone booster for obese, sedentary men.
DAA supplementation appears to be safe for up to 90 days, but more research is needed.
Testosterone booster conclusion: There is not enough evidence to support DAA use. But you could try it for up to 3 months if you’re a couch potato.
Testosterone Booster Foods
I am always in favor of supplementing traditional medicine with clean eating. In the world of testosterone optimization, a healthy waistline and diet are essential.
A disclaimer before I provide the list of top testosterone booster foods: Unless you are a healthy weight and follow a clean diet, there is no amount of testosterone booster foods that will help you!
Obesity affects your testosterone levels in many ways. If you’re interested in the science, then here’s a great review article.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at the best testosterone boosting foods:
Onions, garlic, and ginger
These foods contain natural chemicals that help to decrease inflammation in the body. Garlic in particular has a compound allicin which reduces cortisol in your body. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can lower testosterone levels.
Take it from me as an Italian, you can never have too much garlic (gah-lic for those pronouncing it correctly). Your spouse may feel otherwise.
There’s a reason oysters are considered an aphrodisiac. They are crazy high in zinc, a natural testosterone booster. If you’re not a fan of slurping these slimy delicious morsels, then I’ll have yours and you can consider some alternative zinc-rich testosterone boosters:
- Salmon, tuna and other fatty fish
- Beans and legumes (need to be soaked in water first to maximize absorption)
- Beef (grass-fed, hormone-free ideally)
Again, be mindful that there’s too much of a good thing. If you’re eating steak and oysters every night, then I’d hold off on any zinc supplement testosterone boosters for fear of zinc toxicity.
We reviewed the benefit of magnesium supplementation already. It would be preferable however to incorporate as many of these testosterone booster superfoods into your diet:
- Green leafy, crunchy vegetables
- Nuts including peanut butter
- Whole grains
- Dark chocolate
Muscle is made of primarily two components: protein and water. You can’t build muscle without adequate protein. More muscle mass = testosterone booster.
Now, what is slightly controversial is the ideal protein:fat:carbohydrate ratio for a testosterone booster diet. I’ll share my opinions below on an overall diet strategy, but a deep dive into testosterone levels and various diets is fascinating.
One group of researchers took a group of college-aged kids who worked out and put them on a very low-carb (5%), low protein (20%) high fat (75%) diet. They were compared to classmates placed on a more traditional diet. Those on the very low-carb diet had higher testosterone levels at the end of the study.
In contrast, other studies have demonstrated that low-carb diets can DECREASE testosterone levels. Well, that doesn’t make sense?! How can low-carb diets decrease testosterone levels in one study and increase testosterone levels in another?
Whenever studies show the exact opposite result, it often tells me that the medical community HAS NO IDEA WHAT THE RIGHT ANSWER SHOULD BE.
The missing link or answer is likely the protein intake. Many low-carb diets are very high fat (ketogenic). As a result, the protein intake with these diets is actually lower than the “high carb” diets. Remember, there are three macronutrients to every diet: fat, protein and carbs. If one is really high, the other two are low.
Bottom line: consume enough protein to build muscle and boost testosterone levels.
Sorry, bro. No matter how hard you hit it in the gym, if you’re going to chug a 6-pack of beer every Friday and Saturday, then your T levels are going down. Alcohol is a testosterone un-booster (if that’s a word).
What’s wrong with alcohol? Booze decreases testosterone levels by:
Shutting down signals from the brain to the testes to make testosterone
Providing empty calories = more chub = more estrogen = “moobs”
Decreasing quality sleep (see below)
Now, a drink or two should not eliminate all of the positive benefits from your other testosterone booster activities. However, everyday alcohol use or weekend binging is certainly not going to help the situation.
Take it easy on alcohol consumption so you don’t counteract all the other healthy habits you’re adopting.
Avoid Sugar and Processed Carbohydrates
We already covered the importance of adequate protein intake in your diet. As you remember, the high carb vs. high fat controversy still exists. What is not a controversy is avoiding sugar and processed carbohydrates.
Sweets, chips, rice, pasta, bread, french fries and chalupas are not testosterone boosters. These foods stimulate huge insulin spikes in your body. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body to store extra energy as fat and causes your blood sugar to then crash (hello post-lunch “I need a coffee I’m exhausted”).
Remember that carbs coming from these foods are essentially sugar.
Why is all of this bad?
Sugar >> insulin spike >> fat storage and fatigue >> weight gain >> low testosterone.
This is not to say that all carbs or sugars are bad. Whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruit contain carbs and are quite healthy. As long as it’s not a glass of fruit juice, dried fruit or an entire watermelon (high on the glycemic index), moderate fruit intake can be part of a balanced diet.
Best Testosterone Booster Diet
I know I just threw a lot of science and information at you. So let’s make this easy. If I had to develop the best testosterone booster diet, I would recommend:
- Breakfast: Eggs, avocado (or skip breakfast all together! See below.)
- Lunch/Dinner: Fish, meat (limit to hormone-free, organic), spinach/broccoli/brussels sprouts/cauliflower, nuts, and/or beans
- Spices and condiments: Garlic, onions, ginger
- Treats: Natural peanut butter, dark chocolate, soy milk
If you want to supercharge your results, consider a time-restricted eating schedule. This involves consuming ALL of your calories between a 6-8 hour time window. By fasting for 16-18 hours, your body will be forced to enter fat-burning mode.
During this time your body will deplete your stored sugar (glycogen). Next, the body will break down fat stores as an energy source. Without any available sugar from food, watch the excess fat burn away!
Remember that sugar is the enemy! Sugar in foods is making us obese.
Testosterone Booster Activities
You don’t have to start powerlifting or performing 1000 bicep curls like Ron Burgundy (if you don’t know who he is, we can’t be friends 😉 to achieve testosterone boosting effects. In fact, you don’t even need weights.
Popular belief was that cardio was the best form of exercise, but this has shifted in recent years. What experts have found is that weightlifting coupled with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are most effective for long-term health, changes in body composition and raising testosterone levels.
A landmark review from 2020 examined almost 50 published studies regarding exercise and testosterone. The authors concluded that the main determinant of testosterone boosting was work-out intensity. Moderate to intense work-outs are the best exercise testosterone boosters.
So, next time you want to go on that lazy jog or mindlessly move the elliptical while watching Netflix, instead dial up the intensity on a 20-30 minute intense interval work-out.
The best testosterone booster exercises hit the largest muscle groups in your body: chest, back, legs and booty. Here’s a great work-out you can do without any weights from your home:
- 10 Burpees (I hate burpees, but they work)
- 10 Air-squats
- 10 Push-ups
- 10 Sit-ups
- 10 rounds for time (modify on knees or decrease number of reps if needed)
I used to personally believe that diet and then exercise are the two most important factors for living a healthy, long life. Recently, I’ve shifted my thinking. I would argue that diet and SLEEP are the most important.
When we were kids we fought sleep, yet Mom and dad set bedtime routines. Now, we crave sleep but have terrible routines. Sleep deprivation is linked to countless diseases, including low testosterone levels.
A review concluded that “total sleep deprivation lowers testosterone.” One sleep expert Dr. Matthew Walker has been quoted as stating that if you are only getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night, then your testosterone levels are likely that of someone 10 years older. Scary stuff.
Plus, poor sleep is associated with obesity, daytime fatigue and poor eating habits. If you don’t fix your sleep, then nothing else matters.
Aim for 7-8 hours and adopt some of these testosterone booster sleep routines:
- Look away from the screen! (no devices and ideally TV for 60 minutes before bed)
- Daily exercise
- No caffeine after noon
- Magnesium supplements as directed 1-2 hours before bed
- Lower the room temperature (or even better get a ChiliPad)
- Read or meditate in bed
Mindfulness and Stress Reduction
I know it sounds “hippy-dippy” but there’s a reason 80% of the world’s most successful people meditate . . . it works. Meditation and other forms of mindfulness (the act of being present and accepting) also boost testosterone.
When you are stressed, your body increases production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol causes a number of changes in the body, including suppressing the production of testosterone.
Everyone is interested in stress reduction, but most people are lost on how to reduce stress. First things first. Follow the above recommendations: healthy diet, adequate sleep and exercise. Healthy body equals a healthy mind.
Still need help? Meditation really works. As someone with a scientific mind, I was skeptical about meditation. After adopting 10 minutes of meditation into my daily routine, I feel like a new man.
There are many types of meditation. Rather than stress over meditating correctly (which would defeat the purpose of the practice), accept that there is no wrong way to meditate. Need a place to start? Here are some general guidelines:
- Start with 5 minutes a day. Everyone has 5 minutes.
- Focus on your breath (in and out through your nose . . . no one likes mouth breathers)
- When your mind wonders, accept it and come back to your breath. No judgment.
- Be consistent. Right when you wake up before looking at your phone is best.
Testosterone Booster Conclusions
You don’t have to live with fatigue, extra weight, and decreased performance in the bedroom. Suboptimal testosterone levels can be raised with natural testosterone boosters. You should now feel more comfortable adding testosterone booster supplements, a testosterone friendly diet, and testosterone boosting activities.
If you’d like some more guidance or want your testosterone levels checked in the Nashville area, give us a call: (615) 527-4700.
Still have a question? Send us an email: email@example.com
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some oysters.