Testosterone supplements

testosterone supplements

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Dr. Myles Spar is a double board-certified medical expert in performance medicine, men’s health, advanced testing and integrative medicine.

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Table of Contents

Low testosterone is not an uncommon problem in men, particularly as you age. If you’re experiencing unexplained fatigue or a reduced sex drive, you may be wondering if boosting your testosterone levels could be the answer—and if there are vitamins and supplements that can help.

While there is not strong evidence backing the use of certain supplements for boosting testosterone levels, a number of key vitamins and minerals might make a difference. Here’s what you need to know.

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What Is Testosterone?

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and is produced in the testicles. During puberty, its presence contributes to hair growth, strength and a deeper voice. Later in life, it’s responsible for maintaining muscle mass, bone density and sexual function. However, as you age, testosterone levels can drop—research estimates that levels decrease at a rate of 1% to 2% per year after the age of 40 [1] 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 Mar-Apr;13(2):1557988319835985. .

It can be difficult to identify whether your testosterone levels are low, as the symptoms overlap with many other conditions, such as those that affect the thyroid or heart, says Vikas Desai, M.D., a urologist with Northwestern Medicine in Geneva, Illinois.

Symptoms of low testosterone levels include:

  • Reduced lean muscle mass
  • Decreased energy
  • Low libido
  • Depression
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Decreased testicular size
  • Lower bone density
  • Increased fat production

What is a Testosterone Booster Supplement?

The term “testosterone booster” may refer to a supplement that claims to increase levels of testosterone in the body. Other testosterone boosters may be medically prescribed, such as a treatment known as testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) intended to address testosterone deficiencies in men. TRT may increase energy and libido levels, improve bone density, strength and muscle mass and promote heart health.

While TRT is a scientifically-formulated medication, testosterone booster supplements typically contain vitamins, minerals and herbs that may have testosterone-promoting properties. Individuals may decide to consume testosterone booster supplements to combat the effects of low testosterone, such as low energy and decreased muscle mass.

What Do Testosterone Boosters Do?

Testosterone boosters without a prescription typically consist of vitamins and minerals that supposedly help increase levels of testosterone in the body. In individuals who are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals, testosterone-promoting supplements may support some improvements in areas such as muscle mass, mobility, energy and body weight when combined with healthy diet and exercise—however, a lack of research in this area makes drawing any firm conclusions around testosterone-boosting supplements difficult.

Vitamins and Minerals That Boost Testosterone

If you are low in testosterone—or feel like you might be—it can be tempting to look for a vitamin or other supplement that can help. Just one internet search and you’ll find pages of results with suggestions.

The problem is that there’s not a lot of high-quality scientific evidence that supports particular vitamins and minerals as being an effective way to boost testosterone, says Dr. Desai.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important fat-soluble vitamin present in certain foods and dietary supplements, and is also produced within the body after exposure from ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Some research shows a link between vitamin D deficiency and reduced testosterone. In one small study of overweight men undergoing a weight reduction program, those who received 3,332 IU of vitamin D daily for a year saw a significant increase in testosterone levels compared to those who did not supplement with vitamin D [2] Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011;43(3):223-225. .

Given that the daily recommended dose of vitamin D for most adults is 600 IU, Dr. Desai cautions that not everyone hoping to boost their testosterone levels should start taking a dose of 3,000 IU. “You need monitoring if you’re going to take that high of a dosage,” he says. “The concern is that toxicity can build up and lead to side effects such as bone pain, hypercalcemia and kidney stones.” But if your vitamin D level is low, it may be helpful to supplement, and experts note the most effective form of supplementation is vitamin D3.

Partner Offers feature brands who paid Forbes Health to appear at the top of our list. While this may influence where their products or services appear on our site, it in no way affects our ratings, which are based on thorough research, solid methodologies and expert advice. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services

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Zinc

Research has also found a link between the essential mineral zinc and testosterone levels. A study in the Journal of Exercise Physiology found that when a small group of college football players took 30 milligrams of zinc a day (along with magnesium and vitamin B-6) they increased their testosterone levels [3] Brilla LR, Conte V. Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength. Journal of Exercise Physiology. 2000;3(4):26-36. . However, this is about three times the recommended daily allowance.

Note that this study was very small in size and on subjects who were engaging in intensive training—therefore, experts emphasize that the main take-home message here may be to have your zinc levels checked if your testosterone level is low and, if that level is low, to work on increasing your zinc levels through supplementation or diet.

“Zinc has some promise, but it can cause side effects and interact with medications you may be taking,” says Dr. Desai. In addition to taking a zinc supplement, you can get zinc from foods such as:

  • Meats (beef, chicken, pork)
  • Oysters
  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Beans
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Nuts
  • Fortified cereals

Top Supplements to Boost Testosterone

There are numerous supplements out there claiming to boost testosterone. The important thing to remember when looking at supplements is that besides there not being evidence supporting their use for this purpose, they’re not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as medicine, and there is no regulatory body overseeing the ingredients.

“Don’t pick the first thing you see or the supplement with the best marketing,” says Dr. Desai. “Find out what the active ingredient is instead of the tag name, and do a search for that. Search the side effects—that’s a way to do your due diligence, as is seeing a medical provider to ask his or her opinion before you try any of these. It will be beneficial in the long run.”

The most promising supplement for boosting testosterone, according to Dr. Desai, is ashwagandha. A 2019 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health examined overweight men, ages 40 to 70, with mild to moderate fatigue or reduced vitality. Taking an ashwagandha extract for eight weeks significantly boosted their levels of testosterone, but researchers noted that further investigation is needed [4] 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 M Health. 2019;13(2):1557988319835985. .

“I can’t say that I’d recommend any supplements, but if you’re interested, I’d definitely talk to a medical provider before you embark on trying one,” says Dr. Desai.

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Health Benefits of Supplements that Boost Testosterone

For individuals with low testosterone levels or who are deficient in certain vitamins, research indicates that when combined with exercise and a healthy diet, taking a testosterone boosting supplement may provide increased energy levels, muscle mass and strength, as well as better weight maintenance, sexual function and bone density. However, because there is not a lot of direct research in the area of testosterone boosting supplements, it’s important to run any new vitamins or supplements by your personal physician before adding it to your regime.

Potential Side Effects of Testosterone Boosters

Consuming testosterone boosters that contain nutrients like zinc or ashwagandha may cause the following side effects :

Additionally, many supplements that claim to offer testosterone-boosting benefits contain vitamins, minerals and herbs that may interact with certain medications. Ashwagandha, for instance, may interact with medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and seizures, as well as sedatives and thyroid medications.

If you’re considering adding a testosterone booster to your routine, first consult with your doctor to determine the best supplement for your needs.

Are Testosterone Supplements Safe?

Because the FDA does not regulate supplements to the same standards as medications, it’s difficult to know how safe and effective they are. To ensure the supplement you’re consuming is free of harmful ingredients, look for products that have been third-party tested for impurities. Consult with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your routine to determine any nutrient deficiencies and an appropriate dosage.

When to Consider Testosterone Boosters

Individuals who are experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone, such as loss of energy, low libido, depression and decreased muscle mass, may want to consider taking a supplement to naturally increase their testosterone levels. However, the only way to determine testosterone levels is to undergo a saliva or blood test, which can be performed either at-home or with your health care provider. Speak with your doctor to decide if you should take a testosterone booster supplement and to determine the appropriate dosage for your needs.

How to Choose the Best Testosterone-Boosting Supplement

The best testosterone-boosting supplement for you will be determined by factors such as ingredients, dosage, cost, side effects and personal preference. Additionally, aim to find a supplement that is third-party tested to ensure that the product includes the ingredients listed on the label. Consult with your doctor to determine the best testosterone booster supplement for you.

When to See a Doctor

The only way to know for sure if your testosterone levels are low is to get tested by your doctor. Start by talking to your primary care doctor, who may refer you to a urologist. “Oftentimes people come in thinking they have low testosterone and they don’t,” he says. “A lot of times there are simple diet and exercise tweaks they can make to naturally boost it.”

Some of the lifestyle factors that have an impact on testosterone levels include:

  • Sleep. “If you sleep five hours a day or less, your testosterone levels can go down by up to 15%,” says Dr. Desai. Create a sleep routine and prioritize getting enough rest each night.
  • Diet. A healthy eating plan that’s light on sugar, caffeine and processed foods will give you the best shot at keeping your hormones in balance. Also, maintaining a healthy weight helps keep testosterone levels up. The more body fat you have, the more likely you are to have lower testosterone.
  • Exercise. A combination of resistance and cardio training will increase the production of testosterone. (Although it’s worth noting that a high amount of endurance training or sports with calorie restriction can decrease testosterone levels.) Higher amounts of muscle mass contributes to higher levels of testosterone.
  • Alcohol and tobacco. Both drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes can reduce testosterone.
  • Stress. Excessive amounts of stress can lead the body to convert testosterone to estrogen.

If you’re interested in trying a vitamin, mineral or supplement to see what impact it has on your testosterone levels, talk to your doctor about the potential side effects and whether it’s safe for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What’s the best testosterone-boosting supplement available?

The best testosterone-boosting supplement will contain nutrients that support healthy testosterone levels in the body and have been third-party tested for safety and purity.

Are testosterone boosters worth it?

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone levels, such as depression, low libido and decreased muscle mass, it may be worth it to add a testosterone booster to your routine. However, it’s very important to speak with your health care provider first to determine if you need a testosterone-boosting supplement.

Are there ways to boost testosterone naturally?

Research indicates that individuals with certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies may be able to naturally increase testosterone levels by consuming supplements. Additionally, there is evidence that certain herbs, such as ashwagandha, may increase testosterone levels in the body.

Are testosterone supplements legal?

Many supplements claiming to increase testosterone levels in the body contain vitamins, minerals and herbs that have been shown to support testosterone production. Additionally, many supplements that claim to naturally boost testosterone are available over-the-counter and from online retailers.

Sources

Footnotes

  • 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 Mar-Apr;13(2):1557988319835985.
  • Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011;43(3):223-225.
  • Brilla LR, Conte V. Effects of a Novel Zinc-Magnesium Formulation on Hormones and Strength. Journal of Exercise Physiology. 2000;3(4):26-36.
  • 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 M Health. 2019;13(2):1557988319835985.

References

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  • Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 5/4/2022.
  • Holt R, Juel Mortensen L, Harpelunde Poulsen K, Nielsen JE, Frederiksen H, Jørgensen N, Jørgensen A, Juul A, Blomberg Jensen M. Vitamin D and sex steroid production in men with normal or impaired Leydig cell function. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2020;199:105589.
  • Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 5/4/2022.
  • Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. JAMA. 2011;305(21):2173-2174.
  • Improving Low Testosterone Naturally. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Accessed 5/4/2022.
  • Almaiman AA. Effect of testosterone boosters on body functions: Case report. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2018;12(2):86-90.
  • Cinar V, Polat Y, Baltaci AK, Mogulkoc R. Effects of magnesium supplementation on testosterone levels of athletes and sedentary subjects at rest and after exhaustion. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2011;140(1):18-23.
  • Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, et al. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. 1996;12(5):344-348.
  • Pilz S, Frisch S, Koertke H, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res. 2011;43(3):223-225.
  • Maggio M, De Vita F, Lauretani F, et al. The Interplay between Magnesium and Testosterone in Modulating Physical Function in Men. Int J Endocrinol. 2014;2014:525249.
  • Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, et al. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:43.
  • Rao A, Steels E, Inder WJ, et al. Testofen, a specialised Trigonella foenum-graecum seed extract reduces age-related symptoms of androgen decrease, increases testosterone levels and improves sexual function in healthy aging males in a double-blind randomised clinical study. Aging Male. 2016;19(2):134-142.
  • Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Accessed 6/9/2023.
  • Ashwagandha. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Accessed 6/9/2023.
  • Rabinovich D, Smadi Y. Zinc. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. 2023.
  • Vitamin D Deficiency. MedlinePlus. Accessed 6/9/2023.
  • Testosterone Levels Test. MedlinePlus. Accessed 6/9/2023.
  • 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.
  • Kumar P, Kumar N, Thakur DS, Patidar A. Male hypogonadism: Symptoms and treatment. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2010;1(3):297-301.
  • Osterberg EC, Bernie AM, Ramasamy R. Risks of testosterone replacement therapy in men. Indian J Urol. 2014;30(1):2-7.

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