Written by Team MD
04 February 2014

The Best Natural Testosterone Boosters

 

 

 

testboostAn effective testosterone (T) booster is the Holy Grail of sports supplements for "natural" male bodybuilders who don't want to use anabolic drugs. Taking steroids is not an option for many recreational bodybuilders because of concerns about health, legal and ethical issues. Regardless, physique development is important to drug-free athletes. Slow developments in muscle mass and strength may become a source of obsession or disappointment, in spite of equal or greater efforts toward training than in drug-using athletes.

Anabolic steroids nearly guarantees increases in muscular strength and mass, when dosed appropriately. Many "drug-free" athletes and bodybuilders want to increase the natural production of testosterone. Testosterone deficiency decreases quality of life and is linked to health problems such as diabetes, depression, erectile dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease. It also increases the risk of premature death. T-boosting supplements are big sellers that are popular with athletes, aging adults, and men and women who hope to boost sexual performance.

Physiologic Mechanisms

 Many techniques boost testosterone naturally. These include stimulation of the testes and testosterone-controlling hormones in the brain. Supplement makers have marketed T-boosting products for decades. They weren't very popular prior to the late 1980s because of the easy availability of anabolic steroids. Changes in the law made steroids controlled substances in 1990, which left law-abiding bodybuilders struggling to improve. Whey protein and creatine monohydrate supplements presented a viable but less effective alternative to steroids for boosting muscle strength and size. During the late 1990s, steroidal pro-hormones entered the market with variable results. Most failed to increase muscle strength and size, but caused some of the same side-effects as steroids. Revisions to the Anabolic Steroid Control Act extended to these pro-hormones, as well as the banned substance lists of most sports organizations, removing them from the market. Of course, marketers continue to challenge the confines of these lists with "designer pro-hormones."

 

Raising T Levels

 

Recently, supplement companies developed testosterone-boosting formulas that claimed to increase testosterone. They marketed these products to healthy, young adult men. It is crucial to define the target population because ingredients that might benefit someone with low testosterone levels may have no effect on healthy young men with normal or high levels. Also, the correct dose is critical to an effective formula. It is impossible to provide an all-inclusive list, but the most prevalent ingredients are discussed below.

 

Boron. The mineral was introduced as a testosterone booster in the 1980s, based on human data involving postmenopausal females and men over age 45. Though not classically defined as an essential mineral, this early research demonstrated improvements in bone-building markers, including increased calcium, vitamin D, testosterone, and estrogens. Bodybuilders experienced no perceivable benefits at 3 milligrams per day but it was effective at 10 milligrams. While the evidence is mixed, a minimum daily dose of 10 milligrams of boron appears to increase testosterone in some people.

 

Tribulus terrestris. This herb gained notice as a testosterone-booster based upon unconfirmed reports by scientists from Bulgaria. "Trib" has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an aphrodisiac, and increases in sexual behavior have been documented in animal studies. However, "trib" failed to provide any T-boosting effect or strength increases in young, adult men, either by itself or as part of a combined product. "Trib" does not produce measurable changes in T or performance in young men. It remains part of many testosterone-boosting supplements despite lackluster consumer reviews.

 

Zinc and Magnesium. Victor Conte will always be remembered as the central character in the BALCO scandal that devastated the careers of many athletes- including several Major League Baseball players and Olympians. He also promoted a dietary supplement called ZMA that supposedly increased testosterone in college football players. The science behind ZMA seemed credible because zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B-6- the components of ZMA- are essential co-factors in natural T production. A 1999 study reported that ZMA increased strength and testosterone, compared to a placebo group that experienced an overall decrease in T. Later studies failed that ZMA increased testosterone levels.

 

Creatine monohydrate. Creatine supplements boost muscle mass and strength because they increase cell energy levels and stimulate protein synthesis. Creatine has additional properties that support muscle anabolism, either directly or indirectly. Creatine-loaded men showed 50 percent increases in post-exercise T and growth hormone (GH) levels. This may have been caused by increases in creatine-stimulated exercise capacity rather than any effect of creatine on testosterone production. Even though the effect is indirect, creatine can potentially increase T and GH.

 

Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an anabolic hormone that helps build bone mass. Bone density is as important to bodybuilding as muscle density because of the strain that muscles put on the skeleton. High doses of vitamin D decrease muscle and joint pain in women treated with aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer. Drug-enhanced bodybuilders commonly use aromatase inhibitors to decrease the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Overweight men with low T given vitamin D supplements (3300 IU/day) increased total T by 25 percent and the more powerful free T by 20 percent. Additionally, vitamin D increases androgen receptors in muscle.

 

D-Aspartic Acid (DAA). DAA increased T in rats by increasing levels of a testosterone controlling hormone (LH), as well as directly stimulating the testes to produce more T. In humans, DAA actually decreased T levels in men with normal T levels, so this supplement is probably not effective in healthy, young athletes. DAA definitely plays a role in T production, but appears only to be effective for men with low to low-normal T.

Trigonella foenum-graecum (TFG). This herb, more commonly known as fenugreek, is often included in T-boosting supplements because of studies showing positive effects on libido, sexual function, and strength in weight-trained men. TFG caused small increases in testosterone. TFG inhibits T breakdown, which prolongs its effects in muscle. The improvements in libido, arousal, and orgasm may be more relevant to the actions of TFG than its performance or modest effects on circulating T increases.

 

The Search Continues

 

The search for potent, natural T-boosters continues. For men with low or low-normal testosterone, DAA or TFG may offer some effects. Adequate intake of micronutrients, such as boron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B-6, and vitamin D, are important for maintaining normal testosterone production. None of these substances will turbo-charge natural T production in men with normal testosterone levels.

 

References:

 

Brilla LR, Conte V. A novel zinc and magnesium formulation (ZMA) increases anabolic hormones and strength in athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999;31:483.

 

Brown GA, Vukovich MD, et al. Endocrine and lipid responses to chronic androstenediol-herbal supplementation in 30 to 58 year old men. J Am Coll Nutr, 2001 Oct;20(5):520-8.

 

Ferrando AA, Green NR. The effect of boron supplementation on lean body mass, plasma testosterone levels, and strength in male bodybuilders. Int J Sport Nutr, 1993 Jun;3(2):140-9.

 

King DS, Sharp RL, et al. Effect of oral androstenedione on serum testosterone and adaptations to resistance training in young men: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 1999 Jun 2;281(21):2020-8.

 

Maggio M, Ceda GP, et al. Magnesium and anabolic hormones in older men. Int J Androl, 2011 Jun 15. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2011.01193.x. [E-pub, ahead of print]

 

Naghii MR, Mofid M, et al. Comparative effects of daily and weekly boron supplementation on plasma steroid hormones and proinflammatory cytokines. J Trace Elem Med Biol, 2011 Jan;25(1):54-8.

 

Neychev VK, Mitev VI. The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men. J Ethnopharmacol, 2005 Oct 3;101(1-3):319-23.

 

Nielsen FH, Hunt CD, et al. Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. FASEB J, 1987 Nov;1(5):394-7.

 

Pilz S, Frisch S, et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on testosterone levels in men. Horm Metab Res, 2011 Mar;43(3):223-5.

 

Rahimi R, Faraji H, et al. Creatine supplementation alters the hormonal response to resistance exercise. Kinesiology, 2010 June;42(1):28-35.

Traish AM, Miner MM, et al. Testosterone deficiency. Am J Med, 2011 Jul;124(7):578-87. Wilborn CD, Kerksick CM, et al. Effects of Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA) Supplementation on Training Adaptations and Markers of Anabolism and Catabolism. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2004 Dec 31;1(2):12-20.

 

 

 

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