I recently did some research on testosterone boosters for a private client, and what I found out was somewhat disturbing. Here are at least three reasons to avoid testosterone boosters.
Testosterone boosters: what they are
Testosterone is the hormone that gives men their primary and secondary sex characteristics: fertility, the ability to get an erection, more muscle, body hair, low voice, and psychological traits like aggressiveness and risk-taking.
Having an optimal testosterone level is a good thing. It improves health, increases self-confidence, and all-around improves quality of life.
Testosterone (T, from here on out) levels have been subject to two types of decline.
As men age, their T levels generally decline, although some “exceptionally healthy men” may have high levels into their 9th decade.
And there’s been a long-term decline in T levels over the years, meaning that a man of, say, age 40, has lower T than did a man the same age 30 years ago.
Given these facts, lots of men would like to boost their T levels.
It’s possible to boost T, but it depends. We’ll go into that in this article.
The market has responded robustly to the demand for boosting T. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are hundreds of T-boosting products.
If you’re a supplement company, this field is an absolute gold mine. T-boosters are generally quite expensive, and the kind of men who want to boost their T often have disposable income, so
blowing spending a few hundred annually on T supplements isn’t a big deal.
T boosters: do they work?
A good deal of scientific research into increasing testosterone has been done.
For example, magnesium and zinc can increase T, but a big caveat comes with that: you must be deficient in these minerals.
If you’re not deficient, these minerals won’t increase your T. And if you eat and train right as I discuss on this site, you won’t be deficient, absent some huge other problem, like alcohol abuse.
For example, studies done in Iran and Turkey have found that magnesium and zinc may boost T. Many men are deficient in those countries. (Not surprisingly, since bread makes up a large fraction of calories.)
ZMA, a supplement that contains zinc, magnesium, and aspartate, has been disappointing. (Also.)
Boron is another mineral used in T boosters, and has had mixed results. Again, if you’re not deficient, it won’t make a difference.
Many T boosters contain herbal mixtures, such as ashwagandha, Tribullis terrestris, bulbine, maca, horny goat weed, and others. Some of these have better records than others.
Ashwagandha may be the best one of this bunch, increasing and improving semen parameters and T levels.
Ashwagandha is also an ancient medicine, which might give us more confidence in its safety.
Many of the others show mixed results or even decidedly negative results.
Bulbine has anabolic and androgenic activity in rats. I’m not aware of any human studies as to efficacy and safety.
Tribulus was underwhelming when tested in animals. No effect on body composition in humans. The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence androgen production in young men.
Lots of T boosters contain Tribulus, and it does little to nothing.
So, these herbal mixtures have a mixed record, and as for their safety, we’ll discuss that below.
Many T boosters use d-aspartic acid, a “D” amino acid in contrast to most of those in the human body, which are “L” amino acids. The D and L refer to chirality.
D- aspartic acid, also known as D-aspartate, appears to boost T in humans.
However, there’s some suggestion that d-aspartate could act as an excitotoxin, that is, a toxin that kills neurons at high enough doses.
The brain has receptors for NMDA, or n-methyl d-aspastate, and d-aspartate could act on them and cause excitotoxicity. L-aspartate, while an amino acid present in foods, may cause excitotoxicity if ingested in high enough doses and without other amino acids, i.e. protein in food, present. (See here.)
There’s enough uncertainty in all of this that makes it difficult or impossible to declare that d-aspartic acid is dangerous.
But let me put it this way: I won’t be taking any T booster that contains d-aspartic acid, and you probably shouldn’t either. Caution is in order.
So many of these T boosters are either ineffective, unknown if effective, effective only if you are deficient in essential minerals, or possibly excitotoxic.
There have been reports of adverse events with T boosters.
Acute Psychotic Episode Associated with the Intake of a Testosterone-Enhancer Herbal Mixture Purchased Online.
Sexual Enhancement Products for Sale Online: Raising Awareness of the Psychoactive Effects of Yohimbine, Maca, Horny Goat Weed, and Ginkgo biloba. From the article:
The most common sexual enhancement products available on the Internet were identified. Their active ingredients included yohimbine, maca, horny goat weed and Ginkgo biloba. These four substances were reported with the occurrence of adverse events and the induction of psychological symptoms, such as mood changes, anxiety, and hallucinations as well as addictive behaviours. Conclusions. Uncontrolled availability of sexual enhancement products that contain potentially harmful substances is a major public health concern.
Testosterone boosters are generally expensive, of doubtful value, and may cause adverse effects.
I won’t be taking any of them any time soon, and absent much more clarity on their safety and effectiveness, I don’t recommend them to anyone else either.
How to really increase testosterone
The best way to raise T is to be in good health. The following interventions specifically impact on testosterone:
- Exercise: good body composition is associated with higher T. Lose the fat and gain muscle. Do resistance training
- Sleep: A single night of lost sleep can drop T levels precipitously. Get 7-8 hours sleep.
- Weight loss: Obesity is associated with low T. Don’t be obese.
- Diet: Don’t use seed oils, as they lead to ingestion of high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which lead to male infertility and low T. No ultra-processed food.
- Alcohol: Consumption of large amounts of alcohol leads to increased aromatase expression leading to higher estradiol and lower T. Be moderate or don’t drink.
- Vitamin D: Associated with low T, and supplementing with D increases T. Get some sunshine or take vitamin D.
If after all this, your T is still low, see a doctor and get the real deal, that’s my advice.
Winning in socio-sexual competitions (aka “social life”) increases male testosterone markedly,
losing decreases it likewise.
High social status corresponds with higher testosterone (being in power, being rich, being dominant) and vice versa.
In other words, avoid being a loser if you want not suffer from depressed T levels.
Social status is relative; the exact same performance can make a man a loser in a high-status environment, or a winner (with higher T levels) in a lower-status environment.
So, if you are a local loser, move – into a neighborhood where other men are dumber, weaker, fatter, uglier, poorer – and you will be the local dominant male. Conversely, if you want to become unhappy and have your T levels fall, move into a neighborhood or work environment where others are better than you.
Constant job or financial insecurity and the anxiety and fear from those states also makes T drop, also causing submissive, fearful behavior/body language.
Being dominated appears to be outright toxic for male health. The constant fear and submission under other men – superiors, bosses etc. – may be one of the reasons for the widespread low T levels in modern men: In the past, men could be local heroes, working hard and getting a family fed. Today, constant modern media exposure has a central message: “You are inferior.” – Weak, ugly, dumb, poor. Humans cannot help to constantly compare each other socially – it’s a hardwired instinct to find one’s position in the social dominance hierarchy. The constant exposure to sports stars, presidents, generals, tough apex criminals, CEOs, millionaires and billionaires etc. makes all these guys seem like supermen, while we ourselves have trouble even with petty details of life and struggle to even make ends meet: In other words, the unconscious brain processes which analyze our social environment for clues where we are on the dominance hierarchy constantly put us way down, causing anxiety, fear, depression (as it makes sense evolutionary: If you are one of the weakest apes around, you better keep your head low, act submissive and friendly, and avoid conflict and social meddling, as well as avoid pursuing females, as this would anger the dominant apes).
Put clearly: Money itself, lots of it, are a major cure for low T,
because to rich men most other men are effectively submissive slaves.
This effect is so strong that, for example, the hopes of an unsuccessful man to boost his T levels by chemical intervention, appears hopeless, and may cause him trouble: The effects of significantly increased T include arrogance, excessive risk-taking, and aggression – something winners and dominate males can easily get away with, but may get a weak male beaten up or worse.
Perhaps more often than not, a man’s T levels are the result of, and fittingly so, of his social station.
The old rules still apply:
Even today, the social war between men is fought for (financial) enslavement or (sexual) extermination (the losers not get to reproduce with the best women, or not even at all and therefore get exterminated from evolution – their genetic line ends with them).
It’s more colorful and with fast food, but the old jungle law is still in full effect. We just kill each other less because it interferes too much with profits, a wage slave is more profitable than a dead opponent; and in the ghettos even the killing as most direct evidence of the socio-sexual war happens frequently.
So, win, in other words, enslave or kill your rivals for position in the socio-sexual pecking order,
or not only get low T levels, but get exterminated altogether (by disease/early death from low-status-caused health effects or extinction by sexual selection).
“Chronic subordination and humiliation” is what not only kills T-levels, but also causes ” a number of mental disorders, including major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, aggressive psychopathologies, eating disorders and schizophrenia”.
If I look at the faces of the millions of commuters every day I think I see exactly that – social defeat.
“So often it happens, that we live our lives in chains..and we never even know we have the key.” – Glen Frey & the Eagles
Terrific comment, Nature! Can I find other stuff from you somewhere in the internet? Please don’t disappoint me!
If that wasn’t ironic –
here I posted some commentaries; search for the commenter ERTZ
Note that I am quite insecure about those things because I just want to find out truth and point it out, but this has caused me trouble in the past socially even arriving at violence.
Therefore, I am honestly not sure if I am a bit smart or an idiot,
and therefore prefer to post pseudonymously.
I usually post on Mr. Mangan’s excellent website under another name, because I worry that some people might find my comments offensive.
For my part, I just want to figure out how humans and society really work – and I have the suspicion that systematic deception and misdirection are not only existing in the context of nutrition, exercise and health, but in practically all other relevant (usually non-technical) topics, too. It seems to me that our whole society is deliberately constructed to hurt, oppress and exploit low-intelligence/low-consciousness humans to the benefit of their betters.
Nope, it wasn’t ironic. Thanks for the links, Nature. I will definitely read these articles on the the weekend.
Is it really true that you won’t (essentially) be magnesium deficient if you eat right? Eating right includes eating the right amount. It’s hard to define deficienty in this mineral, which is why you hear wildly varying estimates about the prevalence of deficiency. However, it seems to me that deficiency is not more prevalent than it is because so many people are overweight, thus getting enough magnesium through simply eating too much.
Magnesium deficiency is common in about 80% of us, difficult to correct with diet, hence supplements are needed., best as commercial ,magnesium bicarbonate or home made from seltzer and milk and magnesia.
Herbals are notorous scavengers of toxic metal in most soil, especially in China or India. Being a chemist, I routinely take food grade EDTA at mg levels to irreversibly bind most metals present at lower ppt or ppm levels in teas or capsules.
Re T levels, what is yours, PD, , as free T?
My most recent T test was several years ago, so what it is now I don’t know.
I was taking pariaboost for my R level. Is this the real deal? I only took it for a week and stop. I mean, I have lots of energy, always had. Please let me know if this pills are the real deal or not. Thank you for your info very much.
Jose, I’m afraid I know nothing about that.
I don’t have near the drive at 60 I did at 30 but that’s ok. It all still works and I always enjoy what I am looking at.
Another problem with Internet cource or even over-the -counter supplements is the lack of traceability or testing. What are you really getting? There have been herbal supplements shipped from overseas that turn out to have traces of Sildenafil cut with unknown vegetation. The “Viagra” shpped from India / China years back often was just a blue pill of unknown content. The placebo effect at work?
Even when one is getting what was advertised, quality matters, because dosages can vary or be inconsistent; “500 mg per serving” may not always be true. Any of these could have caused the episodes reported above.
Ashwagandha and Maca are known as “adaptogens” and have as you noted a long history of human use. Still, as with any supplement a known-good supplier with repeatable dosage per unit is necessary, and one should start slowly with low dosage to see effects.
There are medications that started off as something from an herbalist; herbs are powerful. Don’t even start working with any of these things until proper blood work has been done, either.
+1 to Mangan’s conclusion.
Knowing your T is the first step, exercise and especially upper body work would be the second. Men who are clinically low on T should find a doctor they can work with and follow the T – replacement protocol.
Thinker, that’s an excellent point. You just don’t know what you’re getting. Supplements of any kind require a reputable source.
Indeed, there are.
Which is exactly why sometimes anecdotal evidence can reveal truths that no amount of RCS can. I’m thinking about how no one ran studies (that I’ve seen) comparing the effectiveness of very low carb diets between men and women. But over the years that I’ve been reading on the web, a number of women have come forth and said that they had problems that men didn’t have on such a diet. Even some of the gurus have come to accept that.
If a lot of people report a phenomena, there is at least the possibility that something is going on.
OT, but somewhat related to your mission:
You don’t count SARMs like Ostarine in the category of “testosterone boosters”, do you?
SARMs are really a separate category, since they interact directly with androgen receptors, and as far as I know, none of the other T boosters do that.
Being a so-called senior citizen of the male variety testosterone is of strong interest, especially the last three years. Almost all of the research on oral supplements have problems, methodology, purity, or perhaps impossibly large amounts to consume daily.. But here are some things that do, for sure:
1. Sex. Yes, sadly if you ain’t getting none, your T drops. And conversely, sex with, like, you know, a real woman vs. the other you know is what it takes. After an embarrassingly long period w/o a partner, and then had one. After a month, she said, “You look different, younger, stronger.” And she was right, my upper torso was filling out. (An interesting aside, she was pre-menopausal, just spotting for 7 months. Resuming an active sex life, she went full tilt menstruation.) What’s good for the gander is good for the goose! Unfortunately, it is not the ejaculation that enhances T, it is that “winner” psychology that does.
2. Red light therapy. Not much research on this, but what there is is solid. https://redlightman.com/blog/red-light-triples-testicle-health-function/ I found an LED bulb on Amazon which includes the preferred wavelengths for about $20.
3. L. Reuteri probiotic. Research on mice shows greatly reduced cortisol and increased testicle size. Bigger ‘nads almost always indicate more testosterone. And, yes, it worked for me.
I take zinc and boron as precautions, but magnesium, outside ot T interest, is in short supply in our foods. I was shocked to see how low I was even with a very good diet. And, I would call the FDA very conservative, no? So I bulk supplement with magnesium citrate.
I bought ZMA because it has an enormous amount of positive reviews. Both zinc and magnesium are healthy, so its hard to see how what I assume to be a highly absorbable, bioavailable combination of the two could be anything but healthy. I couldn’t find any references to it being excitotoxic.
What about magnesium asterpapte, which has aspartic acid, good, bad, neutral?
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