Do Testosterone Supplements Work?

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There is a lot of hype about testosterone supplements. Some of it sounds convincing. But both the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic report that there is no scientific evidence that over-the-counter testosterone supplements actually do much good. For one thing, although some supplements will boost testosterone levels, they can’t boost it enough. Guys in their early 20s commonly have levels surpassing 800, which sets a common benchmark. By the time he reaches 50, his testosterone may have dropped to 250. The only way to double or triple that quickly is with prescription testosterone.

In the U.S., prescription testosterone includes gels, creams and injectable testosterone. In Europe, prescription strength oral testosterone is available. Again, oral testosterone did not have the effects of topical testosterone, let alone the gold standard, injectable test. Dutch researchers at Ultrecht Medical Center found that oral testosterone supplements will make older men a little leaner, but will not improve strength, sex drive, or mental functioning. Oral testosterone also showed lower HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), putting these men more at risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a predictor of risk for heart disease and diabetes).

Oral testosterone, including the lower levels available in supplements, has been linked to liver damage because the liver winds up metabolizing the drug to make it available. By and large, the people telling you that testosterone supplements – including so-called testosterone boosters – work are trying to sell you these supplements. Some guys (mostly bodybuilders) have found results by stacking massive amounts of over-the-counter products, but the cost winds up being almost as much as the real things and there are lots of side effects, most frequently loss of libido and bloating. One guy summed it up, “…almost all supplements besides the basics are worthless and you can grow more by putting your money into good food.”

In fact, food is the most powerful non-prescription way to boost testosterone. Oysters contain zinc, which is essential to testosterone production. Zinc also increases muscle growth and endurance. Vegetables in the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage family are known to rid the body of excess estrogen, thereby increasing testosterone. These test-friendly vegetables also help you lose weight, and excess weight in one cause of low testosterone. A Japanese study found that eating a lot of garlic and a high protein diet stimulates the body to produce testosterone.  Food rich in B vitamins and bromeliad, such as bananas and pineapples, boost libido and testosterone production.

Magnesium (contained by Brazil nuts) is an important testosterone-helper. Athletes given 750 mg of magnesium daily showed a 26% increase in free testosterone over four weeks. Low levels of magnesium are likewise correlated with low T. Vitamin D is also known to be essential for testosterone production and it hampers aromatization (the conversion of testosterone into estrogen). You can get vitamin D naturally from sunlight and from eggs, but vitamin D is so difficult to come by in a modern lifestyle that supplementation is usually recommended. Men given vitamin D showed testosterone levels rise by 20% within a year. So, when it comes to testosterone supplements, the two that work the best are magnesium and vitamin D.