What Are Testosterone Boosters and Do Guys Really Need Them?
As of April 2019, there are still over 5000 pending lawsuits against testosterone manufacturers on the basis that the men who used their drugs suffered side effects such as heart attacks and strokes (1).
Upon reading that, one has to ask themselves why there is a growing market for testosterone boosters and supplements? Or rather, why are men suffering from low testosterone in the first place? It’s an essential hormone that’s required for a number of bodily processes. Therefore, low testosterone levels (T- levels) is clearly an indicator of poor health. Thus, it’s understandable if men begin to seek out supplements and gels in an effort to boost their T- levels.
However, as opposed to trusting the guy at the gym, there are reputable places where one can get boosters and supplements that will help to legally, and safely, boost testosterone levels. What’s more, there are also natural ways that will help to regulate T- levels.
However, before we get into that, it’s first important to understand exactly what testosterone is and why the body needs it, and what can compromise its levels. It’s also best to find out how one can maintain healthy levels of testosterone in the body.
What is testosterone?
A sex hormone produced in both men and women (men make more), testosterone plays a vital role in the development of the male sex organs during puberty. It also supports male physical attributes such as facial hair growth, broader shoulders, and denser muscle development.
Aside from encouraging the development of inherent male characteristics, testosterone also helps ensure healthy bodily functioning in various other ways.
Functions of testosterone
1. Boosts Sex Drive
In addition to sperm production, testosterone also helps to boost your libido which then helps to maintain a healthy sex life.
2. Improves Muscle Mass
A healthy muscle mass means increased energy and mobility, and better weight control and overall health. Testosterone helps to improve muscle mass, as well as alleviate muscle damage.
3. Promotes heart health
Testosterone increases red blood cell production and this can serve to benefit the heart. In fact, one study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found a correlation between low levels of testosterone and cardiovascular issues.
4. Strengthen bones
Testosterone boosts bone density. Thus, men with low T- levels are at risk of both fractures and osteoporosis.
What’s causing the decline in testosterone?
Testosterone levels naturally begin to decline after age 30, with the NHS stating that one should expect to experience a 2% drop each year (2). Hypogonadism is a condition whereby the body is unable to produce enough testosterone on its own. However, concern also arises when falling T-levels cannot be traced to either aging or hypogonadism, but rather to lifestyle choices. Below are some of the factors that may lead to declining t-levels.
According to research published in the Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research journal, moderate consumption of alcohol was found to cause a reduction in t-levels by up to 6.8%. It appears that the beer hops have estrogen-like properties that can adversely affect testosterone.
Endocrine disruptors are compounds that can block the release of hormones as well as mimic the actions of other hormones. The most common ones can be found in plastic and cosmetic products. What’s more, these substances have been linked to not only lowering t-levels but also jeopardizing the onset of puberty in boys (3).
Meat injected with hormones
If you’re an avid meat-eater, it’s important that you only consume grass-fed beef. This is because consuming meat injected with hormones may disrupt your t-levels.
A diet low in whole, nutritious foods and rich in refined grains and processed foods means elevated insulin levels. Unfortunately, high levels of insulin can disrupt the production of testosterone, leading to a decline in T-levels.
Stress is normal, but chronic stress is one of the worst things you can put your body through.
Known as the stress hormone, cortisol levels tend to rise along with stress levels. Sad to say, elevated cortisol levels can suppress the secretion of testosterone (4).
Additional reasons for a decline in testosterone also include:
- Cancer treatment
- HIV or AIDS
- Imbalanced microflora
- Inflammatory diseases
- Injury of the testicles (including tumors)
- Lack of exercise
- Low vitamin D levels
- Prescription drugs
- Weight gain
Test your T-levels
To determine how much free testosterone is flowing through the body, your doctor is likely to do a blood test. This will help to better determine the total amount of the hormone in your body. It’s advisable to have your blood drawn between 7 am and 10 am as this is when your T- levels peak.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the healthy range for an average adult male over the age of 30 is between 270 and 1,070 ng/dL. That said, a diagnosis of low testosterone is typically made if a man’s free testosterone hormone level is below 300 ng/dL.
What’s more, practice guidelines published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism by the Endocrine Society revealed that low-t levels should be diagnosed “only in men with consistent symptoms and signs and unequivocally low serum testosterone levels.” This was done whereby healthy men would be subjected to testing, treatment, and monitoring that would represent a burden with unclear benefits.
According to the National Institution of Health, symptoms associated with low-T levels include reduced libido, erectile dysfunction or impotence, increased breast size, lowered sperm count, hot flashes, depression, irritability, shrunken and softened testes, loss of muscle mass or hair, and weakened bones (4).
How can I treat my low-T?
For those battling with hypogonadism, androgen replacement therapy (commonly referred to as testosterone replacement therapy) is used to address the issue. With androgen replacement therapy, testosterone hormones are replaced. On the other hand, those who do not have hypogonadism but are still battling with low-T levels may opt for testosterone boosters.
Testosterone boosters is the term given to supplements and products that help to increase T- levels. While they may work for some, there is not enough evidence to prove that all forms of testosterone boosters are both safe and effective. Thus, it’s best to ensure that you only purchase a testosterone booster after being advised to do so by a licensed doctor.
Risks associated with testosterone boosters
First, before you even enter the world of testosterone boosters, it’s important to ensure that you really do have low- T levels. In the case that you don’t, the addition of excess testosterone may cause irreversible issues.
One of the concerns associated with the use of testosterone boosters is the heightened risk of prostate cancer. While there has been research that alludes to an increased risk of prostate cancer with the use of testosterone boosters, that may not be the case. According to research from the NYU Langone Medical Center and New York University School of Medicine, testosterone therapy does not raise the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. That said, your doctor should be informed if you have a history of prostate cancer and you’re looking to use testosterone boosters.
In 2014, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) had manufacturers place labels on products that warned about a possible increased risk of heart attacks and strokes with use (5). They also urged patients to immediately seek medical attention if they began to experience chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, weakness in one part or on one side of the body, or slurred speech.
In regards to research, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found a link between an increased risk of cardiovascular issues and the use of a gel.
There are other potential side effects that may stem from the use of these boosters. They include:
- Lowered sperm count.
- Hair loss
- Aggressiveness and mood swings,
- Reduction in testicular size
- Enlarged breasts
- Sleep apnea
If that’s not enough, the FDA has warned that children who are accidentally exposed to testosterone are at risk of an enlarged penis or clitoris, early development of pubic hair, increased erections and libido, and aggressive behavior (6).
Are there any safe boosters?
Unfortunately, studies are limited in this regard. However, on your quest for safe boosters, you are likely to come across the following two.
DHEA is a steroid hormone that some seek out due to its effectiveness as a testosterone booster. Once again, it’s important to consult your doctor before deciding to purchase a DHEA supplement.
2. Tribulus Terrestri
Much of the research into the effects of Tribulus Terrestris has been done on animals. Thus its effect on humans at this point is purely speculative. Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped people from seeking out the compound in testosterone booster supplements.
Natural remedies to boost T-levels
Regardless of how much time and money you may spend on boosters, the fact remains that if you don’t maintain your basic health and well-being, your T-levels may continue to suffer. So below are a few natural hacks that may help to boost your levels of testosterone.
Eat Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts contain high levels of the antioxidant selenium. According to research, selenium has been associated with increased T- levels. Aside from Brazil nuts, selenium can also be found in oysters and sardines.
If you are going to use Brazil nuts as your source of selenium, it’s important to only consume 1 to 2 Brazil nuts a day as not doing so may lead to selenium toxicity.
Enjoy healthy fats
According to a study published in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, a diet that’s low in healthy fats has been associated with a decrease in T- levels.
If you want to boost your T- levels, you may want to increase your intake of extra virgin olive oil, wild-salmon, flaxseeds, and avocados.
Get enough sleep
Adequate sleep levels are important for overall health, and that includes healthy levels of testosterone. So, it’s important to get around 7 hours of sleep every night. That said, if you’re having trouble getting some shut-eye, here are some essential oils that you can use to help you sleep.
Get your zinc up
According to research, zinc plays a vital role in regulating serum testosterone levels in men. You can consume more leafy green vegetables like spinach or you can snack on pumpkin seeds to up your zinc levels.
Maintain magnesium levels
Research published in the Biological Trace Element Research journal discovered that supplementing with magnesium helps to boost T-levels in both athletes and sedentary men.
If you want to boost your magnesium levels, you can either opt for a supplement or you can consume more avocados, dark chocolate, nuts, and legumes.
As mentioned, chronic levels of stress can affect your levels of testosterone. Therefore, it’s important that you practice effective stress management. This can include meditation, yoga, laughing more, making your circle smaller or even listening to more of your favorite songs.
Opt for strength training
One sure way to naturally boost testosterone and get a good workout in is by getting into strength training. This includes weight lifting and HIIT workouts.
Optimize Vitamin D levels
Getting some more sun may be the key to your low-testosterone woes.
A study published in the Hormone and Metabolic Research journal found that, after providing vitamin D supplements, a group of overweight men experienced a natural boost in T- levels by up to 30%.
Aside from spending some time in the sun (after wearing sun protection of course), you can also optimize your vitamin D levels by eating cereals fortified with vitamin D as well as beans.
The bottom line
Testosterone is an incredibly vital hormone, especially in regards to men’s health. Thus, it’s important to always ensure that’s it’s at a healthy level within the body. However, there is a lack of evidence on the effectiveness and safety of some testosterone boosters. Thus, it’s best to stay clear of them unless you’ve been specifically advised not to do so by your doctor. Nonetheless, there exists a number of ways in which one can boost their T-levels, without compromising their health.