Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays important roles in the body. In men, it’s thought to regulate sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm. A small amount of circulating testosterone is converted to estradiol, a form of estrogen. As men age, they often make less testosterone, and so they produce less estradiol as well. Thus, changes often attributed to testosterone deficiency might be partly or entirely due to the accompanying decline in estradiol.
Popular through the centuries in Ayurvedic healing (a traditional practice of medicine in India) ashwagandha is what is known as an "adaptogen." This means the body may be able to use it to help adapt to stressors. While many people supplement with it for reducing cortisol, anxiety, and fatigue levels, ashwagandha also holds relevance for us here with potential testosterone boosting benefits.
Zinc is so important relating to hormone balance and many other functions (fertility, immunity, and insulin sensitivity to name just a few), as well as dopamine production—which helps support mood, drive, and interest. Many men, especially over the age of 60, have low zinc levels. A great start is to eat more foods containing zinc like oysters, fermented foods, and proteins (preferably grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon). I often recommend 50 to 60 mg daily if taking as a supplement.
Hypogonadism (as well as age-related low testosterone) is diagnosed with blood tests that measure the level of testosterone in the body. The Endocrine Society recommends testing for suspected low T with a total testosterone test. It may be performed in the morning when testosterone levels tend to be highest in young men, although this isn't necessarily the case in older men. The test may be repeated on another day if the results show a low T level. (5)
The amount of testosterone synthesized is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–testicular axis (see figure to the right). When testosterone levels are low, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is released by the hypothalamus, which in turn stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH. These latter two hormones stimulate the testis to synthesize testosterone. Finally, increasing levels of testosterone through a negative feedback loop act on the hypothalamus and pituitary to inhibit the release of GnRH and FSH/LH, respectively.
Hooper, D. R., Kraemer, W. J., Saenz, C., Schill, K. E., Focht, B. C., Volek, J. S. … Maresh, C. M. (2017, July). The presence of symptoms of testosterone deficiency in the exercise-hypogonadal male condition and the role of nutrition [Abstract]. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(7), 1349–1357. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28470410
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A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level or a reduction in the bioavailability of testosterone. Some men have a lower than normal testosterone level without signs or symptoms. For most men, no treatment is needed. But for some others, very low testosterone levels lead to a condition in which bones become weak and brittle (osteoporosis). For others, low testosterone might cause changes in sexual function, sleep patterns, emotions and the body.
In contrast to steroids, testosterone boosters have a fully different mechanism of action. They are the products which contain the natural ingredients only. These ingredients act by stimulating the man’s body to synthesize own testosterone. So, testosterone levels grow naturally without negative health effects associated with the intake of steroids.
Many clinical studies have looked at the effect of testosterone treatment on body composition in hypogonadal men or men with borderline low testosterone levels. Some of these studies specifically examine these changes in older men (Tenover 1992; Morley et al 1993; Urban et al 1995; Sih et al 1997; Snyder et al 1999; Kenny et al 2001; Ferrando et al 2002; Steidle et al 2003; Page et al 2005). The data from studies, on patients from all age groups, are consistent in showing an increase in fat free mass and decrease in fat mass or visceral adiposity with testosterone treatment. A recent meta-analysis of 16 randomized controlled trials of testosterone treatment effects on body composition confirms this pattern (Isidori et al 2005). There have been less consistent results with regard to the effects of testosterone treatment of muscle strength. Some studies have shown an increase in muscle strength (Ferrando et al 2002; Page et al 2005) with testosterone whilst others have not (Snyder et al 1999). Within the same trial some muscle group strengths may improve whilst others do not (Ly et al 2001). It is likely that the differences are partly due to the methodological variations in assessing strength, but it also possible that testosterone has different effects on the various muscle groups. The meta-analysis found trends toward significant improvements in dominant knee and hand grip strength only (Isidori et al 2005).
It is important to note that you can certainly boost testosterone naturally without supplementation. Supplements are expensive now a days and a lot of people do not like taking tons of pills. Plus, a lot of these vitamins and minerals are only needed if deficient, so I recommend getting routine blood work done to see where you are short. I can almost guarantee you will come out vitamin D deficient, so while you don’t have to take these, they will certainly help.
Regardless of the method of testosterone treatment chosen, patients will require regular monitoring during the first year of treatment in order to monitor clinical response to testosterone, testosterone levels and adverse effects, including prostate cancer (see Table 2). It is recommended that patients should be reviewed at least every three months during this time. Once treatment has been established, less frequent review is appropriate but the care of the patient should be the responsibility of an appropriately trained specialist with sufficient experience of managing patients treated with testosterone.
However, an important peculiarity of testosterone boosting products is their inability to cause addiction. Also, as opposed to steroids, the natural supplements don’t disturb the bodily functions. It means that these products don’t destroy the men’s hormone balance and don’t suppress the natural testosterone synthesis. Instead, the high-quality boosters successfully and safely eliminate the hormone imbalance issues in the men’s body.
Every ingredient can be harmful when taken in significant quantities (we go more into that below), so we pored over each booster’s ingredient list to make sure that they weren’t serving up an overdose. In particular, we took a close look at magnesium and zinc, which have enough scientific background behind them to offer hard upper limits on how much you can safely consume.
Let’s do a quick review of what I shared in the introduction to this series. August of last year was a tough month for me, primarily because of a huge and grueling project we were in the midst of here on the site. I was stressed out and my sleeping, healthy eating habits, and workout regimen all suffered. At the end of the month I got my testosterone levels tested and found that my total T was 383 ng/dL and my free T was 7.2 pg/mL – close to the average for an 85-100-year-old man.
"I went from 230 pounds down to 192. When my son got married, I went for the suit fitting, and I was a size 48. When I went back to do the final fitting, I was a 44! I want to keep getting it for the weight loss; I lost 4 inches around my belly, and I want to get rid of the rest of the weight around my belly. I’m 57, and my wife says I look like I’m back in my 30s. I have more energy for sure, and I’m going to participate in one of those Savage races where they have the obstacle courses with one of our kids."
A 2010 study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior first suggested this when researchers evaluated the “dual-hormone hypothesis” clinically. (11) They discovered that when cortisol is elevated, testosterone responds by elevating as well but soon after bottoms out at a much lower level than before cortisol kicked in! That means you want to find ways to relieve stress to keep your testosterone levels up.
The real danger comes when you eat a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates (90% of Americans). The sugar binds to LDL (So-called bad cholesterol – PS: It’s not even cholesterol, it’s a protein) and renders it inert. When inert, the LDL cannot pull good cholesterol (HDL) into your cells. This is bad. So what you need to do in conduction with your high fat diet is take in a lot of cruciferous vegetables, limit your carb intake, don’t touch toxic sugars. And exercise regularly.
ZMA (unnecessary). So when I researched how to increase testosterone, a supplement called ZMA kept popping up. It’s a blend of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. The purported benefits of ZMA include better and deeper sleep which indirectly is supposed to increase testosterone. Zinc and magnesium are necessary minerals in testosterone production, so a mega-dose should be useful, right? Well, no. I bought some and took it during the duration of experiment. I should have done some more research before I made the purchase. While one study in 1998 showed increased strength among athletes taking ZMA, two recent studies (study 1, study 2) have shown that it has absolutely no effect on total or free testosterone levels. Crap. My advice, unless you have a zinc and magnesium deficiency, no need to waste your money on this.
A large number of trials have demonstrated a positive effect of testosterone treatment on bone mineral density (Katznelson et al 1996; Behre et al 1997; Leifke et al 1998; Snyder et al 2000; Zacharin et al 2003; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004; Aminorroaya et al 2005; Benito et al 2005) and bone architecture (Benito et al 2005). These effects are often more impressive in longer trials, which have shown that adequate replacement will lead to near normal bone density but that the full effects may take two years or more (Snyder et al 2000; Wang, Cunningham et al 2004; Aminorroaya et al 2005). Three randomized placebo-controlled trials of testosterone treatment in aging males have been conducted (Snyder et al 1999; Kenny et al 2001; Amory et al 2004). One of these studies concerned men with a mean age of 71 years with two serum testosterone levels less than 12.1nmol/l. After 36 months of intramuscular testosterone treatment or placebo, there were significant increases in vertebral and hip bone mineral density. In this study, there was also a significant decrease in the bone resorption marker urinary deoxypyridinoline with testosterone treatment (Amory et al 2004). The second study contained men with low bioavailable testosterone levels and an average age of 76 years. Testosterone treatment in the form of transdermal patches was given for 1 year. During this trial there was a significant preservation of hip bone mineral density with testosterone treatment but testosterone had no effect on bone mineral density at other sites including the vertebrae. There were no significant alterations in bone turnover markers during testosterone treatment (Kenny et al 2001). The remaining study contained men of average age 73 years. Men were eligible for the study if their serum total testosterone levels were less than 16.5 nmol/L, meaning that the study contained men who would usually be considered eugonadal. The beneficial effects of testosterone on bone density were confined to the men who had lower serum testosterone levels at baseline and were seen only in the vertebrae. There were no significant changes in bone turnover markers. Testosterone in the trial was given via scrotal patches for a 36 month duration (Snyder et al 1999). A recent meta-analysis of the effects on bone density of testosterone treatment in men included data from these studies and two other randomized controlled trials. The findings were that testosterone produces a significant increase of 2.7% in the bone mineral density at the lumber spine but no overall change at the hip (Isidori et al 2005). These results from randomized controlled trials in aging men show much smaller benefits of testosterone treatment on bone density than have been seen in other trials. This could be due to the trials including patients who are not hypogonadal and being too short to allow for the maximal effects of testosterone. The meta-analysis also assessed the data concerning changes of bone formation and resorption markers during testosterone treatment. There was a significant decrease in bone resorption markers but no change in markers of bone formation suggesting that reduction of bone resorption may be the primary mode of action of testosterone in improving bone density (Isidori et al 2005).
Your first step should be to see your doctor. If you think you have low testosterone, we cannot stress enough that you should proceed with caution and talk to a medical professional — taking a booster can definitely do more harm than good. Low testosterone can be a symptom of more serious problems, like a pituitary disorder or a side-effect of medication, and a booster can mask the root cause. A doctor will be able to evaluate your testosterone levels with a simple blood test, and if you both decide a booster is the way to go, give the ingredients of any supplement a once-over to make sure that they’re not at risk of making your personal health situation worse.
If testosterone deficiency occurs during fetal development, then male characteristics may not completely develop. If testosterone deficiency occurs during puberty, a boy’s growth may slow and no growth spurt will be seen. The child may have reduced development of pubic hair, growth of the penis and testes, and deepening of the voice. Around the time of puberty, boys with too little testosterone may also have less than normal strength and endurance, and their arms and legs may continue to grow out of proportion with the rest of their body.