Zinc is little more of a nice-to-have ingredient than a must-have. It’s on our radar as an ingredient that possibly boosts testosterone levels, and while we couldn’t find enough supporting evidence that taking zinc would increase natural testosterone, low zinc levels have been connected to infertility. A low zinc level is also possibly a sign of hypogonadism. The closest support we found is in a study which found that people recovered from nutritional deficiency-related problems more quickly if they took a zinc supplement than those who did not. Zinc is available in many foods, such as oysters, fortified breakfast cereals, and red meat.
We should probably start with the elephant in the room: do these supplements increase testosterone? The answer is probably yes. There are some ingredients that help convince your body to produce more testosterone, but there’s a catch. Testosterone boosters aren’t actually great at boosting; that is, at pushing your testosterone levels above your healthy, normal balance. Boosters typically act more like restorers — helping bring low testosterone levels back to that healthy equilibrium rather than boosting you above normal testosterone levels. Just like how if you have anemia, taking a vitamin B12 supplement can help restore your energy and reduce fatigue, but if your B12 levels are good, a supplement won’t give you super energy levels to stay awake for three days — your body will likely just process (read: pee) out the extra.
The bones and the brain are two important tissues in humans where the primary effect of testosterone is by way of aromatization to estradiol. In the bones, estradiol accelerates ossification of cartilage into bone, leading to closure of the epiphyses and conclusion of growth. In the central nervous system, testosterone is aromatized to estradiol. Estradiol rather than testosterone serves as the most important feedback signal to the hypothalamus (especially affecting LH secretion). In many mammals, prenatal or perinatal "masculinization" of the sexually dimorphic areas of the brain by estradiol derived from testosterone programs later male sexual behavior.
Decreased testosterone production in men with rheumatoid arthritis is a common finding (Stafford et al 2000), and it is now generally recognized that androgens have the capacity to suppress both the hormonal and cellular immune response and so act as one of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory agents (Cutolo et al 2002). This known anti-inflammatory action of testosterone has led to studying the effect of testosterone therapy in men with rheumatoid disease. Although not all studies have reported positive effects of testosterone treatment (Hall et al 1996), some studies do demonstrate an improvement in both clinical and chemical markers of the immune response (Cutolo et al 1991; Cutolo 2000). This observation would go along with more recent evidence that testosterone or its metabolites protects immunity by preserving the number of regulatory T cells and the activation of CD8+ T cells (Page et al 2006).
It’s worth emphasizing that these supplements are totally legit. They’re NOT steroids. Meaning, only the natural and harmless ingredients have been used to make these products, which can help the guys dealing with the low testosterone problems, such as low energy, fatigue, muscle loss, irritability, and similar. Usually, the guys tend to start experience these problems in their late 20s and in some cases in their early 30s.
Workouts lasting longer than about an hour may begin to spike cortisol levels and subsequently decrease testosterone. Additionally, research has demonstrated that a shorter rest period between sets (1 minute versus 3 minutes) elicited higher acute hormonal responses following a bout of resistance training.11 To maximize your testosterone response, keep your rest periods short and total workout time to 60 minutes or fewer.
A recent study conducted on trained subjects showed that squats stimulated a greater testosterone response than leg presses.10 Stick with multijoint exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts—the kinds of compound lifts that'll help jack up your testosterone levels. Since machines isolate a muscle you're working (less stabilizer activity), they're not as good a choice compared to free weights.
Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.
"Some say it's just a part of aging, but that's a misconception," says Jason Hedges, MD, PhD, a urologist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. A gradual decline in testosterone can't explain a near-total lack of interest in sex, for example. And for Hedges' patients who are in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s and having erectile problems, other health problems may be a bigger issue than aging.