Testosterone is a vital hormone for men, but just like estrogen in women, it goes down as you age. This is a natural process that has many drawbacks. In men, testosterone is responsible for hair growth, bone density, proper weight distribution, sex drive, muscle mass, red cell production, and so much more. But did you know that you can actually increase your testosterone levels as opposed to letting them dwindle?
When your testosterone levels go up, so does your libido. Unfortunately, the inverse is not true — your libido levels can go up without your testosterone levels also going up. And that’s how most supposed T-boosters “work”: they make you feel ornery, leading you to think that your T levels are appreciably higher, when they actually aren’t. In rare cases, supplementation will result in a 20% testosterone increase. This kind of improvement may sound impressive, but is irrelevant for practical purposes.
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
Because of inconclusive or conflicting results of testosterone treatment studies reported in the literature, Rabkin and colleagues (2004) undertook a comparison study among testosterone, the anti-depressant, fluoxetine, and placebo in eugonadal HIV positive men. They found that neither fluoxetine nor testosterone were different from placebo in reducing depression, but that testosterone did have a statistically significant effect in reducing fatigue. It is note-worthy that fatigue was reduced with testosterone treatment even though virtually all the men in the study had testosterone levels within the reference range.
Another effect that can limit treatment is polycythemia, which occurs due to various stimulatory effects of testosterone on erythropoiesis (Zitzmann and Nieschlag 2004). Polycythemia is known to produce increased rates of cerebral ischemia and there have been reports of stroke during testosterone induced polycythaemia (Krauss et al 1991). It is necessary to monitor hematocrit during testosterone treatment, and hematocrit greater than 50% should prompt either a reduction of dose if testosterone levels are high or high-normal, or cessation of treatment if levels are low-normal. On the other hand, late onset hypogonadism frequently results in anemia which will then normalize during physiological testosterone replacement.
We scoured the database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (part of the U.S. National Library of Science) for articles. Of the many ingredients marketed as boosting testosterone levels, we only found four backed by multiple articles based on human testing. For the best chance of boosting testosterone levels, a supplement needs to contain magnesium, fenugreek, and longjack — and some zinc wouldn’t go astray, either.
Grape seed extract is another ingredient with not enough research to suggest a dosage. Grape seed extract can interact with drugs like “blood thinners, NSAID painkillers (like aspirin, Advil, and Aleve), certain heart medicines, cancer treatments, and others.” If this sounds like you (or if you ever pop an Advil to clear off a headache), you’ll need to speak with a doctor to make sure this supplement is safe to take.
On the average, you need to sleep at least 8 hours per night to stay healthy. If you want a night sleep to contribute to the maximum testosterone production, it’s important to make your sleep comfortable. Thus, the bedroom temperature shouldn’t exceed 21°C. In addition, you should ventilate your bedroom thoroughly before sleeping. Furthermore, before going to bed, don’t overload your stomach with fatty foods, as well as don’t drink alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Finally, you have to avoid intense physical activity before bedtime.6
Although some men believe that taking testosterone medications may help them feel younger and more vigorous as they age, few rigorous studies have examined testosterone therapy in men who have healthy testosterone levels. And some small studies have revealed mixed results. For example, in one study healthy men who took testosterone medications increased muscle mass but didn't gain strength.