We kept it simple, and followed the premise of testosterone boosters: testosterone affects muscle gain, weight loss, and libido, so by increasing the amount of testosterone in the body, we can improve on each of those goals. This meant that we looked for ingredients proven to increase testosterone levels, not ingredients that might increase libido or help build muscle mass independently of testosterone (like having a healthy diet and feeling good about yourself). In addition, we dove deep into the specific ingredient lists of our finalists and cross-checked them against WebMD and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) database to make sure that they did not contain ingredients known to be harmful.
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.
A number of epidemiological studies have found that bone mineral density in the aging male population is positively associated with endogenous androgen levels (Murphy et al 1993; Ongphiphadhanakul et al 1995; Rucker et al 2004). Testosterone levels in young men have been shown to correlate with bone size, indicating a role in determination of peak bone mass and protection from future osteoporosis (Lorentzon et al 2005). Male hypogonadism has been shown to be a risk factor for hip fracture (Jackson et al 1992) and a recent study showed a high prevalence of hypogonadism in a group of male patients with average age 75 years presenting with minimal trauma fractures compared to stroke victims who acted as controls (Leifke et al 2005). Estrogen is a well known determinant of bone density in women and some investigators have found serum estrogen to be a strong determinant of male bone density (Khosla et al 1998; Khosla et al 2001). Serum estrogen was also found to correlate better than testosterone with peak bone mass (Khosla et al 2001) but this is in contradiction of a more recent study showing a negative correlation of estrogen with peak bone size (Lorentzon et al 2005). Men with aromatase deficiency (Carani et al 1997) or defunctioning estrogen receptor mutations (Smith et al 1994) have been found to have abnormally low bone density despite normal or high testosterone levels which further emphasizes the important influence of estrogen on male bone density.
Testosterone makes a contribution to nitric oxide formation. Nitric oxide, released from penile nerves stimulates guanylate cyclase which catalyzes the transformation of guanosine-5-triphosphate into 3′,5′-cyclic, guanosine monophosphate (cyclic GMP). Gyclic GMP causes vasodilatation and hence erection formation (Morelli et al 2005). The breakdown of cyclic GMP to GMP is mediated by the enzyme, phosphodiesterase type-5, the inhibitors of which (eg, sildenafil citrate) enhance erection formation and maintanence (Carson and Lue 2005).
There is a polymorphic CAG repeat sequence in the androgen receptor gene, which codes for a variable number of glutamine amino acids in the part of the receptor affecting gene transcription. A receptor with a short CAG sequence produces greater activity when androgens attach, and men with shorter CAG polymorphisms exhibit androgenic traits, such as preserved bone density (Zitzmann et al 2001) and prostate growth during testosterone treatment (Zitzmann et al 2003). Indirect evidence of the importance of androgens in the development of prostate cancer is provided by case control study findings of a shorter, more active CAG repeat sequence in the androgen receptor gene of patients with prostate cancer compared with controls (Hsing et al 2000, 2002).
Consume vegetable carbohydrates and healthy fats. Your body requires the carbohydrates from fresh vegetables rather than grains and sugars. In addition to mono- or polyunsaturated fats found in avocados and raw nuts, saturated fats are also essential to building your testosterone production. According to research, there was a decrease in testosterone stores in people who consumed a diet low in animal-based fat.11 Aside from avocados and raw nuts, ideal sources of healthy fat that can boost your testosterone levels include:
There are three categories of healthy fat. Number one is healthy saturated fat. The truth about saturated fat is it’s actually good for you if it’s the proper kind. Healthy saturated fat is found in coconut oil and raw, fermented dairy products like goat milk kefir, yogurt, or raw goat or sheep milk cheese. However, avoid conventional dairy because it will actually damper your testosterone.
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As you cut these dietary troublemakers from your meals, you need to replace them with healthy substitutes like vegetables and healthy fats (including natural saturated fats!). Your body prefers the carbohydrates in micronutrient-dense vegetables rather than grains and sugars because it slows the conversion to simple sugars like glucose, and decreases your insulin level. When you cut grains and sugar from your meals, you typically will need to radically increase the amount of vegetables you eat, as well as make sure you are also consuming protein and healthy fats regularly.
The production of the stress hormone cortisol blocks the production and effects of testosterone. From a biological perspective, cortisol increases your “fight or flight” response, thereby lowering testosterone-associated functions such as mating, competing, and aggression. Chronic stress can take a toll on testosterone production, as well as your overall health. Therefore, stress management is equally important to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Tools you can use to stay stress-free include prayer, meditation, laughter, and yoga. Relaxation skills, such as deep breathing and visualization, can also promote your emotional health.
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Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic in the US, and is profoundly affecting men’s health. The cholesterol-derived steroid hormone vitamin D is crucial for men’s health. It plays a role in the development of the sperm cell nucleus, and helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D can also increase your testosterone level, helping improve your libido. Have your vitamin D levels tested using a 25(OH)D or a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. The optimal level of vitamin D is around 50 to 70 ng/ml for adults. There are three effective sources of vitamin D:
It seems like today it’s a badge of honor to train every day until exhaustion. The ethos is to push yourself harder and harder every day. If that’s your philosophy towards exercise, you might be sabotaging your testosterone levels (as well as your 20 Mile March). Studies have shown that overtraining can reduce testosterone levels significantly. Yes, it’s important to exercise hard, but it’s even more important to give your body rest so it can recuperate from the damage you inflicted upon it.
"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.