Many “drug-free” gym goers want to increase the natural production of testosterone. Testosterone deficiency decreases quality of life and is linked to health problems such as diabetes, depression, erectile dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease. It also increases the risk of premature death. T-boosting supplements are big sellers that are popular with athletes, aging adults, and men and women who hope to boost sexual performance.
So how can you boost your testosterone levels naturally and safely? Here’s how.
Many techniques boost testosterone naturally. These include stimulation of the testes and testosterone-controlling hormones in the brain. Supplement makers have marketed T-boosting products for decades. They weren’t very popular prior to the late 1980s because of the easy availability of anabolic steroids. Changes in the law made steroids controlled substances in 1990, which left law-abiding bodybuilders struggling to improve. Whey protein and creatine monohydrate supplements presented a viable but less effective alternative to steroids for boosting muscle strength and size. During the late 1990s, steroidal pro-hormones entered the market with variable results. Most failed to increase muscle strength and size, but caused some of the same side-effects as steroids. Revisions to the Anabolic Steroid Control Act extended to these pro-hormones, as well as the banned substance lists of most sports organizations, removing them from the market. Of course, marketers continue to challenge the confines of these lists with “designer pro-hormones.”
Raising T Levels
Recently, supplement companies developed testosterone-boosting formulas that claimed to increase testosterone. They marketed these products to healthy, young adult men. It is crucial to define the target population because ingredients that might benefit someone with low testosterone levels may have no effect on healthy young men with normal or high levels. Also, the correct dose is critical to an effective formula. It is impossible to provide an all-inclusive list, but here are the most prevalent ingredients.
The mineral was introduced as a testosterone booster in the 1980s, based on human data involving postmenopausal females and men over age 45. Though not classically defined as an essential mineral, this early research demonstrated improvements in bone-building markers, including increased calcium, vitamin D, testosterone, and estrogens. Bodybuilders experienced no perceivable benefits at 3 milligrams per day but it was effective at 10 milligrams. While the evidence is mixed, a minimum daily dose of 10 milligrams of boron appears to increase testosterone in some people.
This herb gained notice as a testosterone-booster based upon unconfirmed reports by scientists from Bulgaria. “Trib” has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an aphrodisiac, and increases in sexual behavior have been documented in animal studies. However, “trib” failed to provide any T-boosting effect or strength increases in young, adult men, either by itself or as part of a combined product. “Trib” does not produce measurable changes in T or performance in young men. It remains part of many testosterone-boosting supplements despite lackluster consumer reviews.
ZINC AND MAGNESIUM
Victor Conte will always be remembered as the central character in the BALCO scandal that devastated the careers of many athletes- including several Major League Baseball players and Olympians. He also promoted a dietary supplement called ZMA that supposedly increased testosterone in college football players. The science behind ZMA seemed credible because zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B-6- the components of ZMA- are essential co-factors in natural T production. A 1999 study reported that ZMA increased strength and testosterone, compared to a placebo group that experienced an overall decrease in T. Later studies failed that ZMA increased testosterone levels.
Creatine supplements boost muscle mass and strength because they increase cell energy levels and stimulate protein synthesis. Creatine has additional properties that support muscle anabolism, either directly or indirectly. Creatine-loaded men showed 50 percent increases in post-exercise T and growth hormone (GH) levels. This may have been caused by increases in creatine-stimulated exercise capacity rather than any effect of creatine on testosterone production. Even though the effect is indirect, creatine can potentially increase T and GH.
Vitamin D is an anabolic hormone that helps build bone mass. Bone density is as important to bodybuilding as muscle density because of the strain that muscles put on the skeleton. High doses of vitamin D decrease muscle and joint pain in women treated with aromatase inhibitors for breast cancer. Drug-enhanced bodybuilders commonly use aromatase inhibitors to decrease the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Overweight men with low T given vitamin D supplements (3300 IU/day) increased total T by 25 percent and the more powerful free T by 20 percent. Additionally, vitamin D increases androgen receptors in muscle.
D-ASPARTIC ACID (DAA)
DAA increased T in rats by increasing levels of a testosterone controlling hormone (LH), as well as directly stimulating the testes to produce more T. In humans, DAA actually decreased T levels in men with normal T levels, so this supplement is probably not effective in healthy, young athletes. DAA definitely plays a role in T production, but appears only to be effective for men with low to low-normal T.
TRIGONELLA FOENUM-GRAECUM (TFG)
This herb, more commonly known as fenugreek, is often included in T-boosting supplements because of studies showing positive effects on libido, sexual function, and strength in weight-trained men. TFG caused small increases in testosterone. TFG inhibits T breakdown, which prolongs its effects in muscle. The improvements in libido, arousal, and orgasm may be more relevant to the actions of TFG than its performance or modest effects on circulating T increases.
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