You’ve all seen the advertisements for the “herbal wonder supplement” that will increase your testosterone levels 1000 fold. Umm, no!
Well, mostly no.
The scientific data on popular supplements like tribulis terrestis has shown little to no raise in testosterone levels after use. DHEA is the same. There are benefits to some of these supplements but claiming they actually increase test levels is false. In fact, in an 8 week study on the effects of tribulus on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males there was no changes in bodyweight, body fat percentage, total body water, dietary intake or mood states in the tribulus group or the placebo group. To add insult to injury, the placebo group gained strength in both the bench press and leg press while the tribulus group only increased strength in the leg press.
In animal studies, tribulus has shown to significantly increase serum testosterone levels but in the human studies serum levels were shown to be elevated only when there was a combined supplement administration. Meaning tribulus is ineffective for raising testosterone in humans. DHEA and androstenedione are two others with claims of increasing testosterone levels but…in yet another randomized,placebo controlled w/double blind design study of 40 healthy, trained male subjects aged 45-52 yrs old showed that neither DHEA or androstenedione improved lean body mass, strength or testosterone levels after 12 weeks using 100mg of either supplements daily. There has been an increase in serum testosterone with doses over 300mg but it was minor with negative side effects being greatly increased. Norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, D-aspartic acid and Nmda all had the same results. No significant increase in testosterone levels. One 2 week study showed higher doses(6grams daily) of D-aspartic actually had a significant decrease in total and free testosterone levels.
In another study androstenedione showed that estradiol levels increased as well as serum estrone concentration plus the HDL cholesterol levels decreased and remained low after 5 and 8 weeks of training with androstenedione supplementation. Not only is it ineffective at increasing testosterone it caused hormonal imbalances and a negative impact on cholesterol.
Don’t worry, there’s still hope.
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia; TA) has been shown to significantly raise total and free testosterone levels in both men and women aged 57-72 after 5 weeks of 400mg of TA extract daily. When the bioactive components of TA are hot water-root extracts it’s been demonstrated to have no significant side effects with therapeutic dosages and safe for long term use. This being one of the reasons it’s being considered as a natural alternative to TRT (testosterone replacement therapy.) However, alcohol extracts of eurycoma exhibited toxic effects at high doses.
Know what you are buying and how it was made before attempting to use for long term supplementation. Do the research and check with your physician. Think of TA as testosterone maintenance or a “restorer” of normal levels rather than a “booster.” Beneficial for those that are past 40 or with low T and those under high stress or dieting.
Training with heavy weights does increase resting total and free testosterone as well as IGF-1 and IGF-binding protein-3 in both younger(30) and older(60) males. So skipping leg day isn’t only bad for the symmetry of your overall physique, you’re also missing out on a huge hormonal boost. Increased carbohydrate and saturated fat intake has also been shown to elevate test levels. But you need to evaluate your goals to see if increased energy sources will be worth the slightly elevated test levels. Off season or trying to add some size then it might be worthwhile. Dieting? Probably not worth it.
Anabolic steroids will raise test levels synthetically. However, many will shut your natural testosterone production down so once discontinuing use you will be left worse off than before without a working knowledge of how to get the HPTA system working properly again through the use of SERMS (selective estrogen receptor modules) or AI’s (Aromatase Inhibitors) or HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) depending on which area is not working properly and how suppressed it is. Hypothalamus-pituitary-testis axis, (HPTA) In a healthy adult male, there is a negative feedback loop that tells the axis to slow down or speed up or shut down. The hypothalamus sends out the gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) to the pituitary telling it to signal the leydig cells inside the testicles with LH (luteinizing hormone) to make testosterone and the sertoli cells, also inside the testicles, with FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to make sperm. When taking synthetic testosterone, or derivatives of, this feedback loop gets scrambled, eventually shutting it down. That’s a whole different topic so I’ll leave it there.
SARMs (selective androgen receptor modules) act much like testosterone on androgen receptors once in the body and like anabolic steroids but to a lesser degree and without many of the side effects associated with AAS. Said to only act in the skeletal muscle and bone with little to no suppression of the pituitary gonadotropins(LH and FSH). This is one reason SARMs are being used and studied extensively for androgen therapy. Plus they have no effect on prostate enlargement due to being resistant to an enzyme responsible for reducing testosterone to DHT and another enzyme responsible for converting testosterone in to estradiol. Therefore making it a more favorable option for androgen therapies than introducing synthetic testosterone.
Your best bet for raising test levels naturally and keeping cortisol levels lower is training heavy, eating a nutritionally dense, whole food based meal plan and supplementing with Tongkat Ali, Vitamin C, and Horny Goat Weed. Horny goat weed and vitamin C supplementation have both been found to lower cortisol levels.
Worth mentioning is Vitamin D. It’s been shown to have a positive correlation to testosterone, skeletal muscle function, force and power production as well as bone health and many other areas. It’s being studied extensively as a performance enhancing supplement.
CAMERON MITCHELL C.F.T., is a personal fitness professional based in Chicago.
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