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Wondering about testosterone boosters for men? Here’s everything you need to know about how they work, the potential benefits and side effects to consider.
Whether you’ve been hearing about low testosterone levels from a healthcare professional or are asking about testosterone supplements around the gym, there are any number of reasons you might be curious about the nebulous world of testosterone boosters.
If you’re needle-averse and doctor visit-averse, you might be on the fence about some of the dubious-sounding internet products claiming to improve libido, help with gains and find your masculine energy again.
Can testosterone boosters help with this? It really depends.
Many things qualify as a testosterone booster, from FDA-approved therapies a healthcare provider might administer to the packet of pills and ground spices next to the blunt wrappers at your local gas station. If it’s not obvious by now, some are more effective — and more safe — than others.
To help you understand testosterone boosters, we’ll explain in more detail what they are, how they work, what benefits they may offer and the side effects they may yield.
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The goal of testosterone boosters is to treat symptoms of low testosterone without involving a healthcare professional. These can include hypogonadism, reduced libido, fatigue, muscle weakness and mood disturbances.
Testosterone boosters can take various forms, including medications, supplements or lifestyle modifications. These chemicals, dietary supplements and other preparations work by stimulating the production of testosterone or enhancing its availability and activity in the body.
Testosterone boosters like exogenous testosterone (testosterone-replacement therapy) can help people with conditions like hypogonadism, which leads to side effects such as fewer erections, lower sex drive and reduced beard hair growth. So you might see ads for ED testosterone boosters.
Herbal supplements, meanwhile, vary widely. They can include any of the following ingredients commonly claiming to increase testosterone:
Saw palmetto extract
As you can imagine, many of these products are sold on the internet. But there’s scant reliable evidence that these herbs can address hypogonadism or offer any of the other benefits. There’s also scant evidence that they’re safe to consume regularly.
We’ve now come to the part of the sex drive conversation where we must distinguish between science and unsupported statements.
When used appropriately and under medical supervision, male testosterone boosters can be effective in increasing testosterone levels in individuals with low testosterone or certain medical conditions.
Testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT), for example, is a well-established and highly effective method for increasing testosterone levels in men with diagnosed hypogonadism (low testosterone). TRT involves the administration of exogenous testosterone, either through injections, patches, gels or pellets.
On the other hand, over-the-counter testosterone boosters and supplements marketed as natural testosterone boosters don’t have well-established records for their effectiveness.
While some studies suggest that certain ingredients found in these supplements (such as D-aspartic acid or fenugreek extract) may have a mild impact on testosterone levels, the evidence is limited and inconsistent.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of all testosterone boosters can vary depending on individual factors, such as the underlying cause of low testosterone and a person’s overall health status.
Further, the use of testosterone boosters should be supervised by healthcare professionals to ensure appropriate dosing and monitoring — even if they lack scientific backing for their benefits.
When used under appropriate medical supervision for individuals with diagnosed low testosterone levels or specific medical conditions, testosterone boosters can provide several potential benefits.
This may include increased muscle mass and strength, improved libido and sexual function, enhanced mood and well-being, increased bone density and potential cardiovascular health benefits.
Whether you’re part of the bodybuilding world or not, you probably know that if you want to build muscle, you need testosterone.
As with the rest of men’s health, T-levels are directly related to muscle strength. In fact, testosterone is known to play a crucial role in muscle development and strength. Returning to healthy testosterone levels may enhance muscle protein synthesis and promote muscle growth.
Sexual performance is how many of us measure ourselves. Whether we should or not is another question, but if you’re struggling with low libido or low sperm count, you’re probably open to natural ingredients promising to fix your testosterone levels.
There’s a reason you’d want to start there — your sexual energy levels and your testosterone levels have a somewhat direct relationship. Testosterone is a key hormone involved in sexual desire and performance. Increasing testosterone levels can potentially enhance libido, improve erectile function and increase overall sexual satisfaction.
Testosterone influences mood and mental well-being. Adequate levels of testosterone may contribute to improved energy, motivation and a positive mood.
Testosterone is important for maintaining bone health and density. A so-called T-booster may help prevent or slow down the loss of bone mass associated with conditions like osteoporosis.
Some studies suggest that optimal testosterone levels may have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, including improved lipid profiles (better cholesterol) and decreased risk of heart disease. However, more research is needed in this area.
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A month’s supply of heightened hormone levels might just be a trip to the gas station away — but that may actually be a really bad idea.
The benefits of testosterone boosters can vary depending on individual factors and the underlying cause of low testosterone — and as you might have guessed, so can the side effects.
It’s crucial to use testosterone boosters under medical supervision to ensure appropriate dosing and monitoring, as excessive testosterone levels can have adverse effects on your health.
Even when used appropriately or under medical supervision, testosterone boosters carry potential risks and side effects. These can include:
Suppression of natural testosterone production. The use of exogenous testosterone, such as in testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT), can lead to a reduction in the body’s natural testosterone production. This can result in testicular atrophy and infertility.
Weight changes. Rapid changes in the balance of things like cortisol, estrogen and other hormones can result in sudden weight gain or weight loss.
Acne and oily skin. Increasing testosterone levels can stimulate sebum production, leading to acne and oily skin.
Increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Elevated testosterone levels, especially in individuals with underlying cardiovascular conditions, may increase the risk of heart problems such as heart attacks, stroke and blood clots.
Liver toxicity. Certain oral testosterone-boosting supplements may pose a risk of liver damage, especially with long-term use or high doses.
Mood changes and aggression. Testosterone can influence mood and behavior. Some individuals may experience mood swings, increased aggression or irritability while using testosterone boosters.
Sleep disturbances. Testosterone supplementation can disrupt sleep patterns and potentially contribute to sleep apnea.
Prostate enlargement and potential cancer risk. There is some concern that long-term use of testosterone boosters may contribute to prostate enlargement (benign prostatic hyperplasia) or increase the risk of prostate cancer. However, more research is needed to fully understand this association.
As for the herbal supplements, more than one respectable source has called the “science” backing their claims “unsupported.” A 2018 case report suggested that even obtaining boosters from reputable-seeming sources carries health risks.
Meanwhile, herbs like ashwagandha have been found to boost testosterone in one study. But there are still many unanswered questions, including some about safety.
We should note that the risks and side effects associated with testosterone boosters can vary depending on factors such as dosage, duration of use, individual health status and the specific type of testosterone booster being used.
Seeking medical guidance and supervision is crucial for mitigating these risks and ensuring the safe use of even the best testosterone booster supplements.
Anabolic steroids may sound like a free testosterone boost for reducing your body fat in the gym, but you probably already know that they have consequences in the long term. The same is true of other boosters.
There’s no denying that testosterone levels are an essential part of your health and sexual health — and that if you’re deficient in testosterone, it’s a problem you should address.
We’re just not sure so-called “boosters” are the way to do that.
Here’s the thing:
YES, testosterone replacement therapy can be effective for people with conditions like hypogonadism.
BUT remember that TRT is very different from things like ginseng, magnesium, vitamin D (specifically vitamin D3) and horny goat weed, none of which have FDA approval for testosterone deficiency.
AND while TRT has side effects as well, it’s a treatment overseen by a healthcare professional. It’s also something you can do safely, whereas supplements may not be effectively dosed for your needs.
SO, if you really want to get more testosterone into your system medically, a healthcare provider is the person to see, not a gas station attendant.
If you’re experiencing problems with erectile dysfunction (ED) or libido, you should also consider the bigger questions, like whether it’s psychological or related to a different health condition — questions only a healthcare professional can help you answer.
Our advice? Skip the supplements. Talk to a healthcare provider and get the best treatment options. Explore men’s sexual health solutions and treatments from Hims today.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.