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Do Over-the-Counter Testosterone Boosters Work?
Side Effects & More

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: November 10, 2021

Many men who suffer from low testosterone levels resort to testosterone boosters.

But there is so much contradictory information out there. Some sources swear by natural ones, whereas others advise you to save your money.

So, what’s the real truth - can over-the-counter supplements boost testosterone levels or not?

After extensive research that took us dozens of hours, we found that not all boosters are made equal. Here’s how to tell which ones work and don’t harm your health in the process.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to whether testosterone boosters really work. 
  • Research doesn’t back up all claims marketers make. 
  • Irresponsible usage and untested boosters can seriously damage your health.
  • Boosters are currently the only form of testosterone therapy based on natural ingredients, usually containing zinc and magnesium.

Do Testosterone Boosters Really Work?

hand view of spilling capsules in to hands

Some testosterone boosters work, and others don’t. The results depend on three main factors:

  • Your desired effects
  • The booster you choose
  • What it’s claiming to do

Every testosterone booster is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

For example, some boosters block the female sex hormone called estrogen. Others are focused on increasing testosterone production instead of blocking estrogen.

Also, testosterone boosters may help you achieve one goal but not the other.

For example, most boosters won’t increase your sex drive despite their claims, at least according to a study that examined 50 testosterone boosters [1].

The study found that only 24.8% of those boosters had data to back up their promises.

It’s easy to get swayed because many supplements contain ingredients known to boost testosterone naturally. But that doesn’t guarantee you any results:

"Many supplements on the market merely contain vitamins and minerals but don't do anything to improve testosterone.” Mary K. Samplaski, MD, assistant professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC

But if you’re looking to build muscle mass instead of improving libido, I’ve got good news for you.

Studies have shown that most testosterone boosters successfully decrease fat mass and increase lean body mass [2].

Results don’t depend solely on the booster you choose, but also your responsible usage. So, make sure you follow the directions that come with the product.

You’ll get faster results and avoid health risks.

Benefits of Testosterone Supplements

man looking at his crouch and a man showing off his arm muscles

Many testosterone boosters claim that they equip their users with several benefits.

The most important one for many men is the increased sex drive.

The relationship between testosterone and sex drive has been backed by science [3].

Lowered testosterone levels lead to lowered libido, while high levels increase it. So, it makes sense that testosterone boosters could help you revive your mojo.

In addition to that, the male hormones affect a number of body functions—sperm production, among others.

The lower your testosterone level, the lower the quality of your sperm. And boosters can heighten both.

Also, effective testosterone boosters can lead to improved energy and mood because testosterone affects energy levels. That’s why exhaustion and fatigue are such common low testosterone symptoms.

In relation to that, low testosterone can also lead to more stress.

Most people know that stress decreases T-levels but aren’t aware that the relationship goes both ways. Since boosters can equip you with more testosterone, they can help reduce stress and improve overall cognitive function.

Lastly, some studies have shown that boosters can increase both muscle mass [4] and bone density [5], which is why many athletes resort to using them.

5 Key Ingredients of Natural Testosterone Boosters

bowls filled with greens and fenugreek

The testosterone boosters don’t add hormones directly to your body. Instead, they equip it with substances that increase testosterone levels naturally.

So, you should consider only boosters that contain substances known to stimulate testosterone production.

We’ll walk you through five such ingredients.

Check if the supplements you’re considering contain at least some of them. If not, we suggest you look elsewhere.

D-aspartic Acid (D-AA)

There’s research suggesting that taking D-AA over just 12 days could increase your testosterone levels by 42% [6].

That’s mainly because D-AA stimulates the release of growth hormone (GH), which declines after the age of 30.

Ginseng

plate with ginseng crop

Ginseng, a type of slow-growing plant, is known as a natural aphrodisiac.

It’s been widely used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat decreased sex drive. =

Recent research proves that it helps boost libido, testosterone levels, and sexual performance [7].

Fenugreek

Science proved that fenugreek, an herb similar to clover, can also upsurge testosterone.

One study reported that as many as 90% of participants experienced a 46% increase in their natural testosterone levels and increased muscle mass [8].

Vitamin D

capsule of vitamin d in the sun

Often called the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is a common ingredient of testosterone boosters, and for a good reason, too.

Its positive effects on low testosterone levels have been well-documented.

For example, one study found that vitamin D significantly increases total, bioactive, and free testosterone levels [9].

Zinc Magnesium Aspartate (ZMA)

ZMA is a mix of three ingredients that allegedly boost testosterone levels: zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6.

Research showed mixed results regarding whether or not ZMA affects testosterone levels, but some men who tried it reported positive results [10].

Possible Side Effects of Testosterone Supplements

men holding their chest and stomach in pain

Unfortunately, any form of testosterone boosters can have severe side effects on your health.

These include the increased risk of :

  • Liver damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Cardiac issues
  • Prostate cancer, etc.

What’s worse, some of these side effects—like prostate cancer—become apparent only years after receiving therapy.

With that in mind, we can no longer avoid the obvious question:

Are testosterone supplements safe?

In general, they are. In most cases, the cause of problems is that users don’t follow the instructions on how and how often to take testosterone boosters.

Additionally, some combine boosters with other supplements and medications, which increases the risk of health issues.

So, before buying a testosterone booster, please check if it’s approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We also recommend you watch this video to get a doctor’s advice—at least for informational purposes

youtube

Should You Take Testosterone Boosting Supplements?

person drinking water and capsule

You should take testosterone boosters only if you have a low testosterone level. Having a low libido or muscle mass doesn’t guarantee that’s the case.

So, make sure you check your body’s testosterone levels before taking any form of testosterone therapy, including boosters.

You can do so in two ways: buy a test kit or order a blood test through your GP.

If you decide to buy a kit, make sure you choose the one you can trust. Check other people’s reviews before buying.

A word of caution: You may not get accurate results on your first go because hormone levels fluctuate depending on the time of the day and your overall health. Repeat the test after a few weeks.

Even if the test confirms that you have low T levels, you should still consult your physician before taking any type of testosterone therapy—especially testosterone boosters.

Your physician can provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment that’s beneficial and risk-free.

Alternative Testosterone Treatments

man showing an injection

Boosters aren’t the only way to get your T to a normal range, so don’t get discouraged if they don’t work.

You can try other forms of therapy, such as testosterone replacement therapy.

This method pumps testosterone—the male hormone—directly into your body, which is why it’s also called hormone replacement therapy.

That’s what makes it so different from boosters.

But that’s also why you can take boosters on your own, while testosterone replacement therapy needs to be prescribed to you by a healthcare professional.

You’ll get a prescription only if you’re not producing enough testosterone. So, you won’t be able to get it if you want more testosterone to, say, build your muscles.

Besides therapy, you can also try leading a more healthy lifestyle. How you treat your body has massive effects on your testosterone, so a little self-care could go a long way.

Try to avoid alcohol, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and exercise at least three times a week.

Are Over-the-Counter Testosterone Supplements Worth It?

From what we’ve seen, over-the-counter boosters are worth a shot, especially if you’ve been battling low testosterone for a while.

Just make sure to consult your physician first, and rest assured that he’ll come up with the right treatment plan for you—one that won’t damage your health.

And if you decide to give these testosterone boosters a go, check out our list of the best testosterone supplements on the market.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6920068/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701485/
  3. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/91/7/2509/2656285
  4. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/82/8/2386/2877617
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2917954/
  6. https://rbej.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-7827-7-120
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3861174/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278660/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21154195/
  10. https://www.asep.org/asep/asep/BrillaV2.PDF

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