When it comes to the manliest men, there are several that come to mind.
They exude confidence, have rippling muscles, and are built solid. And when it comes to these guys, there’s one word that comes to mind: testosterone.
And when it comes to everything that makes a man, a man, it’s testosterone that we have to thank. Sex drive, muscle mass, semen production, and overall health are all predicated on healthy levels of the male sex hormone. Without it, we can’t function at our highest performance, and we definitely can’t maximize our gains.
Down below we’ll look at testosterone more closely, including how to tell if you don’t produce enough, the benefits of supplementing with it, and the various types of supplements. Use it on a solid foundation of a healthy diet, lots of exercise, and quality sleep, and you’ll be reaping the rewards in no time.
We often hear about testosterone, but what exactly is it? It’s considered an androgen hormone found in both men and women, but at much higher levels in men. The higher levels in men lead to traditionally masculine physical qualities, such as deeper voices, facial hair, and more muscle growth. Other factors that it influences include:
As we can see, it’s a pretty important hormone. And during puberty, increased levels of testosterone give boys all of the qualities that come with puberty, including growth spurts, body hair, and sperm production.
But that’s assuming everything is going to plan—and for that, we need to know how much a good amount of testosterone is. The best way to measure testosterone is through a blood test, and a good amount to have is anywhere from 270 to just over 1,000 nanograms per deciliter.
Several different factors affect how much testosterone you have, but it’s generally not healthy to have below 300 or well over 1,000. If that is the case, it’s likely pointing to an underlying cause that should be fixed.
There are a lot of things that can affect your T levels, and it’s sometimes difficult to gauge exactly what might be the cause. Some examples include:
However, by far the most common cause is the natural progression of age. Testosterone levels begin to drop in the late 20s and early 30s for most guys, and it’s estimated that 50% of men over the age of 80 have low testosterone levels. On the other hand, high testosterone can be caused by anabolic steroids, adrenal gland tumors, or other medical conditions.
So, how do you know if you’ve got low testosterone? There are several different ways you can tell, such as:
However, as we mentioned above, the best way to find out for sure is to get some blood work done. Low testosterone is called hypogonadism, and there are prescription testosterone boosters you can take in order to improve your levels.
These boosters usually come in the form of testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT. This can be injected, taken transdermally via patches, or swallowed in pills. However, these are just the prescription options give to those who have clinically low testosterone. There are other reasons why you might want to consider boosting your testosterone levels.
While clinically low testosterone exists, there are other reasons why supplementing with T might be the way to go for you. For example, here are some of the benefits:
And if you’re on the older side of 30, it’s especially important to consider taking T boosters as your natural production of the hormone begins to slow. Not only will you likely see the benefits in the gym, but you’ll also see benefits in the bedroom. Saying that, it’s not necessary to go on TRT in order to increase your T levels. There are plenty of other ways to supplement this hormone.
The other side of the testosterone therapy coin is the supplement side of things. These are either natural or not, and rather than directly adding testosterone into your body, they work by increasing your body’s ability to make more testosterone.
However, like many other supplements (natural or not), some of these have seen limited studies done on humans. Although early results are promising, keep in mind that you should do more extensive research while also choosing a good source, if you do decide to go down this route.
Also, keep in mind that more is not necessarily better; keeping things in moderation is best for your long-term health outcomes.
DHEA (with its full name being Dehydroepiandrosterone), is a hormone found in the body and primarily produced by the adrenal glands. It’s an anabolic steroid that your body uses to manage the levels of testosterone and estrogen, and supplementing with it can boost levels of the former.
While this is one of the more popular t-boosting supplements out there, the science isn’t extremely clear at this point. However, people have seen good results by using it. And if that doesn’t convince you, keep in mind that it is banned in professional sports.
There’s also evidence that it may reduce counts of good cholesterol, so that’s something you should keep in mind if you decide to go down the DHEA route.
Zinc is an extremely important mineral that’s necessary for a host of bodily functions. This includes helping your immune system fight off bacteria and viruses, in the production of genetic material, and helping your gut repair itself. But for our case here, zinc deficiency has also been linked to low T levels.
Zinc is found naturally in red meat, seafood, chicken, nuts, beans, and dairy products. However, you can also supplement with it by taking it in tablet form. The benefit of going down the zinc route is that you could be fixing the underlying cause of a low T level, rather than just trying to fix the T level directly.
The recommended dosage for deficiency prevention is 5 to 10 mg, while it’s 25 to 45 mg for those who are already deficient. There are side effects if it’s used excessively, so stick within these numbers.
This compound is a natural amino acid that can be helpful by boosting hormones linked to testosterone production. Not only does it improve the production of this luteinizing hormone, but it can also potentially facilitate better transportation of it around the body.
Not only can this help with T levels, but it could also help benefit sperm production and the quality of it. While studies are inconclusive, it could be a potential candidate if you’re looking to improve your levels.
Much like zinc, vitamin D is a micronutrient that has a lot of very important roles to play in the body. For example, it’s useful in fighting off infections, keeping your bones strong by helping calcium absorption, and last but definitely not least: increasing testosterone levels.
Vitamin D is produced by your body when it’s exposed to sunlight (which is why deficiency often occurs for people living in the Northern hemisphere during winter). And in its active form, this micronutrient functions as a steroid hormone, effectively being necessary for sexual function.
This aptly named vitamin has been found in studies to increase the production of testosterone levels in men, but its effectiveness largely depends on how deficient someone is. Nevertheless, ensuring that you’re getting enough vitamin D has plenty of benefits outside of T levels, so it’s definitely worth considering.
This is an herb that has been used in traditional Indian medicine for a very long time. The plant’s berries and roots are used for making extracts, teas, and capsules of powder. Along with purportedly boosting sexual function and fertility in males, this herb is also considered an adaptogen, which means that it helps your body better handle anxiety and stress.
Studies have shown that the herb has a lot of benefits for sperm, and part of the reason may be because of its anxiety-reducing effects. This is because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to better sleep and better T levels. Other studies have even suggested that ashwagandha can increase fat loss and athletic performance.
This comes from a tree that’s used in West Africa as an aphrodisiac. In fact, one study even found that it can be as effective as Viagra when looking at erectile dysfunction in rats. Both compounds have similar effects on the human male brain.
Yohimbe can also potentially help you lose fat and gain more muscle mass in the process, which makes it doubly effective if you’re looking to boost your exercise performance.
Taken as either a tea or a powder in capsule form, Yohimbe is unique in that it’s actually been approved by the FDA as a prescription for erectile dysfunction—something that you can’t say for a lot of other herbs and supplements.
This is a common extract found in many men’s supplements that aim to improve sexual performance and health. This compound works by slowing down 5-alpha reductase—an enzyme that helps to convert testosterone into DHT.
Along with the benefits for the prostate, DHT has also been shown to slow the onset of male pattern baldness. It can also boost increase sperm counts, boost libido, and help against symptoms of low testosterone.
When it comes to herbs, fenugreek is another popular option that’s found in several male supplements. Along with boosting testosterone, which a meta-analysis study showed, it’s also been suggested that fenugreek is able to improve strength in men if taken as a supplement. However, the benefits don’t stop there.
This herb may help control blood sugar levels, suppress appetites allowing for easier weight loss, improve cholesterol levels, and it’s proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. It’s best to take fenugreek before or after meals, but because it has blood sugar control properties, it would be a good idea to supplement it after your meal with the highest amount of carbs.
Because of the variety of supplements and their different effects on the body, it’s always important to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines on the packaging. There is no one-size-fits-all advice for when you should take them throughout the day. However, most supplements do recommend taking them either first in the morning or right before you go to bed, in order to see the best results.
For example, supplements that also help to control blood sugar levels should be taken in the morning, while supplements that keep cortisol levels down can aid with sleep, and are therefore best taken before bed. Depending on what kind of supplement you opt for, it could be a good idea to use cycles in order to get the most out of the compounds.
For example, using a product for 3 to 4 weeks and then giving your body a break for anywhere from 2 weeks to a few months will ensure that everything is running smoothly. It’ll also prevent your body from becoming dependent on them, and severely undercutting its own natural production.
When it comes to all supplements, it’s best to do your research and ease into things—this is especially true for T-boosting supplements. A lot of it comes down to the reason why your T levels are low, and whether there’s an underlying issue you should be fixing or if the levels are clinically low.
For example, a vitamin D or zinc deficiency could lead to lower T levels, but it wouldn’t help to take a steroid hormone such as DHEA. The best way to know is by getting blood work done by a physician which will tell you exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it.
One big issue in supplementing your T levels is that it can have an adverse effect on your body’s natural ability to produce testosterone. This is because your system senses that there’s already a lot of testosterone in your body, and so it ramps down its own production. This can obviously negatively impact you over the long term.
Other potential side effects include acne, mood swings, male pattern baldness, and aggressive behavior. But this depends almost entirely on the type of supplement you take, so there’s no one-size-fits-all method of knowing what might happen.
But as we all know by now, supplements are just that: supplements. Supplementation is meant to give an extra edge when working towards your fitness goals, but they need to be used on top of an already healthy lifestyle.
There’s no drug or pill out there that’ll be able to replace good food, good exercise, and good sleep—especially if you want to boost testosterone levels.
Sleep in particular is helpful when looking at T levels. In fact, some boosters are good for testosterone because they directly affect the quality of your sleep while lowering cortisol (stress) levels. The importance of this aspect needs to be underscored.
Along with proper sleep, working out and weight lifting are also important. Studies have continuously found that testosterone levels are higher in those that consistently work out and do resistance training. In fact, one study even suggested that exercise is more important in obese men than a healthy diet, if trying to boost testosterone.
But that doesn’t mean food isn’t important too. Getting all of your macros (proteins, fats, and carbs) from healthy sources is the surest way of maintaining healthy T levels. Protein, fat, and carbs all play an important role when it comes to improving T levels, body composition, and keeping your hormones in check.
Implemented all together, these three aspects are necessary for a healthy lifestyle and to increase testosterone levels.
To get the most out of your body—both aesthetically and health-wise—it’s necessary to take good care of it. But even if you do everything right when it comes to diet, rest, and exercise, sometimes the cards are stacked against you. Low testosterone levels can have serious and long-term effects on your health, and if you think that that might be an issue, it’s best to try to fix it.
As always, ensure that you’re only buying high-quality testosterone supplements that have a good track record. By paying attention to your micronutrients, macros, and supplements, you’ll be feeling like a brand-new man—with the testosterone to back it up.