Testosterone boosters are over-the-counter supplements that claim to raise levels of the hormone in the body and reduce symptoms of low testosterone. However, there is not enough evidence that they are effective.
Currently, experts recommend that people avoid using testosterone supplements and instead use Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatments, as there is no robust evidence that these supplements are effective.
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in males and contributes to muscle mass, facial and body hair growth, libido, and sperm production. The body naturally produces less testosterone beginning at
Typical testosterone levels in males are 300–1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL), depending on age. Low testosterone may be due to age or health conditions affecting the testicles, pituitary gland, and thyroid. Other factors can also influence testosterone levels.
Testosterone is naturally highest in the morning and lowest at night. Too much exercise, poor nutrition, medications, and illnesses can also lower the amount of testosterone in the body.
Testosterone boosters, or testosterone enhancers, are supplements a person takes to increase the levels of testosterone in their body. These products typically contain ingredients from traditional remedies, such as fenugreek, zinc, maca, and ashwagandha.
However, because the FDA does not regulate over-the-counter supplements, these products do not receive the same level of scrutiny and review that pharmaceuticals do.
Testosterone boosters claim to help increase testosterone levels and improve symptoms of low testosterone. While there is not enough evidence to back up these claims, some people may decide to use these products if they believe they have symptoms of low testosterone.
Symptoms of low testosterone
- small testes
- a decrease in facial and body hair
- gynecomastia (an increase in breast tissue)
- difficulty gaining muscle mass
- low sperm count
- low libido
- hot flashes
Testosterone boosters are legal supplements, for the most part. However, most of them do not produce a significant increase in testosterone.
Higher levels of testosterone
But it is a somewhat different story for competitive athletes. According to the U. S. Anti-Doping Agency, if a testosterone booster did significantly boost testosterone levels or performance, it would be banned under the organization’s rules.
The most common ingredients in testosterone boosters are fenugreek, zinc, maca, and ashwagandha. Research indicates that these ingredients are not significantly effective.
Studies on fenugreek’s effects on testosterone have mixed and inconclusive results.
In a small
However, these changes were not significant in comparison to the testosterone levels in the placebo group.
In other studies on fenugreek and testosterone, participants who have taken fenugreek supplements have not shown statistically significant changes in testosterone levels in comparison with placebo groups.
Low levels of zinc may lead to a decrease in testosterone levels. However, there has been no evidence of an increase in testosterone after zinc supplementation.
Many testosterone supplements contain, on average, around
Severe zinc toxicity can cause low copper levels, reduce immunity, and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
There is no evidence that maca can increase testosterone levels. Additionally, researchers have not found a standard or toxic dose and have not evaluated the short-, medium-, or long-term safety of this supplement.
A 2022 review found some evidence that ashwagandha may increase levels of testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone after 90 days of supplementation.
However, the studies on ashwagandha that were part of this review involved people with infertility or low sperm count, and the results may not be the same in other populations. Additionally, only one study was double-blind, and the others were observational.
More high quality research on a larger pool of participants with varying conditions is necessary to determine the effects of ashwagandha on testosterone. Additionally, researchers have not yet established the safety profile of this supplement.
Common ingredients in testosterone booster supplements can cause the following side effects:
- Fenugreek: This supplement can lead to low white blood cell counts, which can impact a person’s immune function.
- Zinc: High levels of zinc can cause gastric distress, dizziness, and headaches. Additionally, consuming high levels of zinc over a long period can interfere with copper and iron levels and alter immune function.
- Maca: This supplement can cause high blood pressure, although more research is necessary to investigate maca’s safety.
- Ashwagandha: Taking large amounts of this supplement
may causediarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.
People should not take testosterone boosters before seeking the advice of a healthcare professional.
It is also important to inform healthcare professionals of any supplements a person is taking in case they may interact with prescription or nonprescription medications.
The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs states that the following lifestyle changes can help naturally improve testosterone levels:
- Maintaining a moderate body weight: People should aim for a healthy body mass index (BMI). Learn how to calculate BMI.
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet: Eating a nutritious diet can help people maintain a moderate weight and reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes can lower a person’s testosterone levels.
- Exercising regularly: Aerobic and anaerobic exercise can help a person maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce the risk of cancer, and increase testosterone levels.
- Quitting smoking: If a person smokes, they should consider quitting. Tobacco reduces testosterone levels. Learn more about the best apps to quit smoking.
- Moderating alcohol intake: Alcohol causes testosterone to convert to estrogen. Learn more about the best apps to quit drinking.
- Avoiding opioids: Opioids, such as morphine, can decrease testosterone levels. People should discuss stopping opioid use with a healthcare professional.
- Avoiding xenobiotics: These compounds can mimic hormones. People should avoid using BPA plastics and phthalates and may wish to use organic ingredients.
The main difference between testosterone boosting supplements and testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is that supplements are available over the counter and contain vitamins and herbs, whereas TRT is a medical treatment containing testosterone that trained healthcare professionals provide.
Healthcare professionals may
Testosterone-boosting supplements also have side effects, and research has not found these products to be effective.
Additionally, people who receive TRT do so with the supervision of a healthcare professional, who can notice and treat any unexpected side effects. People who use testosterone supplements do not have the benefit of healthcare professionals administering FDA-regulated and -approved treatment.
Here we answer some common questions about these products.
Can supplements boost testosterone?
Although testosterone boosters claim to increase testosterone levels, research does not back these claims.
What are typical testosterone levels?
Both males and females produce testosterone. Males will typically have higher levels of testosterone than females, and hormone levels change throughout a person’s life.
The typical testosterone range for males is 300–1,000 ng/dL.
Testosterone boosters are available to purchase over the counter. However, the FDA does not regulate these products, and there is not enough evidence to suggest that they are effective in increasing testosterone levels.
Some lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a moderate body weight, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and exercising regularly, may help a person increase their testosterone levels.
People who believe they may have low testosterone should contact a doctor, who can perform tests and prescribe treatment if necessary.