Testosterone boosters include medications and supplements designed to increase testosterone levels in the body. While low testosterone can trigger a range of symptoms, increasing this hormone comes with risks.
In this article, we discuss different types of testosterone boosters and their effectiveness.
Testosterone is an androgen hormone that promotes the development of characteristics people typically associate with masculinity, such as facial hair, deep voice, and muscle growth.
Although testosterone is the principal male sex hormone, it is also present in females, though at much lower levels.
Testosterone influences various aspects of the human body, including:
- muscle mass
- bone density
- hair growth and distribution
- sex drive, also known as libido
- reproductive tissue health in females
- testicle and penis growth in males
The normal testosterone value in people varies due to many factors, such as age. The American Urological Association defines low testosterone as less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL).
A 2017 study suggests the normal total testosterone range for males aged 19–39 years is 264–916 ng/dL. The research considers values higher than this as abnormally high.
Low testosterone, or hypogonadism, can occur due to an underlying medical condition, taking certain medications, or injuries to the testes. People may also experience high testosterone levels, typically due to anabolic steroid use, tumors on the adrenal glands, or a medical condition.
A testosterone booster, or testosterone supplement, refers to any natural or artificially produced substance that raises testosterone levels. These may include:
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)
TRT, or androgen replacement therapy, is a medical treatment for low testosterone. It works by replacing the testosterone that the body is not producing. TRT may include:
Injectable testosterone, such as testosterone cypionate (Depo-Testosterone) and testosterone undecanoate (Aveed), contain testosterone esters suspended in oil. Esters are a type of biological compound.
A person can administer this form of testosterone by injecting the solution into the buttocks. People can take these injections every 2–4 weeks, depending on recommendations from doctors.
Transdermal testosterone includes medicated patches (Androderm) and gels (AndroGel) that people apply directly to the skin.
Androderm patches come in four different strengths: 2 mg, 2.5 mg, 4 mg, or 5 mg of testosterone. The recommended starting dose is one 4 mg patch every 24 hours. A person should apply this to clean, dry skin on the back, thighs, abdomen, or upper arms.
Testosterone gel is available at 1% and 1.62% concentrations. When starting the 1% formulation, a person should apply 50 mg once a day in the morning. The dosage can vary depending on their hormone levels.
Oral testosterone capsules
Jatenzo is an oral testosterone capsule recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating hypogonadism due to underlying medical conditions. The FDA does not recommend Jatenzo for treating age-related low testosterone due to an increased risk of cardiovascular events.
Jatenzo is available in three strengths: 158 mg, 198 mg, and 237 mg. The manufacturers recommend that people start by taking 237 mg twice daily for 1 week. In clinical trials, 87% of participants achieved testosterone levels in the normal range at the end of treatment.
After the first week, a doctor can adjust the dosage according to a person’s serum testosterone levels. People should also note that due to a potential increase in blood pressure, Jatenzo may increase the risk of cardiovascular events.
Testosterone boosting supplements
Some supplements may help increase the level of testosterone a person’s body produces. These may include:
D-aspartic acid (DAA) is an amino acid that plays a role in creating and releasing several different hormones, including testosterone.
DAA acts on the hypothalamus, triggering an increase of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When GnRH is present, the pituitary gland releases luteinizing hormone (LH), which promotes testosterone production.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is a precursor hormone with minimal effects until the body converts it into other hormones, such as estrogen or testosterone.
Due to its effects, DHEA is a popular ingredient in testosterone-boosting supplements.
There are several reasons why a person might use testosterone boosters. These include:
- treating primary hypogonadism
- building muscle or bodybuilding
- increasing sex drive
- improving sexual performance
- feeling younger
- increasing energy levels
- improving mood
Multiple factors can influence testosterone levels. The body naturally produces less of the hormone with age. In one 2016 study, researchers evaluated the levels of testosterone and DHEA of 271 healthy males between the ages of 40–70.
The researchers found testosterone levels decreased by 1.28%, and DHEA decreased by 3.52% each year.
The following factors can lead to low testosterone levels:
- pituitary gland disorders
- type 2 diabetes
- having overweight or obesity
- Klinefelter syndrome and other genetic disorders
- undescended testicles
- certain medications, such as opioid pain relievers or chemotherapy
TRT is effective in treating low testosterone, but it does not always address the underlying cause. A doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and other medication to treat hypogonadism due to overweight, metabolic disorders, or thyroid problems.
The results suggest that testosterone treatment led to moderate improvements in sexual function, bone density, and red blood cell count. Those in the testosterone treatment group showed mild improvements in walking distance, mood, and depressive symptoms.
In a 2017 article, researchers evaluated the efficacy of d-aspartic acid (DAA) reported in 27 animal and human studies.
Findings from the animal studies suggest that DAA increases testosterone levels. However, the human trials produced mixed results. This may be due to limitations of the study design, as well as differences in age, physical fitness levels, and the participants’ base testosterone levels.
A 2015 study researching the effects of DAA supplementation in 24 males with at least two years of resistance training suggests this technique either showed no significant changes or reduced testosterone levels based on the dosage.
The authors of a 2013 review examined findings from 25 randomized controlled trials that looked at the effects of DHEA supplementation in 1,353 men. The authors conclude it led to minor reductions in body fat, but no improvements in testosterone.
A 2018 review also states there is limited evidence to suggest that DHEA supplementation increases testosterone levels.
Testosterone boosters may provide the following benefits to people with low testosterone levels:
- increase sex drive
- improve sexual function
- increase muscle strength and physical endurance
- denser, stronger bones
While testosterone replacement may help alleviate the symptoms of hypogonadism, it may not produce the same effects in people with naturally declining testosterone levels.
TRT may lead to the following side effects:
- sleep apnea
- fluid retention
- low blood sugar
- prostate and breast enlargement
- decreased sperm count
- increased levels of red blood cells
People who inject testosterone may experience pain, swelling, or bruising near the injection site. Topical testosterone gels and patches can also induce allergic reactions at the application site.
The American Urological Association only recommend TRT if a person’s testosterone level is below 300 ng/dL, and they show symptoms of hypogonadism. However, the risks of TRT may outweigh its potential benefits.
The FDA does not regulate testosterone supplements, meaning that supplements vary widely in quality, purity, and dosage.
According to the FDA, there is a link between some bodybuilding supplements, as well as products marketed as testosterone alternatives, and the following adverse effects:
- hair loss
- mood changes
- increased aggression
- symptoms of depression
- kidney damage
- liver damage
- increased risk for cardiovascular disease
The following tips may help increase testosterone levels naturally:
- doing more physical activity
- eating a balanced diet of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates
- getting plenty of high-quality sleep
- increasing vitamin D intake
Testosterone boosters can help increase a person’s testosterone levels. However, their effectiveness will vary based on the type of booster and a person’s reasons for taking them.
Testosterone therapy appears to benefit people with conditions such as hypogonadism. However, TRT is usually not recommended to treat age-related declines in testosterone unless managing sexual dysfunction.
More research is necessary to support the use of alternative therapies, such as testosterone supplements. Supplements may also carry some risk of cardiovascular, kidney, and liver disease.
People should always consult a doctor before they start a new medication or supplement.