We know it’s a touchy subject, so we wouldn’t dream of suggesting that you’re anything short of scintillating in the bedroom. In fact, we’re sure you’re the best sexer since sex was invented. But what we’d like to put out there, if you can open your mind up for a moment, is that you could be even better.
Look, the truth is, unless you’re somewhere in the vicinity of 18 years old, you’re looking at your sexual peak in the rearview mirror. Your testosterone levels are in a free fall, your arteries are clogging up, and you’re lucky that your memories of how sex used to be are so vague. However, there is help, and it doesn’t involve a time machine. Adopting a supplementation regimen can vastly improve your performance in the bedroom. And the bonus? Many of the same supplements also will help your performance in the gym.
The Science of Sex
We’ll spare you the birds and the bees, and we won’t get into all the reproductive nitty-gritty that you learned in high school biology. But what you do need to know is that there are two critical avenues by which supplements can improve your sex life.
The first involves your libido, or sex drive, the desire to have sex. There are a lot of factors involved in desire — from emotional components like comfort, security and love to psychological issues like stress levels, fatigue and depression — and it’s not only women who have to be “in the mood.” Now, we’re not going to barge into your boudoir and put on some Barry White, but there is one way of increasing desire: boosting testosterone levels.
The second way that supplements can help involves blood flow down below. If libido involves mental readiness for sex, physical readiness for sex requires sufficient blood flow to the penis. The greater the blood flow below the belt, the bigger and harder the erection, and the longer that blood flow can remain maxed, the longer the erection can be maintained. Fortunately, sex drugs like Viagra and Cialis have shown that improving blood flow is pretty straightforward, and doing it involves increasing levels of nitric oxide in the body.
Sex drive is closely related to testosterone levels — the higher the testosterone, the greater the sex drive. Testosterone-boosting supplements work via several different mechanisms, which means that you can take more than one supplement to attack the problem from different sides. Here are five test boosters to pick from.
Produced in the pituitary gland and the testicles, this amino acid (also known as D-aspartate) stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone, which boosts testosterone production, and acts on Leydig cells (special cells in the testicles that produce testosterone) to increase testosterone production as well as the production of sperm. One study, published in a 2009 issue of the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, foundthat subjects who had taken a D-aspartate supplement daily for 12 days increased their testosterone levels by more than 40 percent.
This herb, also known as puncturevine, grows in North America and Asia and has been used for centuries to treat sexual dysfunction. The active compound in Tribulus is a saponin called protodioscin, which increases the release of luteinizing hormone from the pituitary gland, thereby boosting testosterone production by the testicles. But protodioscin has also been found to boost immune function, which is important because higher testosterone levels often suppress the immune system. By taking Tribulus, you can boost testosterone levels without increasing your risk of getting sick and missing gym time.
This herb is a popular food additive that’s native to southern Europe. It boosts testosterone levels because it contains high amounts of furostanolic saponins, similar to those found in Tribulus terrestris. These phytochemicals boost test production by increasing luteinizing-hormone secretion. One study, published in February 2011 in the journal Phytotherapy Research, showed that young healthy men taking a fenugreek supplement for six weeks experienced a boost in their sex drive, sexual performance and energy levels. The researchers concluded that this was because of a positive effect on the guys’ testosterone levels. Another study, published in the October 2010 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, reported that trained men taking fenugreek for eight weeks almost doubled their increase in bench-press and leg-press strength, as compared to those taking a placebo, and they also lost a significant amount of body fat, while those taking the placebo did not.
This Indian herb, known scientifically as Withania somnifera, has traditionally been known for its adaptogenic effects, which means that it helps the body better deal with stress, such as that induced by exercise. Research has even shown that this herb may increase endurance. Most of those benefits can be sourced to ashwagandha’s potent antioxidants, and it now looks like they also raise testosterone levels. Indian researchers reported in the August 2010 issue of Fertility and Sterility that when they gave men with normal testosterone levels 5,000 milligrams of ashwagandha per day for three months, it raised their testosterone levels by more than 40 percent. The researchers suggested that ashwagandha likely worked by decreasing free-radical production. Free radicals are harmful chemicals produced in the body (especially during exercise) that can interfere with muscle recovery and testosterone production. By neutralizing these free radicals, ashwagandha may increase testosterone levels.
Also known as Turnera diffusa, damiana is native to Mexico and Central and South America, where, for centuries, it has been used as an aphrodisiac. Recent research from the University of Mississippi reported that damiana contains the active ingredients pinocembrin and acacetin, which are potent inhibitors of the aromatase enzyme. Aromatase converts testosterone into estrogen, so by blunting it, damiana keeps testosterone levels higher.
Get Your Drive On
This amino acid is so closely related to arginine that in the body it is actually converted into arginine. However, citrulline may boost NO levels even better than its cousin because cells in the digestive tract are always starving for arginine, and they tend to grab it before it can get into the bloodstream and be converted into NO. The intestines are not interested in citrulline in the slightest, however, which means that it passes straight on into the bloodstream. One study, published in 2008 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, found that when subjects took equal amounts of citrulline and arginine, the citrulline increased levels of arginine and NO in the blood more than taking arginine did.
GPLC is a patented compound that combines the amino acid glycine with a form of carnitine, which has been modified to provide the body an extra source of energy and to assist with uptake by muscle tissue. Glycine and carnitine are known to boost levels of nitric oxide in the body, most likely by increasing the activity of nitric-oxide synthase, the enzyme that creates NO. In fact, a study published in December 2007 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that trained male weightlifters supplementing with GPLC for four weeks had 30 percent higher NO levels after than when they used a placebo.
Extracted from the French maritime pine tree, this patented flavonoid is a potent antioxidant. That means that one way that it can boost NO levels is by neutralizing the free radicals that break down NO. But research shows that Pycnogenol also boosts NO levels by increasing the activity of nitric-oxide synthase, allowing for more arginine to be converted into NO and keeping levels of NO higher for longer.
Horny Goat Weed
Yes, yes, get your chortles out. Those of a scientific bent know this herb as Epimedium, but its common name is pretty fitting — horny goat weed has been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac. But it was only in the last decade that scientists figured out exactly how it works. Researchers from the University of Milan discovered that horny goat weed contains a phytochemical called icariin that inhibits phosphodiesterase-5, an enzyme that normally breaks down NO. By inhibiting this enzyme, horny goat weed helps the body maintain higher NO levels for longer. Because this is the precise mechanism by which drugs like Viagra and Cialis work to boost erections, horny goat weed can truly be called herbal Viagra.
Dr. Jim Stoppani is a world-renowned expert on training, nutrition and supplements. He can be found on the web at jimstoppani.com.