Testosterone is the body’s primary anabolic hormone and it’s responsible for creating strong, lean, and muscular physiques. Thus, it stands to reason why supplements aimed at naturally boosting testosterone levels have been around since the ancient times in Rome and Greece. Though we have moved away from eating bull testicles, the current market is flooded with hormone amplifying supplements that claim to safely boost anabolism through modifying anabolic hormones. Most of these products are marketed as natural testosterone and growth hormone boosters that work through several different physiological mechanisms.
To help you decide where to spend your T dollars, we have boiled down the current research on three of today’s most popular and effective hormone boosting supplements.
What is it? A hearty flowering plant that thrives in tropical climates.
What is the active compound? The furostanolic saponins of Tribulus are responsible for its biological activity. This activity depends on the concentration and the composition of active saponins. The one that you should be most concerned with is a saponin known as protodioscin.
What does the research say? Animal research has shown that protodioscin (a steroidal saponin) augments blood levels of testosterone and luteinizing hormone (which signals the testes to produce testosterone). However, human research supporting Tribulus as a T-booster remains inconclusive, where some studies show excellent effects and others show very little. Notably, a study published in Phytochemistry clearly illustrates that the concentration of protodioscin in herbal extracts is greatly influenced by the processing of plant material. Thus, the negative reports of Tribulus terrestris supplements are likely due to substandard processing of materials and low yield of active saponins. Based on this research, the most potent products on the market have been standardized with up to 80 percent total saponins and 40 percent protodioscin.
Dose: Products may vary in potency, so take as directed on label.
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What is it? A herb that has been used for centuries in ancient medicine and cooking in western Asia, southern Europe and Mediterranean countries.
What are the active compounds? Like Tribulus, fenugreek contains a high concentration of steroidal saponins, including an abundance of protodioscin, which are reported to elevate LH and testosterone levels. An intriguing compound recently found in fenugreek is Grecunin, which acts as a testosterone aromatase inhibitor. The body’s aromatase breaks down testosterone and turns it into estrogen. When aromatase is blocked, it allows for testosterone levels to remain elevated without the side effects of elevated estrogen.
What does the research say? A double-blind placebo-controlled human trial published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reported that taking 500 mg of fenugreek extract (standardized for Grecunin) per day for eight weeks during a resistance-training program significantly decreased body fat and estradiol levels while increasing lean body mass and total and bioavailable testosterone. In an in vitro study published in Chemical Biodiversity researchers chemically isolated 8 steroidal compounds from fenugreek seeds and then tested them individually to assess their impact in GH release from rat pituitary cells. Of the 8 compounds tested they found that fenugreek saponin I and dioscin resulted in the greatest increase in GH release by 1250 percent and 1770 percent of control respectively. That’s a lot of “percent” if you ask us.
Dose: Products may vary in potency, so take as directed on label. For best results, look for products that have been standardized for Grecunin.
What is it? A small flowering evergreen tree that is native to Indonesia and Malaysia and is also known as Eurycoma longifolia or Longjack
What are the active compounds? Tongkat Ali extract contains high levels of bioactive compounds called quassinoids. Eurycomanone, the major quassinoid found in Tongkat Ali, has been reported to increase bioavailable testosterone levels and increase sperm production in animal models.
What does the research say? According to a recent paper published in Andrologia, there seems to be more than one mechanism of action whereby supplementation of Tongkat Ali increases testosterone levels. A recent study illustrated that one month of Tongkat Ali supplementation (200 mg per day) raised testosterone to normal levels in men with hypogonadism (i.e., low testosterone). In support, a pilot study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that Tongkat Ali supplementation increased fat-free mass, reduced body fat, and increased muscle strength and size in healthy resistance trained men, all likely due to its effects on testosterone bioavailability.
Dose: Products may vary in potency, so take as directed on label. For best results, look for extracts with the potency of 1:200 pure root extract.