Millions of American men use a prescription testosterone injection or gel as forms of testosterone replacement therapy (often referred to as TRT) to restore declining levels of testosterone. There are also millions of men using testosterone boosters hoping to regain some of their testosterone naturally. Low or declining testosterone can affect the mind, the body and our sex life.
Testosterone Replacement Pros and Cons
So which do you choose, boosters or the real thing? Let's take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of each, starting with TRT.
Pros of Testosterone Replacement
- Increase in muscle mass and loss of fat
- Increased sex drive/libido
- Improved erectile function
- Improved concentration
- Improved mood and sense of well-being
- Increased energy and motivation
- Increased strength and athletic performance
- Quicker recovery time after workouts
- Increased bone strength
- Improved sleep
- FDA approved
- Physician monitored
Cons of Testosterone Replacement
- Requires prescription
- Potential side effects, risks, or contraindications
- Weekly injections or daily topical administration
- Follow-up blood testing
How likely is it for testosterone replacement to actually work? In this case, adding in weekly testosterone shots or applying it topically will increase your levels. You will be able to see and feel the difference pretty quickly.
Adjustments to your dose may be needed in order to get your levels properly balanced. With time and continued treatment your complaints and symptoms will improve. Your physician should work with you to establish a long-term treatment plan.
Testosterone Boosters Pros and Cons
Testosterone boosters are usually over the counter supplements. They can contain essential nutrients, herbal extracts, precursors and other ingredients that can potentially boost natural testosterone. Some men take testosterone boosters because they promise enhanced masculinity and athletic performance, a common claim in commercials.
Pros of Testosterone Boosters
- Improved mood and energy
- Muscle mass maintenance
- Good customer reviews
- Money back guarantees
- Worldwide shipping
- Reduced side effects / safety
- No prescription or doctor visits
Cons of Testosterone Boosters
- Proprietary blends in ingredients (unknown dosage amounts)
- Lack of product information
- Marketing gimmicks
- Poor customer reviews
- Don’t always get what you pay for
- Doesn’t work
If you have had a blood test and want to try a booster, be sure to repeat the blood test while you are taking the booster to ensure your levels come up. And most importantly, do your research and check with your doctor before beginning a testosterone booster.
Read on to see what we found about testosterone boosters.
Do Testosterone Boosters Actually Work?
While some of those who use boosters find it works for them, overall there isn't a whole lot of evidence about or from manufacturers that indicate they work as claimed. In fact, a 2019 study shows testosterone boosters may not have ingredients to support their claims.
Mary K. Samplaski, MD, assistant professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC reported:
Men who want to improve their libido or build body mass may want to think twice before using testosterone-boosting supplements -- also known as 'T boosters.' Many supplements on the market only contain vitamins and minerals, but don't do anything to improve testosterone. People can be vulnerable to the marketing component of these products, making it difficult to tease out what is myth and what is reality.
To prove her point, Dr. Samplaski and her team of researchers examined the active ingredients and advertised claims of 50 T boosting supplements. Their findings were published in The World Journal of Men's Health.
The researchers used Google to search the term "Testosterone Booster," to mimic a typical internet search for someone looking to increase testosterone levels. They selected the first 50 products that came up in their search. The team reviewed published scientific literature on testosterone and the 109 components found in the supplements. Zinc, fenugreek extract and vitamin B6 were three of the most common components in the supplements.
Of the 50 supplements, researchers came across 16 general claims to benefit patients, including claims to boost testosterone or free testosterone, build body lean mass or muscle mass, or increase sex drive or libido.
While 90% of the T booster supplements claimed to boost testosterone, researchers found that less than 25% of the supplements had data to support their claims. Many also contained vitamins and minerals, occasionally much more than the tolerable limit.
Signs of low testosterone
There are some symptoms in the mind, body, and sexual function that can be indicators of low testosterone. They include:
A blood test can easily determine if your testosterone levels have dropped enough to be considered deficient. The range of normal for testosterone on s blood test is quite wide. Every lab is different but on average, normal levels of total testosterone can fall between 300 and 1100. If the blood test shows that your levels are sub optimal or low then you are a candidate for TRT. If your symptoms also match up with your low T, then it makes even more sense that you’ve found the cause of why you feel the way you do. The next steps are up to you.
Improve Testosterone Levels Naturally
Let’s revisit the blood work for testosterone levels again. As mentioned previously, normal levels of testosterone should fall between 300 and 1100. But what if your level comes back at 350, 400, or 450? It’s quite common to have your levels be close to the bottom of the normal range while experiencing some of the symptoms of low testosterone.
What should you do in that case? We recommend having a conversation with your physician to see what they recommend. There are simple, at-home options to address your symptoms and improve your testosterone levels naturally. For example, certain foods will help boost testosterone levels: Tuna, Egg yolks, Beans, Oysters, Beef, Fortified cereals, Shellfish, and Low fat milk with vitamin D all contribute to testosterone productions. The mineral Zinc is also a top natural testosterone booster. And, if your symptoms are severe but your levels aren’t considered low, you still may be a candidate for testosterone replacement.
Chase G. Clemesha, Hatim Thaker, Mary K. Samplaski. ‘Testosterone Boosting’ Supplements Composition and Claims Are not Supported by the Academic Literature. The World Journal of Men's Health, 2019; 37 DOI: 10.5534/wjmh.190043
Your health must always be a priority when choosing drugs or dietary supplements. That is why you should carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of each. We have presented the pros and cons of testosterone boosters and testosterone replacement.