As our regular readers are probably aware, we really don’t like the “Natural Test-Booster” category as a whole, the reason being that pretty much all of them are completely ineffective. In fact, even the best supplement on our Best Testosterone Boosters list is only going to push your Testosterone levels towards the higher end of the healthy, normal range.
Still, we felt it necessary to compile that list for the simple fact that 9 out of 10 “test-boosters” is nothing more than a few obscure herbal extracts that might make you hornier, but will do absolutely nothing for you when it comes to building muscle.
But why is that? Isn’t Testosterone capable of increasing muscle protein synthesis? Yes, but there’s more to it than that…
Testosterone And Muscle
Testosterone is not the most anabolic hormone (that would be Insulin, actually), but large enough elevations in Testosterone increase muscle protein synthesis rates, leading to increased muscle mass over time. Increased muscle protein synthesis rates have been noted in many studies where Testosterone as administered to subjects. This is the entire foundation of steroids and prohormones in general. They increase Testosterone enough to allow the body to increase the rate at which it synthesizes protein in muscle tissue.
So, if various steroid compounds, including Testosterone itself, increase the amount of muscle you can build, shouldn’t some natural test-boosters that increase Testosterone a little bit boost the amount of muscle you can build a little bit!? No…
Small Increases In Testeosterone Won’t Induce Muscle Growth
Research shows that slight increases in Testosterone, like the increases that occur naturally with exercise, aren’t enough to increase strength or induce any sort of accelerated muscle growth. Muscle protein synthesis rates don’t increase abnormally until Testosterone is increased to at least 20% beyond the higher end of the normal range and you would need Testosterone levels to stay elevated for an extended period of time to see any actual muscle growth.
Therein lies the issue with virtually all “natural” testosterone boosters. They may elevate Testosterone levels slightly, but it won’t be enough to signal any sort of increased Muscle Protein Synthesis and more muscle than you would otherwise.
Let’s take a look at the research behind some of the more popular “test-boosters”…
D-Aspartic Acid surged in popularity among weight-lifters and athletes after it was shown to increase Testosterone levels to a statistically significant degree in a relatively short period of time.
Unfortunately, further research clearly indicates that the increases seen, although statistically significant, are not enough to induce any sort of elevation in muscle protein synthesis rates, muscle mass, or strength.
Further research also established that DAA appears to have a negative feedback effect in individuals with initially healthy Testosterone levels. That is, it may cause an immediate elevation but ceases to be effective in a few weeks. In one study, 3g of DAA failed in increase Testosterone in healthy restiance trained males, and 6g actaully lowered Testosterone levels a little bit.
Overall, the research on DAA is pretty clear. It may be useful for individuals with abnormally low Testosterone levels, as could be the case for someone who just stopped taking prohormones or steroids, but it isn’t an effective muscle-builder because any increase in Testosterone is small and short-lived in healthy individuals.
LongJack, also known as Eurycoma Longifolia and Tongkat Ali, is often used in the form of an extract in supplements that claim to optimize Testosterone production.
Well, it turns out that the research conducted in both rodents and humans clearly indicates that it is only an effective Testosterone-booster in conditions where Testosterone is abnormally low. Any Testosterone “boost” is really just Testosterone being restored to the healthy, normal range.
Therefore, it may be a useful ergogenic aid in elderly people with declining Tesetosterone levels, but there is no evidence indicating that it is useful for athletes looking to gain muscle.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line a bunch of supplement companies decided that LongJack was a “test-booster”, but it’s not.
Like D-Aspartic Acid, LongJack may be helpful for individuals coming off steroid/prohormone cycles who are looking to restore Testosterone to normal levels, or for older individuals with abnormally low Testosterone levels, but for athletes looking to build muscle, it’s ineffective.
Fenugreek was one of the first herbal supplements to become wildly popular as a Testosterone booster, perhaps in spite of the fact that there is a fair amount of conflicting research. Supplement companies that use Fenugreek in their test-boosters generally cite one study which found that it effectively increased Testosterone levels, but like most alleged test-boosters, Fenugreek has never been shown to increase muscle growth.
As we discuss in this article, Fenugreek is alleged to indirectly boost Testosterone via inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of excess Testosterone into its more potent metabolite,Dihydrotestosterone (DHT). One study in humans has noted an increase in Testosterone.
However, it has failed to increase Testosterone levels in most of the human studies, so it should be considered unreliable at best. Some individuals may experience heightened Testosterone levels while others experience nothing.
As a libido enhancer, Fenugreek may be effective but this really just provides a bit of an illusion of increased Testosterone levels, not actual strength gains.
If Your Looking To Enhance Your Libido, Your In Luck!
The main takeaway from all the research on the alleged testosterone-boosting ingredients discussed above is that none of them are effective for building muscle. They might tweak your Test levels towards the higher end of the healthy range, but you’ll need a bigger boost than that to increase muscle protein synthesis rates the point that you actually experience accelerated muscle growth.
However, if you’re simply looking to enhance your libido (i.e. improve sexual function and wellbeing), there are actually several supplements that can help. The following supplements may be effective for increasing libido, especially in men with abnormally low libidos.
- LongJack – 200mg/day
- Fenugreek – 500mg/day
- Maca – 3g/day
- Horny Goat Weed – Varies depending on standardization
There are others, but there is no evidence that stacking all the libido-enhancers under the sun will enhance it extra, so we’ll stop here.
The Bottom Line On Test-Boosters
The vast majority of supplements marketed as Testosterone Boosters are actually completely ineffective. Mostly, they’re ineffective because they utilize ingredients that just push Testosterone levels towards the higher end of the normal range, but not enough to increase muscle protein synthesis rates enough to rapidly grow muscle.
There are supplements that actually will increase your Testosterone levels enough to significantly increase muscle protein synthesis rates, but they’re certainly not for beginners and should be used responsibly. Such supplements can be found on our Best Muscle Builders List.
When it comes to Herbal Test-Boosters though, the most you’re going to get is optimized Testosterone levels, not an actual boost beyond the normal range. You may get a libido boost, however, so if that’s what you’re looking for check out our Best Testosterone Boosters (Optimizers) List.