Have you seen this video yet?
In case you've been hiding under a rock, I'll give you the quick brief: in an interview with Oprah last week, Lance Armstrong admitted to doping.
Check out the clip from the interview below, in which Oprah painfully leads Lance through a series of Yes-No questions…
So could Lance Armstrong have increased his testosterone levels without cheating?
You're about to find out.
The authors of today's post are Sol Orwell and Kurtis Frank, nutrition performance science geeks in their own right and co-founders of Examine.com, which is a science-based compendium on supplements and nutrition.
I asked Sol and Kurtis what really works when it comes to increasing your testosterone naturally, and whether it is possible to normalize your testosterone by targeting nutritional deficiencies, rather than by using illegal performance enhancing drugs, injections or patches.
Here is what they had to say:
There are a variety of testosterone boosting supplements on the market currently, most with questionable potency with little to no evidence. Many do work, but these compounds are not working by inherently boosting testosterone; they are normalizing otherwise suppressed testosterone levels in the person. They fail to boost testosterone levels past baseline levels, and thus are incorrectly labeled as “testosterone boosters.”
In the meantime, it is possible to normalize your testosterone by targeting nutritional deficiencies, and here's how…
Zinc is probably the most well known nutrient to influence testosterone, as it is a component of various enzymes in the body and has a higher than normal concentration within the testicles (relative to other organs). Zinc deficiency is well characterized to be associated with a decrease in testosterone and normalization of this deficiency (with the supplemental range of 15-45mg elemental Zinc) being associated with normalization of testosterone levels.
It should be noted that it would be incorrect to say that Zinc increases testosterone, since that implies a unilateral effect. Once zinc status is normalized, there is no evidence to support (and a fair bit to refute) the idea that further zinc supplementation further increases testosterone.
Additionally, increased supplementation of Zinc does carry some pro-oxidative concerns (as does any dietary mineral) and superloading Zinc for the purpose of testosterone boosting is not a prudent idea.
Note from Ben: Since I eat a diet high in liver, beef, pumpkin seeds and shellfish, I do not personally take a zinc supplement – but would definitely recommend it to vegans and vegetarians – and many of the 40+ year old male athletes I advise take 2-6 capsules per day of ProstElan, a source of zinc, copper, lycopene and phytosterols which is designed for prostate and testosterone support, particularly in older males.
Despite the plethora of research on Vitamin D, not much exists on increasing testosterone per se. Vitamin D appears to be well researched in regards to fertility (with the sperm cells themselves expressing the receptor, and Vitamin D preserving their lifespans) but one study using 3,332IU Vitamin D for a period of a year noted an average 25.2% increase in testosterone levels with corresponding increases in bioactive and free testosterone.This was associated with normalization of serum Vitamin D above 50nmol/L (seen as adequate) and suggestive that insufficiency is correlated with suppressed testosterone levels.
However, beyond this trial (of which serum testosterone was not initially an end-point of interest but merely an interesting observation) and some evidence correlating testosterone to season that reaches up to 20% higher levels in summer there does not appear to be much more evidence on the interactions of Vitamin D and testosterone.
Still worth supplementing within the normal range due to a myriad of other benefits (and the cheapness of supplementation).
Note from Ben: If you test your blood Vitamin D levels and are found to be deficient in Vitamin D, I recommend 35IU/lb from a source such as Thorne liquid vitamin D + K, for a couple of months before re-testing. I personally hover in mid 40's to 50's for Vitamin D, so I do not do this “high dose” D, but instead simply get about 2000IU per day from a combination of 1 packet per day of Life Shotz and 2-3 teaspoons per day of cod liver oil.
This one is not as certain as the other two, which are pretty much conclusively shown to benefit testosterone levels when supplementation brings you from a deficient to a normalized state. Boron is relatively under-researched relative to the other two, and does not have legitimate recognition as an essential dietary mineral (despite being prominent in the diet).
Despite this, supplementation of Boron has once been implicated in increasing testosterone levels 28.3% within 7 days, but twice been implicated in having the increase not be statistically significant.
There appears to be something with supplemental Boron and regulating testosterone levels, and while there isn’t enough evidence to support buying individual Boron supplements for testosterone boosting purposes, having a multivitamin with 2.5mg Boron in it may be prudent.
Note from Ben: I recently tweeted about supplemental boron and it's positive effects, and while I don't personally use boron, it is (along with everything else you need so you don't have to have 10 bottles of supplements in your fridge) definitely contained in the Thorne Multi-Vitamin Elite.
Not a nutrient, but still a therapeutic target to preserve testosterone. The general concept of testicular protection is one of preventing excessive oxidative and inflammatory damages to the testicles and related male sex hormones, which tend to be increasing during various pathologies (either hypogonadism, or just toxin-induced testosterone reduction). Whatever the underlying cause may be, attenuating the degree of damage indirectly preserves testosterone levels.
A wide variety of compounds can exert protective effects in the testicles, and many “testosterone boosting” compounds on the market now are just anti-oxidant compounds that seem to make their way to the testicles after oral ingestion (this includes but is not limited to: CoQ10, Taurine, Tongkat Ali, Zinc as mentioned earlier, Ashwagandha, possibly Royal Jelly and Shilajit).
These compounds will not be beneficial to somebody with normalized testicle function, but controlling your population to men who are either infertile or diagnosed hypogonadic can result in a study population with increased testosterone (all of the aforementioned have trials to support an increase in testosterone for people who are either infertile or hypogonadic).
It might be good to keep this class of compounds in memory in case one thinks they are hypogonadic and, for some reason, do not wish to get testosterone from their doctors.
Note from Ben: Due to the high amount of exercise and oxidative damage I expose my body to, I rely on two fairly potent daily sources of antioxidants: 1 packet of Life Shotz (typically before workouts) and 1 packet of TianChi (typically in mid-morning on an empty stomach).
So that's what Sol and Kurtis from Examine.com had to say. Thanks for the input guys!
And since I know someone is going to ask “how many pills do you actually pop Ben?“…
…while it's tough to say exactly what supplements I personally use on a daily basis since I'm constantly trying new things (i.e. lately been experimenting with anirecatam, liposomal glutathione, and oxaloacetate, and last month was trying bee pollen and n-acetyl-cysteine), my current “base” protocol is:
-On really hard workout days: 9-12 Capraflex joint blend capsules
You may also be interested in the following articles:
If you have questions about any of the items above, what has worked for you, or what I personally use to boost testosterone, then leave your thoughts, comments and feedback below.
Also published on Medium.