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Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
April 17, 2023
One hormone has the potential to make or break how guys feel.
When this hormone is low, you're likely to experience diminished energy, a decreased sex drive, and poor body composition. And, when your levels are normal, you're apt to feel good both mentally and physically.
The hormone we're talking about? Testosterone, which plays a monumental role in our overall well-being, impacting everything from energy levels to the ability to maintain and build muscle mass to overall mood.
As it's so essential to men's overall health, it's no surprise that there are plenty of supplements on the market to help increase a guy's T levels. And while these testosterone boosters are designed to positively impact men's physical and mental well-being, we can't help but ask: Are they actually safe?
Let's dive in, and see what research says about the safety of taking testosterone boosters.
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Testosterone is a sex hormone that, for guys, is produced in the testes, and for women, although the body converts the majority of it to estrogen, is produced in the ovaries.
Testosterone plays an essential role in guys' overall health, helping to regulate sex drive, muscle mass and strength, bone mass, body composition and fat distribution, and the body's ability to produce sperm and red blood cells.
In summary, it's essential.
A testosterone booster is a form of testosterone therapy intended to help raise testosterone levels in men when their normal levels have dropped, which tends to occur due to age, various medical issues, and lifestyle factors.
As there has been an increasingly large spotlight on men's health over the last few years, testosterone boosters and testosterone replacement therapy have gained popularity quite quickly.
This means men have plenty of testosterone-boosting supplements to choose from, which vary in the ingredients used and the dosing of each.
Interested in learning more about T boosters? Check out our article: What Are Testosterone Boosters?
As each testosterone supplement is different, it's difficult to provide an answer that covers every single product on the market. What we can say is that if you follow a few guidelines (don't worry, we'll discuss these in detail), taking a testosterone booster is likely safe.
First, take the time to read the ingredients list of the testosterone booster you're considering taking. If you are unsure of any of the ingredients listed, research them. Ideally, your testosterone booster will contain natural, plant-based ingredients, like the supplements SET FOR SET has featured in our article on the best testosterone boosters.
Tribulus terrestris is a great example of a relatively safe testosterone-boosting ingredient1. Fenugreek and magnesium are two other compounds commonly found in testosterone supplements that tend to elicit minimal side effects in the majority of people2,3.
Second, it's always a good idea to stick with well-known companies that have a good reputation, and opting for T-boosters that have been third-party tested will further ensure your product is safe.
TestoPrime is an example of a testosterone booster that gets great reviews, is third-party tested, and includes a lifetime guarantee.
Finally, plant-based testosterone boosters are generally safe, as long as you stick to the recommended dosing. Exceeding the dosing recommendations can make these supplements unsafe, even leading to liver toxicity in worst-case scenarios.
In addition, if you are in your late teens or early 20s, testosterone boosters should be avoided. You can learn more about this in our article: Is It Bad To Take Testosterone Boosters At 20?
The primary reason men start taking testosterone supplements is upon discovering they have low testosterone levels.
Low testosterone levels can result in a wide variety of negative side effects, including poor mental health, low sex drive, poor sexual function, and low sperm production, difficulty with building muscle mass, greater levels of body fat, poor body composition, fatigue, and even loss of body hair.
If you have started to experience any of these, you may need to increase testosterone levels with medical intervention. We recommend testing your testosterone levels and consulting with a doctor if you have any concerns about low T.
One cause of declining testosterone is due to something we can't control: Age.
Aging plays a role in low testosterone, as it's estimated that once a man hits 30, he sees a 1% drop in his testosterone levels yearly4. Because aging inevitably impacts testosterone, T-boosters are one of the best supplements for men over 40.
Hypogonadism, which is caused by an issue with the testicles or pituitary gland, is another cause of low testosterone, as it decreases your body's ability to produce healthy testosterone levels.
In addition, negative lifestyle choices can make this decrease even more significant, playing a large role in declining testosterone. Some of the more common behaviors and lifestyle choices that decrease testosterone levels include:
Lifestyle factors playing a role in declining testosterone is actually good news, as, unlike age, these are things we can control. Ideally, if you have low testosterone, adjust the above lifestyle factors, in addition to taking a testosterone booster, to help correct the issue.
Getting blood work done can help you determine whether your testosterone is low. You can get bloodwork done at your doctor's office, via an at-home testing kit, or you can even get an evaluation done using one of these best online TRT clinics.
Signs you made need to get bloodwork done include erectile dysfunction, insomnia, depression, difficulty maintaining or building muscle mass, and poor body composition.
Many of the major side effects of testosterone supplements are associated with actual testosterone injection, and by this, we mean taking anabolic steroids. Because these compounds are so powerful, they can seriously mess up your hormone levels.
As a result, your body will reduce its natural testosterone production, which can even lead to gynecomastia or the growth of breasts.
It's highly unlikely that you'll experience any of these effects taking over-the-counter supplements. Some of the lesser health risks of legal testosterone boosters include:
The most serious side effects of taking T-boosters are issues with the kidneys, liver, and heart. A case study from 2018 found that an athlete who took a common T-booster as prescribed suffered liver damage5. In addition, similar findings were found in a review of ergogenic aids6.
Another side effect of testosterone boosters is that they can potentially cause your body to produce too many red blood cells, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. It's important to note that more serious side effects like heart and liver damage are quite rare.
Healthy men in their mid-20s or older with low testosterone levels may want to consider taking a T booster.
If you select one that is research backed and uses safe and effective ingredients, testosterone boosters do work to boost your testosterone production.
If you don't prioritize a healthy lifestyle, taking a T-booster likely won't be enough to counteract poor habits. This means that if you aren't prioritizing sleep, eating healthy, and regularly exercising, or you drink in excess or smoke, testosterone boosters likely won't have the effect you're hoping for.
The solution? Adjust these controllable behaviors either before you start taking a testosterone supplement or in conjunction with taking one.
In addition, guys who have normal testosterone levels are unlikely to see any benefits from taking a supplement. And men with pre-existing health conditions should avoid taking T-boosters until they speak with their doctor.
If you want to explore over-the-counter supplements to boost testosterone levels, you can follow a few guidelines to mitigate health issues and increase efficacy.
If you are concerned that your testosterone levels are low or you are experiencing side effects of low testosterone, supplements are probably already on your radar.
But before you start taking one, do your due diligence. Test your testosterone levels to confirm they're low, and speak to your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Research supplement companies and ingredient lists to ensure they're safe, and when you can, stick with products that are third-party tested. Finally, to minimize your risk of side effects, it is essential that you follow the product's dosing recommendations.
Stick with these safety measures and follow our healthy lifestyle guidelines, and testosterone boosters have the potential to increase your muscle mass, improve your body composition, and boost your energy levels and sex drive.
Now that you know testosterone boosters are safe, check out our article on the 7 Best Testosterone Booster Supplements!
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