- Testosterone replacement therapy is often prescribed for men with low testosterone, however certain supplements also claim to boost T levels.
- Some studies suggest ashwagandha, fenugreek, and shilajit may increase testosterone.
- Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of low testosterone or a blood test like Hone’s at-home assessment has shown that you have low T, you’ll often be prescribed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to help get your levels back to normal. But if you’re interested in taking a more natural route, there are various supplements to increase testosterone, either directly, or by preventing the body from converting testosterone to estrogen.
If you opt for this route, there’s a few things to keep in mind. For starters, supplements aren’t proven as effective as TRT for increasing testosterone. Also: “Supplements in general are not well studied,” says urologist Joshua Calvert, M.D. Nor are they regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Still, as long as your doctor gives you the green light (because you should always discuss any pills you want to take with your M.D.), here are three supplements that may help increase testosterone levels that you may want to try.
The Best Supplements To Increase Testosterone
If you’re shopping for a supplement to increase testosterone, there are a few things to look for on the label.
- Ingredients. Look for products containing researched ingredients, including those below.
- Dose. Choose products that contain ingredients in doses suggested below, which are safe.
- Quality. Find supplements that have been third-party tested or clinically studied. Bonus points if the bottle features a United States Pharmacopeial (USP) seal of approval, which indicates that the supplement contains the ingredients listed on the label, in the declared potency and amounts.
Supplements may help raise testosterone, but testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is proven to boost T levels if they’re low. Hone’s at-home testosterone assessment is fast and simple. And if it shows that you have low T, you can talk with a doctor about your options.
Ashwagandha, an Indian herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, may boost testosterone levels in a few ways, says integrative physician Erich Acebedo, M.D. The plant has been shown to help manage stress and several hormone-related conditions (1).
Acebedo typically uses ashwagandha as first-line therapy for stress. “It’s a modulator for cortisol, the stress hormone,” he explains. And with stress being a big contributor to low T, Acebedo says the herb could be a preventative treatment.
Research has also found it to have a direct impact on testosterone. A 2021 meta-analysis of four studies published in Advances in Nutrition found that supplementing with ashwagandha root or leaf extract for at least eight weeks effectively raised participants’ testosterone levels better than a placebo (2).
Acebedo says the ashwagandha may also boost free T levels by blocking 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a more potent male sex hormone.
If you’re feeling extra stressed and struggling with low T, Acebedo recommends a daily dose of 800 milligrams.
In one 2016 study, men who took 600 mg of fenugreek extract daily for 12 weeks experienced a significant increase in testosterone levels, along with improvements in sexual function compared to a placebo (3).
Another study found that taking 500 mg of fenugreek extract daily for 12 weeks increased free testosterone levels by up to 46% in 90% of study participants (4).
What’s the link? Testosterone is metabolized through two different processes, Acebdo explains. There’s the aforementioned conversion to DHT. Estradiol, the main form of estrogen in men, is also converted into testosterone by way of an enzyme called aromatase.
Acebedo says that fenugreek may block both of those processes, therefore increasing free testosterone levels. Fenugreek may also improve free testosterone levels by blocking sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), a protein that binds to testosterone to help it penetrate tissue, Acebedo adds. By decreasing the body’s amount of protein-bound T, more free T becomes available.
A fenugreek bonus: The plant may also imbue some muscle-building properties. “Some very small studies have shown that it also works for muscle mass improvement compared to placebo,” says Calvert.
If you’re interested in trying it, Dr. Acebedo typically prescribes 600 daily milligrams.
Shilajit is a natural substance found mainly in the Himalayas, formed from centuries of decomposition of certain plants. Several multi-vitamins marketed as testosterone boosters contain it as a main ingredient.
In one small randomized 2015 study, half of participants were given 250 milligrams and showed a statistically significant increase in total testosterone levels compared to the other half, who were given a placebo (5).
Other Natural Ways to Boost Testosterone
TRT and supplements can do some heavy lifting for your hormone levels, but implementing these simple lifestyle changes can also help.
“Exercise increases testosterone levels, especially immediately after high intensity interval training (HIIT),” explains Acebedo, who recommends breaking a sweat at least two to three times a week.
This is particularly crucial if you’re overweight, because the more fat cells you have, “the more your free testosterone is being converted to estradiol,” explains Calvert. “You need estrogen, but too much of it is not a good thing. Researchers have found time and time again that weight loss is associated with increased testosterone levels.” (6)
Bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastics that humans are exposed to mainly through food packaging like bottled water, has been found to interact with estrogen receptors (7) in men, which inhibits testosterone production. “They are endocrine disrupting chemicals that tend to lower our hormones,” says Acebedo.
Eat a Balanced Diet
In the same way that working out to maintain a healthy weight can increase testosterone, eating well can, too. A 2018 study that tracked the dietary patterns of 125 adult men confirmed this, discovering that those who ate more bread, pastries, dairy products, desserts, and takeout than homemade foods, noodles, and dark green vegetables had overall low testosterone levels (8).
Get Better Sleep
Research shows that testosterone production and restorative sleep are inextricably linked. More specifically, testosterone levels peak during REM sleep. So, if you’re not sleeping long enough to linger into deep stages, your body won’t experience that spike.
To further explore the power sleep has over testosterone, one 2015 study documented the sleep patterns of 10 healthy young men over an 18 day period. In transitioning from eight hours of nightly sleep to an average of four hours and 48 minutes, participants’ daytime testosterone levels decreased by 10 to 15 percent (9).
The ideal quantity of restorative sleep varies slightly from person to person, but seven to nine nightly hours is a good target to aim for, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
The Bottom Line
Several supplements claim to boost testosterone. If you are interested in trying one to increase your T levels, discuss it with your doctor and get their sign off, because they aren’t FDA-regulated and can affect everyone differently.