What You Need to Know:
▪ Testosterone booster supplements are attractive to teens wishing to improve sports performance.
▪ The safety and effectiveness of these supplements have not been established.
▪ Testosterone boosting supplements are simply a waste of money and can potentially be dangerous.
▪ In most cases, teens already have an optimal level of testosterone and there is no need to try increase it.
About the Teens & Supplements Series
Sporty teenagers are an attractive target for nutritional supplements as they may easily be influenced by strong marketing strategies employed by supplement manufacturers.
Without the necessary knowledge it is almost certain that teens will either buy a supplement that is not suitable for them, that does little to help them, rips them off financially and may possibly even be doing harm to their bodies.
The goal of this series of articles on bodyandscience.com is to educate parents and teens about supplements to assist them in making educated choices.
In this article we focus on testosterone booster supplements, which are very enticing to teenage athletes seeking enhanced performance.
What are Testosterone Boosters?
Testosterone boosters, as implied by the name, are marketed as products that push the body to produce more testosterone. They are commonly sold in health food stores as sports supplements.
The active ingredients in these products are often the herbal extracts of tribulus terrestris, Fenugreek and Longjack. Some minerals like zinc and magnesium are sometimes also present. As we will see below, evidence is lacking regarding their effectiveness.
Some testosterone boosters may also be spiked with real steroids to make them work better. Caution is advised.
Weighing The Evidence
Fenugreek: found to work in a single study in resistance trained males relative to placebo. Later studies failed to replicate these results. Several lawsuits were issued to companies selling fenugreek extract for false advertising
Tribulus: studies failed to demonstrate an increase in testosterone in healthy and exercising human subjects. The only study that showed a positive effect was carried out in impotent subjects that received a dose of 6g of a root Tribulus extract per day (far less than contained in supplements).
Longjack: The only evidence in humans for longjack boosting testosterone comes from infertile males. A small increase in testosterone was seen. No evidence available for an increase in testosterone in healthy subjects.
Zinc-Magnesium: these two minerals are often included in testosterone boosting formulas in the form of a patented compound called ZMA (Zinc Magnesium Aspartate). The latter is claimed to increase testosterone levels, but there is no evidence to suggest that this occurs in healthy men. Men who are deficient in zinc may have affected testosterone levels and supplementation may correct the problem. If one is not deficient in zinc, supplementation won’t have any effect.
A Word on Prohormones
Prohormones are another type of hormonal boosters, purported to convert into testosterone into the body. They are often sold “under the counter” as a safer replacement to steroids.
Prohormones often have names that are similar to common steroids.
Teens often find them attractive because they are orally taken and thus do not require injections.
However, the truth is that many of these “pro-hormones” are steroids in disguise as they chemically resemble steroids that are banned. Many pro-hormones have eventually been added to the list of banned substances, after unscrupulous companies have made hefty bucks from them.
Their physiological, as well as side effects, are similar to the steroids that are banned. Oral steroids/ pro-hormones are particularly harmful to the liver.
Take Home Messages
▪ Teens already have an ideal amount of anabolic hormones in their body and taking booster supplements won’t give any further benefit and can prove dangerous
▪ Parents of teens suspected of having low testosterone levels (see the symptoms of hypogonadism) are recommended to speak to a doctor to have their blood levels tested.
About the Author
MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.
Veeraj is passionate about researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. As a former research student at the University of Cape Town, Veeraj examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.