Testosterone is mainly synthesized in the testes, whereas a small amount of adrenal steroids contributes to the overall testosterone levels. Cholesterol is transported into the testes via the rate-limited enzyme steroid transport regulatory protein (StAR), which is then converted to pregnenolone via the cholesterol side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc or CYP11A). Pregnenolone then gets further converted all the way down to testosterone.
Testosterone is then bound to albumin or sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), that prevents detoxification of testosterone and transports it around in the blood.
Testosterone binds to androgen receptors so exert its anabolic effect. Testosterone is also a weak cortisol antagonist, which is anabolic.
Furthermore, testosterone can be converted to estrogen via the aromatase (CYP19A1) or to DHT via the enzyme 5 alpha reductase, which is a much stronger androgen than testosterone.
Side effects of low testosterone:
- Reduced muscle tone, little to no vascularity and increased fat (1)
- Muscle weakness, impaired balance (1)
- Low confidence, depression, no motivation, little competitiveness (2),
- Emotional instability (3)
- Greater remorse (4)
- Cognitive impairment (5)
- Unrealistic goal setting and self-defeating behavior (6)
- Low libido, small testicles (7) (excess estrogen may promote libido)
- Insulin resistance (7)
- Higher pitch voice with an uneven tone (7)
- Brittle bones (7)
Actions of testosterone include:
- Increase glycogen synthesis that will lower blood glucose and insulin.
- Is anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties by lowering TNFα, IL-1β and IFN-γ production (R).
- Is anti-anxiety & anti-depressant
- Activates NMDA and promotes focus, attention, memory, etc.
- Does not promote aggression. Stanozolol, which is a DHT derivative, doesn’t promote aggression and actually lowers aggression, which points to estrogen that increases aggression (R).
- Increases physical activity through the dopamine system (R).
- Increase muscle mass
- Promote secondary hair growth, such as the beard.
- Deepens the voice.
- Promotes sebum production, but is not involved in acne, but rather estrogen.
- Contributes to narrow waist and broad shoulders when high during puberty.
Mostly all kinds of exercise will boost testosterone, except for prolonged endurance training, which lowers testosterone and increases cortisol. The faster and more intense it is, the better. The longer the workout gets, the more stressful it is on the body. The testosterone response is correlated with lactate and catecholamines, such as adrenaline.
Short sprints are better than longer sprints at increasing the anabolic response and preventing the rise in cortisol (8, 9, 10, 11). You want to sprint using mainly the creatine phosphate energy system, which gets used up rather quickly; around 3 seconds. So sprinting 3-6 seconds would probably be optimal.
b) Weight training
Resistance exercise restores steroid hormones in aging men as well as 5-alpha reductase activity (12). Just train for an optimal testosterone response from your workout and your DHT will escalate with it.
c) Avoid Cardio
This study shows men who ran an average of 56km/week had a significant decrease in testosterone (13). Cardio is something I personally wouldn’t do, but rather HIIT, as HIIT actually builds muscle and provides the same fitness benefit as long endurance exercise, but in a much shorter time period and without the increase in stress hormones.
Stick to sprints/resistance training, and don’t do cardio.
For comprehensive guides on getting swole, strong and lean, check out my programs on the matter. Alternatively, get in contact with me for epic coaching.
2) Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Supplementation of CLA (6g/day for 3 weeks) combined with resistance training, increased testosterone slightly more in men that used it compared to placebo (14). CLA is an anti-inflammatory fat found in dairy fat.
Forskolin supplementation, more commonly used as a fat burned, are also able to increase testosterone levels slightly, but increase free testosterone more significantly.
As seen in this study (15), individuals ingested 250mg of 10% forskolin twice a day (50mg extract daily) and increased their total testosterone slightly and their free testosterone by 16% after 12 weeks, while the placebo group saw no change.
- Forskolin – Coleus Forskohlii 40% Forskolin Organic Extract
4) Vitamin E
Vitamin E is very important for steroidogenesis and is known as the fertility vitamin. α-tocopherol is the most studied so far and has shown to have the most effect on steroid hormones, whereas γ-tocopherol is much better at quenching free radicals. I advise taking a mixed tocopherol for the best results, such as a proper high α-tocopherol from wheat germ extract.
Vitamin E is needed for normal testicular function, and a deficiency will result in inadequate testosterone production as well as less responsiveness to LH in the testes.
Vitamin E is also an estrogen antagonist in high doses, which inhibits the aromatase, and it’s very effective at lowering prolactin (300mg doses). More on vitamin E here…
- TocoVit (wheat germ extract) – 37.5IU per drop, 500 drops
This adaptogenic herb contains alkaloids, saponins and steroidal lactones (withanolides, withaferins) that might improve your gym experience (hypertrophy and strength gains) and helps you cope with stress better. More on Ashwagandha here…
When taken 300mg twice daily for 8 weeks increased testosterone by 96.2ng/dl vs placebo, 18ng/dl (16).
- Ashwagandha – 20% withanolides extract
Saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are positively associated with testosterone, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) is more or less neutral whereas polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are evil. All PUFAs will lower your testosterone, and the longer chain and more unsaturated the fatty acid is, the more it will lower testosterone and inhibit 5-alpha reductase.
Longer SFAs are most androgenic and androgenic than shorter fatty acids. The shorter chain fats get metabolized very quickly, whereas longer SFAs will be incorporated into cell membranes and will make cells more stable and lipophilic. More stable cells, which are less fluid and more structures, are more resilient to stressors and better at working optimally, such as producing energy, hormones, etc…
Stearic acid increases P450scc (which is the rate-limited step at transporting cholesterol into the testes for steroidogenesis) (17). Palmitic and stearic acid directly increases pregnenolone and DHEA production, while inhibiting cortisol production (18, 19).
Polyunsaturated fat also inhibits androgens from binding to their receptors (21).
More on fats and androgens here…
Omegas are also polyunsaturated. Omegas are anti-inflammatory, by displacing omega 6 from cell membranes, however, omega 3 also lowers testosterone and inhibits 5-alpha reductase.
7) Inhibit testosterone detoxification (UDP-Glucuronosyltransferase)
Zinc is a mineral that’s very needed for testosterone & DHT production. In infertile, low T men, zinc supplementation increased T and DHT significantly (24, 25, 26). Zinc also increases 17β-HSD (which synthesizes DHEA), lowers cortisol, prolactin, and estrogen. However, zinc has other benefits from just increasing androgens. More on zinc here… Zinc is also easily lost via sweat so an active individual might need more than the RDA or than an inactive individual.
- Zinc glycinate – 22mg zinc per tab, 250 tabs
9) Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is involved in the synthesis of many hormones and neurotransmitters, including testosterone and dopamine. With adequate B6, testosterone synthesis is optimized, steroid clearance is reduced and the recycling of receptors from the nucleus back into the cytosol after initial translocation is increased (27). So basically vitamin B6 is essential for steroidogenesis and it also potentiates its effect. However, too much B6 will reduce androgen sensitivity. More on vitamin B6… I advise to take only 6-10mg daily, but supplementation isn’t even needed if lots of vitamin B6 is ingested via the diet.
- Vitamin B6 – 50mg PLP per tab, 90 tabs (bite the tab in fifths so that you consume ∼10mg daily)
Eating a low protein diet (1-1.4g/kg/d) compared to a high protein diet (>2g/kg/d), shows no difference in testosterone levels (28).
Eating a diet, 30% of total calories from protein doesn’t see to affect resting testosterone any more than a lower protein diet (29), but when eating a higher protein diet, >44% of total calories from protein, does lower T. This is probably because of an excess of inflammatory amino acids such as methionine, cysteine, and tryptophan. If you eat a high protein diet for building muscle purposes, consume 2 tablespoons of gelatin for every 100g of animal protein consumed. Casein is also much lower in tryptophan than whey so casein will be better at keeping serotonin low than whey. Egg whites are also high and tryptophan and when cooked are very insulinogenic, which will increase the transport of tryptophan into the brain for serotonin production.
T & DHT is positively correlated with cholesterol. Cholesterol is the precursor to all steroids (30). Eggs are the best natural source of cholesterol (next to beef brains), followed by kidney and liver. Eating a diet rich in saturated fat (especially palmitic acid), keeping thyroid hormone production optimal and eating fructose and vitamin A will ensure cholesterol is high and steroidogenesis is optimal.
Magnesium is a cofactor in many steroidogenic enzyme and pathways, such as cAMP, StAR, CYP450scc, 3β-HSD and 17β-HSD, and boosts testosterone production (31, 32, 33). Magnesium is also essential for ATP production, and ATP is the most important factor for steroidogenic.
One recent metareview study concluded that 80%+ of people in the Western world suffer from some level of Mg deficiency so it might be a good idea to take some magnesium.
- Magnesium glycinate – 200mg per serving, 113 servings
- Magnoil – 333mg magnesium L-pidolate per serving, 30 serving (very high topical absorption)
13) Vitamin D
Vitamin D is directly involved in steroidogenesis, by binding to vitamin D receptors (VDR) as well as to VDR/RXR (vitamin A) receptor complexes to upregulate steroidogenic genes (CYP11A1, HSD3B2, CYP19A1, CYP3A4 and SRD5A1) (35). (Vitamin D works in synergy with vitamin A in steroidogenesis).
Vitamin D is positively associated with total testosterone (TT), free testosterone (fT) and lower SHBG (36, 37, 38). Increases seen for TT are between 17.8% to 25% and 20% to 22% for fT depending on BMI, nutrition status, vitamin D level and supplemental dose (39, 40).
Vitamin D further enhances the actions of androgens (e.g. DHT) by inhibiting their deactivation from androgen receptors by inhibiting the glucuronidation (a mechanism that inactivates and eliminates substances) of DHT, resulting in an accumulation of DHT to exert a more powerful effect (41).
- Vitamin D – 1000IU per cap, 180 caps
5 cups a day of instant coffee increases total testosterone in obese individuals (44). Testosterone and SHBG are positively associated with coffee consumption (45). Caffeine also boosts ATP production, thyroid function, and metabolic rate. More on coffee here.
- Caffeine – 200mg per cap, 100 caps
15) Avoid Fasting
Fasting decreases testosterone and chronic intermittent fasting might lead to lower testosterone levels over time (46).
16) Vitamin A
Retinol is such a powerful testosterone and growth promoter, that when vitamin A and iron are given as a supplement during puberty in short stature boy, they have the same growth results as when given testosterone oxandrolone (a steroid) after 12 months (47).
A vitamin A deficiency leads to significantly low testosterone and growth hormones, as if in a state of castration (48). Retinoids also play a role in the maintenance and regulation of Leydig cell function and are able to stimulate testosterone synthesis and also increase LH receptor density and sensitivity (49). More on vitamin A here…
Beef liver, dairy fat, eggs are great sources of retinol. Sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, etc., are all good sources of beta-carotene, which is the precursor to retinol, with the strength of about 12:1. So you’ll have to eat 12 times as much beta-carotene to get the same amount of retinol if all conversion enzymes are working optimal, but that isn’t guaranteed also.
17) Vitamin C
Vitamin C, similar to vitamin E, is an anti-oxidant and protects testosterone from oxidative stress in the testes (50). Also, the adrenal gland accumulates high levels of ascorbate. Ascorbic acid is a cofactor required both in catecholamine biosynthesis and in adrenal steroidogenesis. Vitamin C prevents the decline in androgens due to hyperglycemia and excess of free radical (51). In this rat study, vitamin C increased androgens in normal mice (52).
- Vitamin C – Acerola Cherry 25% Vitamin C Organic Extract
18) Vitamin B1
An interesting rat study indicated that a combination of pyruvate (end breakdown product of glucose) and thiamine pyrophosphate (the active form of thiamine) exhibited a strong potentiation of steroidogenesis in intact isolated rat adrenocortical cells in presence of threshold concentrations of cyclic AMP or other cyclic nucleotides (53). With enough glucose, vitamin B1 and a cAMP promoter (such as forskolin and caffeine) in the testes can powerfully stimulate steroidogenesis. In this rat study, thiamine supplemented rat had higher testosterone (54). B1 lowers serotonin and this will automatically increase testosterone. More on vitamin B1 here…
Vitamin B1 is essential for glucose oxidation and for ATP and CO2 production (vitamin B1 is also a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor) which is needed for steroidogenesis.
- Vitamin B1 – 100mg per cap, 100 caps
Iodine reverses the effects of hypothyroidism on the testicles. Thyroid hormones increase testosterone synthesis, and inadequate T3 will lead to low testosterone and testosterone receptor sensitivity (55, 56).
Iodine will protect the testes and testosterone from free radicals and oxidative stress, however, when there’s too way too much iodine in the testes, without enough cofactors, it can actually increase reactive oxygen species and lower testosterone via down-regulation of varies enzymes.
Iodine also binds/interacts with nucleus/steroid receptors and helps to increase receptor sensitivity of T and DHT (57).
Selenium is a very important mineral for the enzyme deiodinase 2, which converts thyroid hormone T4 to T3.
- Liquid iodine – 150mcg iodine + potassium iodide per serving, 320 servings per container
- Kelp – 225mcg iodine per tab, 500 tablets
Insulin is a hormone that signals energy intake and increases testosterone production. Insulin is needed to transport glucose into the cells for oxidation to produce ATP needed for steroidogenesis. glucose is the most insulinogenic monosaccharide, and some amino acids are also highly insulinogenic. Don’t consume any protein alone, as the insulin will cause hypoglycemia and glucagon and cortisol will increase to pick blood glucose back up. Cortisol lowers testosterone production. Always have at least an equal amount or more of carbs with your protein meals.
Being insulin sensitive is also highly important. Excess cortisol, serotonin, free fatty acids, free radical, etc, all reduce insulin sensitivity. To improve insulin sensitivity, eat a diet rich in anti-oxidants, such as fruits and raw milk, and/or take some vitamin E and also focus on lowering cortisol (A), serotonin (A) and free fatty acids (with aspirin and niacinamide).
Boron supplementation is able to significantly increase in androgen levels. Boron supplementation, 10g+, significantly increases testosterone and free testosterone levels, while decreasing estrogen levels. In some studies boron increases estrogen, but which might be due to boron antagonizing manganese. Manganese is then excreted from cells and enter the circulation and then raises estrogen. I don’t think you have to worry about it being too estrogenic as many studies show that it effectively lowers estrogen. Doses of 10g are needed for this androgenic effect (59, 60, 61). Dried fruit such as raisins and dates are also high in boron.
A cheap source of boron is Borax powder. Start with a 1/8th of a teaspoon.
22) Milk/dairy products
Milk contains precursors and hormones such as LH, testosterone, DHT, and IGF-1. Drinking milk will boost your androgenic and anabolic hormones. Grass-fed raw milk would be the best choice. Many strong men of old drank at least a gallon of milk a day.
Leptin is the hormone that makes you feel full as you have eaten. Like insulin, it also boosts testosterone production. The secretion of testosterone is directly mediated by the leptin receptors that are present in the Leydig cells of the testes (62). However there as an inverse relationship between thyroid hormones and testosterone and leptin, but a positive relationship between leptin and estrogen, cortisol, hyperinsulinemia, and inflammation. When you are leptin sensitive, leptin levels will be low, and steroidogenesis will be in full force.
24) Stay lean
Fat cells are an endocrine organ where currently there are 15 steroidogenic enzymes known to exist in adipose tissue. The effect is mostly bad though, as fat cells increase the aromatase, which lowers testosterone and increases estrogen. Enzymes in fat cells also increase the production of cortisol and breakdown of DHT, via 3β-HSD.
The amount of GnRH is inversely correlated with body fat and adiponectin. Adiponectin reduces GnRH expression and secretion.
Iron is also shown to be positively correlated with total testosterone and free testosterone (63, 64, 65). Within the male reproductive system, Sertoli and Leydig cells are important sources of ferritin (66). Although too much iron (free iron) is very reactive and cause damage in the body. Consume your iron through food and never supplement it. Copper is very important for proper iron metabolism. It is also possible to have iron overload and anaemia at the same time. This is due to virus infection, excess inflammation, and cofactor deficiency.
People who consumed the highest levels of calcium had the highest testosterone, free testosterone, and the lowest estrogen (67, 68). Calcium intake suppresses parathyroid hormone (PTH), as elevated PTH inhibits thyroid function, are inflammatory and catabolic. More on calcium here…
Dairy, eggshell calcium and some leafy greens are great sources of calcium.
Testosterone levels are the highest in the morning and it declines during the day. Proper sleep will boost testosterone levels back up. Bad sleep or too little sleep will not recover testosterone levels, and over a prolonged period, this will lead to hypogonadism.
Restricting sleep for 4 or more consecutive nights has been shown to impair cognitive performance, mood, glucose metabolism, appetite regulation and immunity (69). It’s also associated with increased cortisol and decreased testosterone and IGF-1. This will result in a decrease in muscle protein synthesis and an increase in protein breakdown.
28) Inhibit aromatase
To prevent all that valuable testosterone you are working so hard to increase to go to waste, inhibit the aromatase enzyme. More on inhibiting the aromatase here…
29) Lower estrogen
Estrogen acts as a negative feedback inhibitor for testosterone synthesis, much more than testosterone itself. The more estrogen you make, the more it will inhibit steroidogenesis (70).
30) Lower prolactin
Prolactin inhibits hCG-stimulated steroidogenesis and cAMP accumulation, possibly by increasing phosphodiesterase activity (71). Prolactin also lowers 5-alpha reductase. More on lowering prolactin here…
31) Lower cortisol
Cortisol is a stress hormone that’s very important for the body, but too much is catabolic and really detrimental. Cortisol inhibits thyroid hormone production and conversion as well as the enzymes that are involved in steroidogenesis and increases the aromatase (72, 73). Read more on lowering cortisol here.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an adrenal steroid, which is then converted to testosterone, DHT or estrogen. Although DHEA only contributes minorly to total testosterone, it mainly converted to DHT, which is the most potent androgen. Magnesium, exercise, vitamin C, sunlight, sleep, wine drinking will all impact adrenal health and DHEA production (74). During hypothyroid and hypometabolism the majority of DHEA will be converted to estrogen via the aromatase, but when the metabolism is optimal, the DHEA will be converted to DHT. It’s also best to stick to small dosages as above 15mg will start to increase the aromatase enzyme. More on boosting DHEA here.
- DHEA – 25mg DHEA per cap, 90 caps (open the cap and split the dose)
- Pansterone – 5mg DHEA + 5mg pregnenolone per serving, 90 servings
There is a significant reduction in serum MDA (53.7%) & a significant increase in serum glutathione (26.7%) in infertile men after treatment with ginger as compared with before treatment. There were significant increases in serum FSH (17.6%), LH (43.3%) & testosterone (17.7%) levels in infertile men after treatment by ginger as compared with before treatment (75).
MDA is a marker of lipid peroxidation and glutathione is the master anti-oxidant defense system in the body. The results might not be as good for fertile men, but ginger will help you maintain those high levels.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that increases thyroid hormone conversion to its active form as well as glutathione, which will increase immunity and lower free radicals to keep testosterone save (76). Selenium can also enhance the testosterone production of Leydig cells by activating the ERK signaling pathway and the expression of its downstream genes (StAR and 3β-HSD) (77). Selenium is needed for proper steroidogenesis, although, if you already consume enough selenium, more will not further increase steroidogenesis. Beef kidney is one of the best sources of selenium.
- Selenomethionine – 100mcg per cap, 100 caps
In this rat study, 1000 mcg/kg/day of copper significantly increases testicular steroidogenic enzyme activity and stimulates of testicular spermatogenesis along with rising in serum testosterone and LH levels (78). The human equivalent dose would be 11.4mg for an 80kg man. Copper is essential for ATP production.
Beef liver, cocoa, kale are great sources of copper.
36) Avoid alcohol
Acute alcohol ingestion causes a spike in androgens and also free androgens (lower SHBG), as it prevents the liver from detoxifying it, which increases the time in circulation (84).
Chronic alcohol consumption has an adverse effect on the testes and alcohol consumption lowers testosterone levels significantly. Even moderate, but chronic consumption lowers testosterone (85).
37) Organic & natural
Non-organic foods are full of pesticides, hormones and bad things that are endocrine disruptors.
Few things to look out for:
- Solvents/lubricants and their byproducts [polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), dioxins]
- Plastics [bisphenol A (BPA)]
- Plasticizers (phthalates)
- Pesticides [methoxychlor, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)]
- Fungicides (vinclozolin)
- Pharmaceutical agents [diethylstilbestrol (DES)]
Apigenin is a natural flavone that increases the activity of StAR. Studies showed that apigenin blocks the thromboxane A2 receptor and interrupts the signaling through the cyclooxygenase-2 (COX2)-thromboxane A synthase-thromboxane A2-receptor pathway, resulting in a reduction of DAX-1 (dosage sensitive sex reversal-adrenal hypoplasia congenita critical region on the X chromosome, gene-1) protein, a transcriptional repressor of StAR gene expression. When DAX-1 protein is reduced, the sensitivity of the Leydig cells is dramatically enhanced, with sub-threshold level of cAMP being able to induce maximal levels of StAR protein expression and steroid hormone production (86). Although research is still only in vitro, apigenin shows lots of promise, also as an aromatase inhibitor.
Apigenin is found in many fruits and vegetables, but parsley, guava, celery, celeriac, and chamomile tea are the most common sources.
39) Geranylgeraniol (GGOH), vitamin K2 (MK-4)
Geranylgeraniol is an isoprenoid found in plants. It boosts testosterone by increasing cAMP and PKA (protein kinase A) (87). Researches found that if they applied vitamin K2 (MK-4 and not any other form) on cells, it increased testosterone in vitro and in vivo. They then looked at what was causing the increase in testosterone and found that it was the tail (GGOH) of the MK-4 molecule that had the effect. You can simply apply vitamin K2 (MK-4) directly in the testes for an increase in steroid synthesis or supplement with phytol (discusses below). More on vitamin K2 here…
Phytol is present in plants and is converted to phytanic acid in mammals. So if we eat animal fat, we’re ingesting phytanic acid, but it’s not the same as phytol. However, humans can still absorb phytol (when supplemented) and use it to increase testosterone synthesis. The same researchers (as mentioned above with GGOH), also tested phytol with GGOH on the effect on steroidogenesis. At 30nM concentrations, it was slightly better than GGOH at increasing StAR and testosterone production. 30nM can be achieved in the body by ingesting 100mg phytol daily.
- Gonadin – contains 100mg phytol per serving, plus pentadecanoic acid (which significantly boosts testosterone production), methyl palmitate and methyl oleate (which works synergistically together to boost androgen production) and has 30 servings per container.
41) Mucuna Pruriens
Supplementation increases testosterone significantly in infertile men (88, 89). Mucuna is better known for increasing dopamine and significantly lowering prolactin. High dopamine levels promote steroidogenesis, whereas serotonin inhibits it.
- Mucuna Pruriens extract – 1200mg (180mg L-Dopa) per serving, 83 servings
3mg D-aspartate induces an enhancement of LH and testosterone release in healthy men in the hospital during a 12 day period (90). However, in this study (91), a dose of 3g didn’t increase testosterone and a dose of 6g actually reduced testosterone in healthy active men. The effect mainly lasts two weeks before it loses its effect and it also induces prolactin release in the anterior pituitary gland, activates NMDA and activates the aromatase (92). So it’s better to avoid this supplement.
44) Lower adrenaline
Adrenaline lowers testosterone production and there is an inverse relationship between adrenaline and testosterone (95, 96). Norepinephrine increases testosterone production, but also the aromatase while inhibiting 5-alpha reductase (97, 98). Zinc, vitamin C and inosine will help to lower excess catecholamines.
45) Horny goat weed / Icariin
Horny goat weed and the icariin in it is able to boost testosterone (almost triple) in rats at a dosage of 200mg/kg of a 40% extract (80mg/kg Icariin). The human equivalent dose is 28.6mg/kg for HGW and 11.4mg/kg for Icariin, which would be 2288mg HGW for an 80kg man or 914mg Icariin (99).
46) Tongkat Ali
Tongkat Ali (TA) at doses of 200mg/day, when given to stressed individuals, decreased their cortisol by 16% and increased their testosterone by 37% (100). The effects of Tongkat Ali in restoring normal testosterone levels appear to be less due to actually “stimulating” testosterone synthesis, but rather by increasing the release rate of free testosterone from its binding hormone, sex-hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG) (101).
- Tongkat Ali (100:1 extract) – cap/powder
47) Pine pollen
Pine pollen contains testosterone, epitestosterone and androstenedione, androstenedione, androsterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in Scots pines pollen (102). Although some might think it will have no effect, many who use this supplement can confirm that it is androgenic.
48) Royal Jelly
3g of Royal Jelly supplementation in humans for 6 months increased DHEA-S, the testosterone:DHEA-S ratio and also the conversion of DHEA-S to testosterone (103). Many animal studies also confirm the androgenic effect of RJ (104, 105, 106).
- Royal Jelly – 6% 10-HDA per cap (equivalent to 1500mg fresh royal jelly), 60 caps (start with 2 caps)
Smokers have higher total and free testosterone than nonsmokers (107). If you’re a smoker just take some vitamin C and γ-tocopherol daily to quench the free radicals created by smoking. You can always rather invest in nicotine gums or patches instead of smoking.
Levetiracetam (an agonist of the ubiquitous synaptic vesicle protein SV2A, used against epilepsy) supplementation (500mg twice daily) increased testosterone levels by 16% and free testosterone by 19% (108). According to the study, the mechanism of the testosterone boosting effect may simply be pharmacokinetic, via reducing CYP 19 aromatase activity.
51) Anacyclus pyrethrum
This one animal study, Anacyclus pyrethrum ethanol extract increased testosterone in a dose-dependent manner, from 50mg/kg to 150mg/kg (109). The human equivalent dose would be 7.1-21.4mg/kg, so an 80kg male would have to take about 568-1712mg daily.
52) Avoid Opioids
Opioids, both endogenous (beta-endorphins, anandamide, 2-arachidonoylglycerol) and exogenous (polyunsaturated fat (endocannabinoids), weed, beta-casomorphins, gluten, kratom, menthol, opium, heroin, morphine, methadone, dihydrocodeine, tramadol, etc.), modulate gonadal function primarily by acting on opioid receptors in the hypothalamus (110). Opioids are occasionally reported to increase prolactin levels. Hyperprolactinaemia also, through opioids, tonically inhibits the secretion of gonadotrophin-releasing hormone. Opioids also reduce serotonin transporters, thus potentiating the effect of serotonin (111).
Coffee and amentoflavon is a potent natural opioid antagonist.
53) Hibiscus macaranthus
The aqueous extract of the fresh leaves of Hibiscus macaranthus., at a dose equivalent to 0.720 g of the plant, has anabolizing and virilizing effect as indicated by increased serum level of testosterone in male albino rats (112).
The aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. roots increased testosterone levels in a dose-dependent manner in male rate (113). 1200mg/kg was the biggest dose tested, which would translate to 171mg/kg for a human, which is a pretty big dose.
Shilajit is a pale‐brown to blackish‐brown exudate that oozes from sedimentary rocks worldwide, largely in the Himalayas. Shilajit is said to carry the healing power of these great mountains. Traditional uses of Shilajit primarily focus not only on diabetes and diseases of the urinary tract, but also on oedema, tumours, muscle wasting, epilepsy and even insanity. Shilajit also helps to detox heavy metals, improve cellular function and energy production.
Treatment with Shilajit (250mg twice daily) for consecutive 90 days revealed that it has significantly increased total testosterone (6.82% by day 30, 3.09% by day 60 and 20.45% by day 90), free testosterone (19.14% by day 90) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS) (114), but they had very low T (154ng/dl) to begin with.
- Shilajit – 450mg per cap, 60 caps
Moringa oleifera inhibited the detoxification enzyme CYP3A4, thus inhibiting the 6β-hydroxylation and detoxification of testosterone (115). Other inhibitors of this enzyme are valerian root, cafestol (found in unfiltered coffee), grapefruit, valproic acid, quercetin, niacinamide, milk thistle, Ginkgo Biloba, piperine, etc.
There appears to be an inverse association between manganese and the testosterone:LH ratio. In these studies, manganese was shown to inhibit hCG-stimulated steroidogenesis of Leydig cells, StAR protein expression and/or function, mitochondrial function (lower ATP production) and the enzyme activity of 3beta-HSD (116, 117). Manganese is an essential mineral, but an excess will cause toxicity and suppress androgen levels. A toxicity is unlikely to occur from food sources alone, but pesticides can disrupt manganese metabolism in the body and will lead to a buildup of manganese levels. More on manganese here…
Taurine is abundant in male reproductive organs, and that taurine levels decline with age, and age is related to a decline in androgens. In this study (118), rats were given taurine, and their GnRH, LH, and testosterone increased significantly. They also found that in aged rats testicular, SDH and G6PDH activities (marker enzymes of testes), serum testosterone, testicular 3β-HSD, and 17β-HSD mRNA expression levels were significantly increased by taurine treatment. Taurine also decreases testicular oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation and can as an antioxidant, a testosterone secretion stimulator, a sperm membrane stabilizer and motility factor, and an anti-apoptotic agent (119). More on taurine here…
- Taurine – 500mg per cap, 100 caps (start with 1 cap before workout and 1 before bed)
59) Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3, especially niacinamide, boosts NAD levels and the NAD to NADH ratio. A high NAD ratio is essential for proper steroidogenesis. Niacinamide also lowers excessive free fatty acids and lipid peroxides which will boost testicular function and testosterone production. More on niacinamide here.
- Niacinamide – 500mg per cap, 100 caps (start with 500mg with breakfast)
10 days of aspirin supplementation (800mg twice daily) lowers cortisol concentration significantly and greatly boosted testosterone concentration (120).
A quote from the study:
“In fact, after ASA treatment, four volunteers showed individual plasma T concentrations slightly higher than the upper level of the reference range for their age (e.g., 30.67, 30.81, 35.15, and 39.48 nmol/L, respectively) (Fig. 3). On these bases, the observed higher mean plasma T concentration after ASA treatment, although above the limits of statistical significance (p = 0.052), has to be considered of clinical relevance”.
Aspirin works similar to apigenin, but more upstream, where apigenin inhibits the thromboxane A2 receptor, aspirin inhibits COX2 and prevents the formation of prostaglandins and thromboxane.
61) Heavy metals
Copper, chromium, and lead are positively associated with testosterone (121, 122). Cadmium is associated with lower testosterone (123) and is also associated with insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, psychiatric disorders, etc (124, 125). Toxic heavy metals also increase the aromatase and estrogen (126). A recent report also found that chromium picolinate supplementation with testosterone induces significant liver damage (127).
Molybdenum is negatively associated with testosterone, copper, and zinc. High molybdenum was associated with a 37% reduction in testosterone (relative to the population median level) among men with low zinc. In this study, a male in his late thirties ingested higher than recommended doses of molybdenum supplements (a total of 13.5 mg ingested over 24 days) and experienced psychosis, loss of libido, and low testosterone levels (128). If you do have low molybdenum levels and have to supplement it for health, take zinc with it.
62) Lower serotonin
Serotonergic drugs lower testosterone production and increase the aromatase, thus increasing the estrogen to testosterone ratio (129, 130, 131). Even St Johns Wort, that is a serotonergic herb, lowers testosterone and inhibits 5 alpha reductase (132). Tryptophan that is the precursor to serotonin lowers testosterone levels as well as thyroid function (133, 134).
Serotonin also increases cortisol (135) and prolactin, so it would a be a good idea to keep it as low as possible. Avoid high tryptophan foods, such as whey and egg whites and consume two tablespoons of gelatin for every 100g of animal protein you consume. That should help balance out the inflammatory amino acids in the protein. Read more on lowering serotonin here…
63) Increase dopamine
Dopamine, which quite the opposite to serotonin actually increases total and free testosterone levels (136, 137). High dopamine is associated with creativity, exploration, happiness, openmindedness, kindness, etc. Read more here on how to increase dopamine…
64) Optimize thyroid
Thyroid hormones are essential for testosterone production. In a hyperthyroid state testosterone and especially DHT production is significantly increased. More on thyroid and steroidogenesis here.
65) Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
ATP is a highly energized molecule that regulates intracellular energy transfer. Steroidogenesis depends on optimal ATP production (140, 141). That is why cAMP inducing substances such as caffeine and forskolin in steroidogenesis, is because it increases ATP production. Lower cortisol, optimal thyroid function, glucose availability, insulin sensitivity, etc, are required for optimal ATP production. Other substances that boost ATP production is pentadecanoic acid, inosine, pyroglutamic acid, succinic acid, methylene blue, B-vitamins, etc.
- Cardenosine – contains inosine, ATP, pyroglutamic acid, vitamin B6 and succinic acid. Goes synergistically with methylene blue and B-vitamins.
66) Tribulus Terrestris
Tribulus Terrestris supplementation increases testosterone, DHEA, DHT, androgen receptors and dopamine levels, and also lowers cortisol and prolactin significantly (142, 143, 144). It mostly boosts testosterone and DHEA in infertile men, but increases DHT, dopamine, androgen receptors and lowers cortisol and prolactin in everybody. Very useful and powerful herb. More on TT here.
- Tribulus Terrestris – 750mg per cap (90% saponin extract), 90 caps (start with 1 cap in the morning and increase to two caps each morning if needed)
Histamine is the neurotransmitter that is involved in allergies, wakefulness, alertness, motivation, etc. Histamine binds to 4 receptors, H1 to H4. H1 is mostly responsible for the allergic reaction and energizing effect. H3 is an autoregulatory receptor, and inhibiting it will increase histamine levels.
H2 activation is largely responsible for the stimulation of steroidogenesis, while H1 activation is required for inhibition of steroid synthesis (145). To use histamine to boost testosterone production, you could use small doses of cyproheptadine to block the H1 receptor, but use an H3 receptor antagonist such as Pitolisant, Kutaj Bark (conessine) or betahistine to keep histamine levels high to act on the H2 receptor.
H4 stimulation inhibits steroidogenesis (148), and its antagonist is anti-itching, anti-inflammatory, anti-asthma, and pro-steroidogenesis. Lactobacillus rhamnosus downregulates H4 receptor expression (149).
Histamine also increases serotonin synthesis by increasing TPH1 and nitric oxide, which further inhibits steroidogenesis (150).
However, histamine and thyroid hormones are inversely correlated and thyroid is the main inducer of steroidogenesis, so optimizing thyroid function should be the first priority.
68) Nitric oxide (NO)
Testicular and adrenal steroidogenesis is negatively regulated by NO (151, 152). So don’t focus on supplements to boost nitric oxide sky high, but rather use foods that will ensure nitric oxide stays optimal, such as cocoa powder, orange juice, pomegranates, etc.
Nitric oxide attaches to complex IV in the electron transport chain of the mitochondria and inhibits ATP production. NO can also combine with the free radical, superoxide, and form peroxynitrite, which is highly damaging and inflammatory. Rather keep NO low with lysine and methylene blue to ensure optimal cellular function, ATP production and steroidogenesis. More on nitric oxide here.
Oxytocin has been shown to significantly increase testosterone synthesis due to dose-dependent stimulatory effects on 3β-HSD activity and increased expression of STAR, LH-receptor (LH-R) and gonadotrophin-releasing hormone receptor (GnRH-R) proteins in the testis (153).
So, it appears that acute administration of OT stimulates testosterone production, particularly in young animals, whilst more prolonged exposure to OT results in a decline in testosterone concentrations but an increase in DHT production (154).
Phosphodiesterase (PDE) 8A and PDE8B are high-affinity, cAMP-specific phosphodiesterases that are highly expressed in Leydig cells. PDE8A is largely associated with mitochondria, whereas PDE8B is broadly distributed in the cytosol.
Together these findings suggest that both PDE8A and PDE8B play essential roles to maintain low cAMP levels, thereby suppressing resting steroidogenesis by keeping CEH/HSL inactive and StAR protein expression low.
Moreover, PDE4 antagonism, with a PDE8 inhibitor, synergistically potentiated steroid production. The inhibition of PDE4 or PDE8 alone resulted in modestly elevated testosterone production, but their combination increased this 100-fold (155).
71) Lower GABA
GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter that improves anxiety, relaxation, sleep, etc., but also lowers testosterone levels. Read here if you have high GABA or not and how to lower it if you do.
Intracellular potassium is essential for steroidogenesis (158). Optimal thyroid function, magnesium, calcium, and sodium intake and low PUFA intake help to keep potassium inside the cell. Milk, orange juice, potatoes (and other tubers) and green leafy vegetables are great sources of potassium
73) Natural foods
By eating food high in anti-oxidants, such as cocoa, fruits, raw milk, will lower oxidative stress, inflammation and promote steroidogenesis. Just be eliminating all kinds of junk food, and sticking to only whole healthy natural foods, will lower oxidative stress significantly.
As berries, prunes, apples, pomegranates, oranges, guavas, etc. are really high in anti-oxidants and eating them regularly or adding it to a smoothie would help greatly.
Garlic supplementation was able to significantly increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels in rats (159). The result seems mainly due to its active ingredient, diallyldisulfide.
75) Olive leaf extract
Olive leaf extract (oleuropein aglycone) significantly increased testosterone levels and decreased cortisol levels in rats fed a high protein diet (160). Olive leaf extract is a great tonic for the kidneys, and it lowers oxidative stress and inflammation and might even aid in fat loss.
- Olive leaf extract – 500mg (18% extract) per cap, 60 caps