Man with healthy testosterone levels lifting weights

Testosterone Supplements: Do They Work?

Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays important roles in the body. But testosterone levels decline with age. There's lots of ways to support healthy testosterone levels—including testosterone supplements. But do testosterone nutritional supplements work? That all depends on what's inside of them. We'll show you what ingredients to look for, what they'll do—and which nutrients have the scientific research to back up their efficacy.

What is testosterone?

Men and women with healthy testosterone prepare a meal

Testosterone is a sex hormone. In young, healthy people (especially men) testosterone is plentiful. But as you age, your testosterone levels decline. Which is a bummer, because testosterone is important for everything from sexual health to muscle mass to just overall energy, memory and mood.

Women make testosterone too, but men make (and need) more of it. Men also make estrogen—another sex hormone. Here's the kicker: there's several ways in which your body can convert testosterone into estrogen—which affects your already-dwindling supply.

So there's a big market out there for nutritional supplements that can help you maintain youthful levels of testosterone, even as you age. But the most obvious question is, do they work? First, let's define what we're talking about.

What are testosterone supplements?

Testosterone supplements are nutritional formulas that encourage testosterone production and/or help maintain healthy testosterone levels by preserving the testosterone your body makes naturally (more on that later).

It is important to note the difference between a testosterone supplement and actual testosterone that would have to be recommended to you by your doctor. We're going to focus on the first one.

Quick fact: you'll often see testosterone referred to simply as "T" when shopping for testosterone supplements or testosterone blood tests. (If you want a better picture of your testosterone levels, these tests will let you know where your numbers are at.)

What nutrients support healthy testosterone levels?

Cacao and pomegranate which are good for testosterone on a cutting board

There are plenty of nutrients and even a few vitamins and minerals that have been shown to promote healthy testosterone levels and testosterone production:

  • Zinc

    is a trace mineral, meaning we only need a small amount. It's also famous for its health benefits. Some of those lesser-known benefits include with maintaining hormone balance and healthy testosterone levels—especially in men. Zinc also supports some aspects of a man's sexual reproductive system—such as semen health. While it's easy to get zinc as a stand-alone supplement, you'll often find zinc in testosterone support supplements.
  • Lignan

    is a plant compound that can help promote healthy testosterone levels. Often sourced from spruce trees, plant lignans convert to a compound called enterolactone in the digestive tract, where they are then absorbed into the bloodstream. Healthy blood levels of enterolactone have been observed to go hand-in-hand with youthful testosterone levels.
  • Luteolin

    is a flavonoid compound that's found in plants: think vegetables like celery, parsley and cabbage. You can also get luteolin from fruit, like apples. Luteolin helps your body make testosterone. Here's how: luteolin was shown to encourage the expression of steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) protein in a preclinical study. StAR is involved in transporting cholesterol into your cellular mitochondria—which is essential for testosterone synthesis.
  • Pomegranate

    is well known for its powerful antioxidants and beneficial effect on heart health. But preclinical studies indicate that pomegranate is good for more than just your ticker: there are compounds in this bright red fruit which inhibit an enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase is the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen.
    Inhibiting aromatase can help keep your body's precious testosterone supply from turning into estrogen. If you're a man, this will help you maintain healthy testosterone levels and with it, everything from sexual health to muscle strength. Human clinical trials seem to indicate that pomegranate works: the study showed that salivatory testosterone levels significantly increased after two weeks of daily pomegranate juice consumption. Testosterone increased 24% on average—and the study was done on both men and women.
  • Chrysin

    is another plant flavonoid that comes from plants as well as honey. Like pomegranate, it inhibits aromatase and with it, the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
  • Cacao

    is, simply put, the rawest form of chocolate. Cacao also happens to be packed with antioxidants. Unfortunately, chocolate itself is usually highly processed, mixed with sugar and otherwise turned into the polar opposite of what we'd consider a "superfood." So stick with cacao. Why? Because the catechins polyphenols in this raw powder promote testosterone and nitric oxide production.

Nitric oxide itself is thought to promote healthy testosterone levels because it kicks off a series of biological processes that support levels of the hormone responsible for testosterone production in the testes.

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Why should I take testosterone supplements?

As a man ages, maintaining youthful testosterone levels and healthy hormone balance is important to quality of life, sexual health and even your longevity. But there's plenty of things that affect that hormone: diet, genetics and even stress. A supplement can help keep those "T" levels where you want them to be.

What’s the connection between exercise and testosterone?

Man exercising takes testosterone supplements

Exercise buffs have been singing the praises of testosterone for years. This is because testosterone promotes healthy neurotransmitter levels, which helps testosterone provide its benefits. Testosterone also encourages protein synthesis.

When it comes to testosterone levels in men, aerobic exercise and high intensity interval training in the gym may be a two-way street: not only will testosterone help you build and maintain lean muscle mass after exercise, exercise itself (such as high intensity interval training) can help support your healthy testosterone levels.

Testosterone and weight go hand in hand as well. Testosterone plays a role in fat metabolism—which means the more testosterone you have, the better your body can burn fat. Bonus: the same is true for all that muscle you're building with exercise and healthy testosterone. Your body needs fuel to maintain all that muscle. The more you have (muscle), the more you'll burn (fat).

Do testosterone supplements work?

This is the million-dollar question. The answer is, if they're backed up by positive results from clinical research, you can expect your body to respond similarly to how those clinical research subjects responded when they were given the same nutrients.

If you look for reputable supplements with science-based ingredients in their formulas, you should get the results you're looking for, but always consult with your physician first. Case in point: Testosterone Elite from Life Extension.

Life Extension’s best testosterone supplement

Testosterone Elite, 30 vegetarian capsules - Life Extension

Testosterone Elite combines luteolin with pomegranate and cacao extracts. We've discussed what these nutrients do to promote healthy testosterone levels in your body or inhibit the conversion of existing testosterone to estrogen—both important factors to maintaining youthful testosterone levels.

The formula delivers the clinically studied dosages of these three extracts as well, so you only have to take Testosterone Elite once a day (Though speak with your healthcare provider before taking this product or increasing dosage).

Testosterone Elite is also gluten free and made without any genetically modified ingredients, so there's nothing untoward to worry about from this, our best-in-class formula for testosterone support.

By the way—if you're looking for a more traditional supplement with a focus on both testosterone and other important aspects of men's health that includes chrysin, Norway spruce lignans and zinc, check out our Super Miraforte supplement.

Whichever approach you chose, the overall goal is to maintain healthy testosterone levels so that you can in turn maintain sexual health, muscle function and more…all keys to a healthy, enriching life.

About the Author: John Gawley graduated from the University of Miami with a degree in English before beginning his career as a technical writer, copy writer and content manager. John has extensive experience in the health and wellness field, and he is the Senior Copywriter at Life Extension.