-Article Written by Elite1Fitness
The supplement industry is booming right now for a reason, marketing! They do a wonderful job of selling you their products and making you believe that building muscle is nearly impossible without them. Of these supplements, one of the most I get asked about the most is testosterone boosters. I always hear, “which one should I get” or “which one will help me add the most muscle mass?” Today I would like to take a look at whether natural testosterone boosters are actually worth the pricey sales tag when it comes to building lean muscle.
First, let’s take a look at why natural testosterone boosters are so attractive. Anyone in the realm of the fitness world should know by now that testosterone can play a major factor in building muscle. Unfortunately, we mainly hear about this when it comes to anabolic steroids and outside testosterone agents. What we need to know about anabolic steroids are that they’re successful at adding muscle mass because they increase testosterone by superhuman amounts. These drugs, by no means, keep testosterone levels anywhere remotely close to the natural levels of a human being. It is almost unfathomable as to how high one’s testosterone levels get when using anabolic steroids. This super physiological amount is where people see the extreme power of testosterone and building muscle. From this perception of testosterone, the question people logically think would be, “Isn’t any increase in testosterone levels going to equate to more muscle mass if I’m working out?”
To answer that question, let’s take a look at what a study from Bhasin et al. AJP Endo Metab 281: E1172-E1181, 2001 (much thanks and appreciation to Layne Norton for bringing this study to my attention). This study, in a nutshell, looked at 5 groups and they controlled each of their testosterone levels (while on an intense 20-week workout regimen). The goal of outlining this study is to show how different levels of testosterone effect lean muscle building. One group was kept under the natural testosterone range, two groups were at different levels within the natural testosterone range, and the other two groups were above the natural range of testosterone production. This was a 20-week study and here is my rough table of what the findings were. Please give yourself a minute to digest the table (for data to the nearest tenth along with + values, please check out the study for yourself):
ANALYZING THE DATA
Looking at this table, it is important to know what is considered the normal testosterone range for a healthy adult male, which is about 300 – 1,000 ng/dl. Anywhere within that range, one would be considered to have normal amounts of testosterone. Looking at the “Week 16 Test Levels” column, we can see the breakdown of one group below, two in normal, and two above the normal test range.
BELOW: Analyzing the data, we actually see a decrease in fat free mass (FFM) for th e group below the normal range by 3 kg (over 6 lbs)!
NORMAL: Looking at the FFM of the 50 mg group (in normal range), it basically stayed about the same. But in comparison to the 25 mg group, it’s actually a benefit of 3 more kg. Once we are in the normal range though, it appears that there isn’t much of a statistical advantage when increasing your testosterone levels from 306 to 570 (nearly double). After 20 weeks of intense workouts, the group averaging 570 ng/dl only added 1 or 2 kg (2-4 lbs) more of FFM over the group averaging 306 ng/dl. THAT’S ALMOST HALF OF A YEAR!!! I will be referring back to this comparison here shortly.
ABOVE: Once the testosterone levels reached outside the normal physiological range (300mg and 600mg groups), we then see another spike in FFM gain. The 300mg group at 1,345 ng/dl gained an average of 5.5 kg of FFM (about 12 lbs) and the 600 mg group at 2,370 ng/dl gained an average of 8 kg of FFM (about 17.5 lbs)!
So what does the data tell us? An increase in testosterone and FFM gain are not linear! Meaning, as testosterone goes up, FFM gain does not increase at the same rate. Instead, what happens is within the natural testosterone levels, we don’t see any significant FFM increase at all (1-2 kg over 20 long weeks). Where we start to see significant gains in FFM is when the testosterone levels surpass the normal physiological range.
WHERE NATURAL TESTOSTERONE BOOSTER
COME IN TO PLAY
There are tons of natural testosterone boosters on the market that all make similar claims, “Increase your testosterone by up to 75%” (percentages vary slightly). First thing to note is the wording “by up to.” This means that in this case, 75% would be the MOST one could expect to increase testosterone by; while many others would not come close to this percentage. For the sake of argument though, let’s just say that everyone had a 75% increase! That’s amazing right!?!? Not to me in terms of building lean muscle. Why? Because I read this study that showed an increase of testosterone levels by almost 2x’s (306 to 570 ng/dl, which is more than 75%) and after 20 weeks only gained 1-2 kg more of FFM. What people don’t realize is your body can only produce so much testosterone. Even with the help of NATURAL testosterone boosters, your body won’t produce testosterone levels to exceed your body’s normal physiological range. IMPORTANT NOTE: We see now that FFM gain somewhat plateaus while through the normal testosterone ranges (300 – 1,000 ng/dl) and it isn’t until we fly outside those levels that we see significant increase in FFM again (the other time a significant increase would take place would be from extremely low levels and raising it into normal levels).
IS THE BENEFIT OF NATURAL BOOSTERS WORTH THE MONEY?
Natural testosterone boosters can cost on average around $50 and easily reach up above $100 for a ONE MONTH SUPPLY! In order to see the 1-2 kg advantage noted in the study, one would have to take a four month supply; costing you anywhere from $200 to $400 on ONE product (not to mention your protein, BCAA’s, carbs, pre-workout, etc). So to me, am I willing to pay $200 to $400 for 1 – 2 kg of FFM? No way! I would take that money, buy tub after tub of lean whey protein, carbs, and BCAA’s and see a much greater FFM gain
Though, one thing I will end with is the placebo effect. Feeling good and getting your mind motivated to be in the gym is half the battle! So for this reason, if that cost is worth being excited and killing your workouts, then I say go for it! Because at the end of the day, it is all about how we feel anyway!