The Holy Grail of all hormones, testosterone remains the cornerstone to any mass gaining program. From the 90 pound gym newbie to the 300 pound muscle machine, testosterone is the one key factor that unites their interests and brings fruition to their goals. How they both go about this, however, may be completely different from each other.
I really do not want to get into the science of testosterone, but for the sake of being thorough (and providing you with only the finest of information), please accept this copy/pasted excerpt taken from the Bible of Lazy Internet Researchers, Wikipedia:
‘Testosterone is a steroid hormone from the androgen group and is found in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates. In mammals, testosterone is primarily secreted in the testicles of males and the ovaries of females, although small amounts are also secreted by the adrenal glands. It is the principal male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid.’
Yes, my fellow bros and broscientists, testosterone is an anabolic steroid. It is mind-boggling how many people I come across at the gym that are “against” steroids but would love to get their hands on some testosterone.
Testosterone is the main hormone responsible for muscle growth, aggression and libido, among other things. On average, normal testosterone production for men ranges from 4-7mg per day. The majority of testosterone attaches to globulin and albumin proteins for delivery throughout the body. Free testosterone is the term given to unbound hormone that is in the bloodstream, and is largely responsible for the physiological changes. Unfortunately, this makes up only a small single digit percentage of your total testosterone, somewhere in the range of 1-4%.
So what does that mean for us natural athletes, who for one reason or another, are not willing to take the simple path and just inject the real stuff into our bodies? Like the rest of our fitness endeavors, we have to find a way to utilize what we have and coerce our bodies to do our bidding through normal biological processes.
Let’s start with the over the counter testosterone products. Probably the largest and most well stocked section of your local supplement store, test boosters, are a dime a dozen and can contain anything from twigs and berries to lab created compounds. Be careful. You can get yourself into some real trouble here. Keep in mind, not all supplement manufactures abide by good manufacturing practices. Many legal yet harmful ingredients find their way into these products based on poor and unsubstantiated claims. The purpose of a testosterone booster is to manipulate a hormone, or at the very least elicit a hormonal response. Unscrupulous manufacturers may go to any length to accomplish this, including inserting illegal ingredients into the mix.
The most common and widely used ingredients in over the counter testosterone boosters are herbs. For centuries herbs have been used to cure many ailments, including of course sexual “deficiencies” such as lowered libido and erectile dysfunction. I have always been skeptical of over the counter testosterone boosting products. Significant research into the matter led me to conclude that over the counter products will do very little in increasing free testosterone. With many over the counter products claiming to also increase sex drive, strength, and mass, it is often a quick conclusion that the product is bogus when neither of the preceding are experienced.
If you research the ingredients in the over the counter testosterone boosters, you will be surprised to find that many of the ingredients have insufficient data or an abundance of data to prove them ineffective. On the other hand, the right product will contain any number of ingredients that show promising data to support their claims. One ingredient for example, and probably the most common to find its way into over the counter products is Tribulus Terrestris This product has failed to show any evidence of testosterone and strength boosting ability, yet it is still around.
I recently decided to perform a little test of my own with Natural T, the testosterone booster from Top Secret Nutrition. You will notice their ads populate my columns. I don’t hide the fact that I am sponsored by this company, but as a sponsored athlete, they are interested in my personal experience and opinion and not what I think they would want me to say.
I encourage you to visit Top Secret Nutrition and browse their products. Unlike many companies, they provide full descriptive sheets on their products, complete with cited references. Take a moment to research the specific ingredients in their products, specifically Natural T, and you will see the reason behind its inclusion. It really is a lot of fun and an excellent learning experience.
Without detailing each and every ingredient for you, I want to at least point out that this product contains Tribulus Alatus. Compare it to Tribulus Terrestris and see what you find.
Now, back to my review. I decided to experiment with this product to see what results, if any, would be experienced. I had no idea how long it would take before experience anything, and to be honest, I wasn’t even clear if the product had to be cycled or not. There is a lot of research to suggest that testosterone boosters, if effective at all, need to be cycled almost weekly to avoid plateaus. I took the product as directed and checked all of my preconceived notions at the door.
Within the first couple of weeks I did notice a significant increase in libido. I didn’t exactly experience any significant gain in strength, but I did find myself to be in higher spirits almost daily. It wasn’t until after 4 weeks that I actually noted a difference. After a four-week sampling, with no change to my diet or routine, I was visibly leaner, physically lighter, and visibly “larger.” Also of significance, I increased my cluster set working weight on the bench press by 20 pounds, and my cluster set working weight on the deadlift by 20 pounds.
You know how much I love saying it…correlation does not equal causation….but I have to wonder. With the increase in mood, libido, and strength, things were looking pretty good for Natural T. To continue the experiment I have since stopped taking the product and will be taking a month off. My goal now is to track my progress for either an increase or decrease in strength, and then evaluate it again after a second four week sampling.
For those of you not interested in using even a “natural” over the counter product, your options for natural testosterone increase are a little different. On the simplest level, you can get a great hormonal response from a well formulated diet rich in high quality protein and fat. Just ask Jason Kaiman – that beef bus eats nothing but organic/free range meat that has never seen a drug or been fed a grain. There is no denying that such food is nutritionally superior to the common bagged and processed food your will find at any grocery store. Grass fed meat has 2-4 times more Omega 3, 5 times more CLA, and more vitamins than the caged and hormone riddled alternative.
Nutrient timing can also be of significance when trying to manipulate hormone levels. For example, carb ingestion and timing. We know that carbohydrates elicit an insulin response. Testosterone decreases when insulin increases. Avoiding carbs pre-workout can help maintain these hormone levels where you want them to be able to get the most benefit.
If you paid attention to the earlier text, you will recall I said that we need to coerce our bodies to do our bidding through normal biological processes. Well, here comes that portion of the article: Sex.
Don’t blush – this won’t get inappropriate. My first trainer told me that sex was an effective way to raise testosterone. Like everything else he told me, his advice stopped there and he had no supplemental information to offer. I’m glad that he was most likely regurgitating something he read on a bathroom wall, because it prompted me to do some digging. What I found was eerily close to what my trainer was getting at.
A study at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology in Vienna asked 10 men and 10 women to watch a 15-minute pornographic film. The researchers took four blood samples: before the film and three at intervals afterwards. There was a significant increase in testosterone in both males and females after the film. The median increase in men was 100% and for women it was 80%. Similar studies have also found an increase in luteinizing hormone, the hormone responsible for stimulating testosterone production, after viewing arousing material.
A 2003 Chinese study published in the Journal of Zhejian University detailed the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone levels in men. Twenty-eight males were asked to abstain from ejaculation for a week. Serum testosterone levels were monitored daily. They found that fluctuations of testosterone levels from the second to fifth day of abstinence were minimal. However, on the seventh day, the levels of serum testosterone in all participants spiked to over 145% from the baseline readings. Levels slowly returned to baseline levels over the following eight days.
So it would seem that you can use these tactics in one of two ways. You can arouse yourself prior to a workout for a quick boost, or you can go for the gold and hold out for the engaging of #BeastMode and the opening of the proverbial can of #WhoopAss. The truly courageous would most likely attempt both at the same time.