Testosterone is an important hormone for muscle growth and as a result athletes are often interested in optimising levels to improve physical performance and body composition. There are a number of substances that are available as supplements that manufacturers claim to be able to boost testosterone. Such substances include L-aspartic acid, ashwagandha, horny goat weed, royal jelly, tribulus terrestris, ginseng, maca, DHEA and a myriad of other substances. Often scientific studies are cited to support the beneficial testosterone boosting effects of such supplements and these can seem convincing. However, when we delve deeper into the supporting literature we often see that such studies are performed on animals, use unrealistically high doses, are performed on men with sexiual dysfunction, or are simply cell experiments. To be able to ascertain if these substances are really beneficial we should ask two questions. Do the substances raise testosterone levels in healthy humans? And does this increase in testosterone translate into an increase in the amount of skeletal muscle in the subjects?
The answer to both of these questions is usually not so clear cut. Often the testosterone increases are given as relative values, that can appear large, but are in fact of no real world significance. In addition, there are very few studies that show actual muscle building effects of these testosterone boosters. So if you want to boost testosterone to build muscle what are the best options? Well the tried and tested way to boost testosterone to cause skeletal muscle is based on lifting heavy weights and eating a high animal protein diet. These two strategies will cause far more muscle growth that any supplement available on the market and are backed by research done on healthy adults in peer reviewed journals. Lifting heavy weights causes large increases in testosterone as this is the primary way the body will adapt to the stressor, through testosterone induced increases in muscle hypertrophy. A high intake of animal protein producing a positive nitrogen balance is also a proven way to increase muscle mass through increases in testosterone, and the fat content of the meat is partly responsible for this effect.
Dr Robert Barrington’s Nutritional Recommendation: Lifting heavy weights and eating a high animal protein diet are proven ways to build muscle through increases in testosterone levels. Avoiding stress is also important as this is one of the primary ways in which testosterone levels can be diminished. In this regard it is important not to overtrain, as physical activity is a stressor and too much can induce a chronic stress reaction. Adequate rest and sleep is therefore pivotal if this strategy is to work.