Demand is growing and the range is increasing.... but is consumer knowledge growing proportionately??
What is Testosterone?
Testosterone (T) is a naturally occurring substance within the body and is known as an ‘anabolic hormone’ due to its ability to promote lean tissue (muscle) growth. One of its key functions is to promote protein biosynthesis, the process involved in muscle development and growth! However, T not only increases muscle mass; it promotes the production of red blood cells, aids recovery, and helps to optimise performance. Not only this, T is a metabolism booster meaning it could also enhance the fat burning process (Greenwood, Kalman and Antonio, 2008).
Testosterone Boosters and Oestrogen Inhibitors
In response to these benefits, many supplement companies attempted to harness these effects in the shape of T optimising supplements/boosters. These products come in the form of prohormones, T derivatives and aromatase inhibitors, which all help to increase total T levels in the body, either directly or indirectly. Aromatase inhibitors increase T production through the inhibition of oestrogen, the female sex hormone (Zmuda et al. 1993). Prohormones and testo drivatives mainly promote the production of T through increasing the release of leutinizing hormone (LH), a precursor to the production of T. Tribulus Terrestris is similar to a prohormone due to its role in promoting the release of Leuteinizing hormone (LH). This works via the steroidal saponin known as protodioscin which promotes the release of LH, in turn increasing T production. Another prohormone includes ZMA which contains the key micronutrients zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. These micronutrients are vital to androgen metabolism and normal functioning of steroidal receptors, which are key anabolic (growth) components. Note, research is still in its infancy for supplemental ZMA, but ripples of positivity are spreading around the fitness and bodybuilding world (Llewellyn, 2009).
Are your Testosterone Levels Adequate?
We have T flowing around us in two forms, ‘free’ T and ‘total’ T. The key to muscle development is ensuring you have adequate ‘free’ T, otherwise known as biologically available testosterone. Biologically available T is not bound to proteins such as our sex hormones or carrier proteins, meaning it is readily available to be utilised by our muscles. You should always aim to consume the recommended proportions of all major food groups in order to maximise your ‘total’ T stores, therefore we need to ensure our bodies receive adequate quantities of protein (but not in excess as this can increase urinary T excretion), carbs and fat, and particularly zinc, magnesium and vitamin B (NHS Choices, 2011). However, despite the importance of diet and T, men’s T levels decline the nearer they get to 30 (declining by 1% every year after 30)! So to keep your T levels within the normal range of 300-1200 nanograms for males, a T boosting or oestrogen reducing supplement such as a zinc, magnesium and B vitamin, Tribulus terrestris or the abovementioned aromatase inhibitors might be just what is needed to keep you in that optimal anabolic (growth) phase (Llewellyn, 2009; Greenwood, Kalman and Antonio, 2008).
Despite being naturally produced within our body, risks are associated with excessive testosterone. Exceeding the recommended dosage on any testosterone product label, or eating vast quantities of meat, fish, wholegrains, sea food, eggs or dairy, especially alongside a T booster might implicate ones health. Prostate enlargement, testicular cancer, excessive red blood cell production increasing the risk of heart disease...and in women, ovarian cancer or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a risk should one abuse dietary precursors of T, T prohormones or oestrogen inhibitors.
NOTE: As for any supplement, always consult a Doctor prior to use should you have any underlying medical condition or defect.
Greenwood, M., Kalman, D, S. & Antonio, J. (2008). Nutritional Supplements in Sports and Exercise. Conjugated Linoleic Acid. New Jersey: Humana Press.
Llewellyn, W, (2009). Sport Supplement Reference Guide. Conjugated-Linoleic Acid (CLA). Military trail: Molecular Nutrition LLC of Jupiter.
NHS Choices. Your health, your choices. The eatwell plate. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/eatwell-plate.aspx
Zmuda, J, M., Fahrenbach, M, C., & Younkin, B, T. (1993). The effect of T aromatization on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level and postheparin lipolytic activity. Metabolism. (4)446-50.