Testosterone Boosters

Date: 2006-May-31
Author: Mike Orr <sluggoster@gmail.com>

This page discusses ways to increase testosterone (T). It specifically addresses men; women taking T supplements may face undesired effects I'm not qualified to comment on.

Natural T enhancers

T goes up and down throughout the day, and you can increase it by targeted activities and behavior without any T-boosting supplements. Here's a guy who gained 20 pounds of muscle in 8 months the "natural" way ( 1 2), and here's how he did it:

Very heavy squats, dead lifts, bench presses and other large body mass exercises are key, along with diet. Kill the fat and sugars. You need a little fat, but unless you're amazingly anal retentive you're getting that - if not add flax seed oil to your shakes like I sometimes do when I really am getting very little fat. eat little meals constantly. sleep a full night. Make sure you use great form and focus on the muscle you are working - you should feel it. Figure out your exhaustion point and go to it each set. I often don't hit it until rep 15 of a set. If you're going beyond 15 reps - add more weight. Vary your reps up and down in cycles. Hit the gym at least 3 times a week, but split your routine to give each group time to rest. When I made my biggest gains I was 4-5,000 calories a day (6-7 meals) and lifted six days a week, plus running, yoga and BJJ (Brazilian jiu-jitsu) class. That's a start - there is more. Check out the book "Brawn".

He's right about the large body mass exercises. The legs make up half the body, and whenever they're torn down with intense exercise, the body releases a lot of T and growth hormone (GH) to repair them, and this causes growth in the entire body. Probably running does this too.

Grappling, boxing, and other confrontational sports raise T too, as described in the Testosterone (Background) section.


Tribulus (tribulus terrestris) is a plant extract found in health-food stores that encourages the body to produce more T naturally. It never did nothing for me, at least nothing perceptible. The dark blue capsules are beautiful though, and they taste like cardboard, which is not bad compared to some other supplements.

Tribulus is also used to jump-start one's natural T production after a pro-hormone cycle, because otherwise it may take a few weeks to get in gear.


This section is going to get a lot of people mad but I think there are some myths that have to be broken. While the pro-steroid literature tends to be willing to compare natural vs enhanced regimens side by side and discuss the pros and cons of each, much of the anti-steroid literature is nothing less than reefer madness. They confuse use with abuse and and cite rare side effects as if they happen to everybody. Why not just give people the facts and let them make their own decision?

I am not a doctor and have no special expertise in this field. This is just my observations. Read multiple sources and thoroughly research the effects and disadvantages of steroids before using them.

Steroids are a large group of hormones that include T and estrogen (E). Steroids are classified according to their anabolic (muscle-building), androgenic (masculinizing), and estrogenic (feminizing) effects. Wikipedia lists ten common anabolic steroids, although I've only heard of five of them (deca, dianabol, testosterone, stanozolol, and anadrol).

Two myths about steroids are that they're illegal and expensive. They are not illegal: they just require a prescription (at least in the US). A prescription is the doctor's judgment, and there is disagreement within the medical community about what conditions are worthy of steroids. Most doctors will say, "No, you're healthy, you don't need them." Those at anti-aging clinics will say, "Your T level declines after age 30, and that is responsible for the degenerations of aging. So let's give you a small maintenance dose that'll bring you back to your (theoretical) age 25 level, and that will likely limit future health problems." A few doctors will say, "You have a psychological need to get big. It's not my job to question that; it's my job to make sure you do it in a safe way. Better you get medical advice and professional monitoring than go to the black market where god knows what will happen."

Muscular mass (size, exploive strength) and density (hardness, controlling strength) are different things, so they require different roids. Users often cycle one kind for several weeks and then the other kind, or combine ("stack") both kinds simultaneously. One can also stack multiple roids of the same kind, because each has slightly different effects. (A "cycle" is N weeks on -- usually 4-12 -- followed by N weeks off.)

Caution: pursuing only size and neglecting density can lead to the "big but soft" or "not as strong as he looks" syndrome.

Deca (decadurabolin, *nandrolone*) -- the scientific name is in italics; the others are brand names -- is the most common roid for mass due to its relatively good muscle-building effects and few side effects. It also increases joint fluid, taking away some of the everyday joint aches, which alone makes it easier to lift heavier. 200mg or less as a weekly shot or daily rub-on gel is a maintenance dose, providing the joint benefit and perhaps mild muscle growth. 450mg as a weekly shot would be a medium bodybuilding dose. The cost is less than $10 per 100mg at clinic rates, or several times higher on the black market.

Dianabol is the second most common roid for mass. Its main advantage is its tablet form, for those who dislike needles. Its disadvantages are: less anabolic (compared to deca), more androgenic, more likely to convert to E, and more likely to cause liver damage with long-term use. A week's worth at a moderately high dose (21 pills) costs around $12. That works out to just under $100 for a 2-month cycle, or $200-$600 on the black market.

Sustanon is a form of T that promotes mass.

For density, ** stanazolol (winthrol)** is common, in both injection and pill forms. Propenate-T and trembolone are forms of T which promote density. A stanazolol/trembolone shot lasts three days and may cause lingering pain throughout, because its time-release covering does not completely dissolve in liquid so it irritates the muscle it's shot into (usually the butt). Deca/sustanon do not have this problem; not sure about propenate-T.

All of these plus a dedicated workout will give impressive growth in a month, and pretty much any "big but normal" goal -- e.g., the "bodybuilding Marine" look -- can be reached in 2-6 months or 12 at the most (not including off periods). Being freakishly big is a whole other ballgame.

For those who really want to play with fire, anadrol (**oxymetholone*)* for size and * fluoxymesterone (android-F, halotestin, hysterone)* for density cause freakish gains in a month, but they're the roids your mother warned you about. The ones that cause roid rage and are very toxic to the liver. We'll call them the firecrackers. They can cause growth that far exceeds your genetic capacity, but that also means it will be hard to maintain. I wouldn't consider these roids unless one is an elite bodybuilder and has tried all the others.

There are two non-steroid drugs that promote muscle growth. Clenbuterol is a weight-loss drug that also happens to increase muscle density. It comes in pill form and raises your core temperature. Like most fat-loss drugs it can make you feel jittery or make your hands shake too much for delicate work (e.g., watchmaking). One has to start with a low dose and find the level one can tolerate, and a few people may not be able to tolerate it at all.

The other non-steroid is growth hormone (GH). This is sometimes called human growth hormone (HGH) due to TV ads, but that's redundant. There's no "human T" or "human vitamin A"; they work the same in animals. GH increases the body's overall size, may make you an inch taller, and the effects are permanent rather than requiring exercise to maintain. However, not all the gain is necessarily desirable. GH is also much more expensive than steroids for what it provides.

The main limitation of steroids is they must be cycled (except for the low "maintenance dose" above). The conventional wisdom is 4-8 weeks (12 maximum) on, followed by the same amount of time off. The chances of side effects, liver damage, and cancer increase significantly with longer-term continual use. Also, you need to exercise your natural T production regularly or it'll suffer. However, the 12-week rule is mainly to keep black-market users out of trouble. None of the cycling lengths have been scientifically tested, so nobody really knows how far you can stretch it out. But longer cycles or continuous use should definitely be monitored by a doctor. And the firecrackers have a 6-week maximum.

Fortunately, an 8-12 week cycle provides a convenient schedule for workouts. For mass, lift heavy during the "on" phase and get plenty of protein and calories. For density, lift light during the "on" phase and eat clean. Then during the "off" phase un both cases, concentrate on aerobics and light weights and take off any extra fat you've accumulated. You can't concentrate on muscle growth and fat loss simultaneously because one requires more calories and the other less. Focusing on size and then density also makes sense, to first get new mass and then harden it. Which brings us to the most important point:

There's a right way and a wrong way to use steroids. The right way is to have an achievable goal you can attain in a 4-, 8-, or 12-week cycle, and lift hard and heavy and intense. Then afterwards, enjoy your gains and don't worry about what you didn't gain. The wrong way to use steroids is to have such a bad self-image that you have to use roids continually. Normal guys who think they have to be like Arnold, and don't believe it when the mirror tells them they're pretty big and handsome. This is a psychological problem, and steroids are not going to help. There are many guys who become huge bodybuilders but still feel inadequate. Think of it objectively or listen to your friends: if you're in good shape, that means you're already above average and can get a date, so be proud of that.

T causes aggressive feelings. Suddenly out of nowhere you start thinking about what you might say to this asshole or that bastard, swearing feels pretty good, you're confident about taking charge of situations, and you think dirty sexual thoughts. These feelings disappear just as mysteriously at the end of the cycle. They rarely affect behavior much unless the person chooses to let them. "Roid rage" is rare (except with the firecrackers) and probably indicates an underlying anger problem or an inability to control aggressive thoughts. If you're easily intimidated or less aggressive than you'd like to be, these aggressive thoughts can give you a glimpse into how the big boys think and what makes them so confident, and you can then imitate this without roids. It's all psychological: give yourself permission to be assertive and you'll find you have plenty of power.

The most common side effect of steroids is ball shrinkage. That's just natural: your T production shuts down when the level goes above your genetic range. But ball shrinkage will scare the hell out of you more than you can believe: you don't realize how much your sense of manhood depends on your hard balls until they're gone. Plus, all forms of artificial T enhance muscle growth but only a few trigger sexual response. So you may end up with a totally flaccid dick (more than usual) that doesn't "schving!" spontaneously. You can get it up and shoot, it just takes more work and may not feel as satisfying. These effects are temporary and will reverse after the cycle, provided you don't do roids too long continually.

If you get any sign of feminization (e.g.; breast tissue), it means the T is converting to E, so stop the cycle and get an E blocker. Black-market dealers and mail-order houses should include a few clomid pills for this purpose, especially since it's a high-profit item for them. Remember, if you get into trouble you can always go to a doctor for clomid or another E blocker and a natural-T jump-starter. Tribulus may help too. This doesn't happen to most people but you could be the exception. If it happens readily, you'll have to stick to the roids that don't convert to E.

A typical guy can gain a pound of muscle a month with intense all-natural training, vs 5-10 pounds a month with steroids. Ten pounds makes a significant difference in appearance. Twenty pounds will make you pretty fucking proud. Thirty pounds might be perfection for some people or on a good path for others. Changes will be noticeable after around two weeks with steroids, or 3-4 weeks with an all-natural routine. Strength will increase around ten pounds per session or week -- but not every week -- at least with some muscles; this happens with natural bodybuilders too but is more frequent with roids. Keep working out hard after the cycle if you want to retain the gains.

Some reasons not to use steroids:

Regarding black-market roids, the main issues are "Did it come from a reputable pharmacompany?" and "Has it been tampered with?" Pharmacompanies know full well where their products are diverted to, and even veteranary steroids they make safe for humans because if anybody dies from them it'll ruin the company's reputation. So the real problem is the dealer and the supply chain, are they honest?

Internet pharmacies with online doctors are the latest twist. I have no idea how many of these are legitimate/safe/legal. I don't know anybody who's used one.

Social issues

"Steroids are 'cheating'." Well, that's in the eye of the beholder. The counterargument is that not using steroids makes you a slave to your genes. It's an undisputed fact that some people have more natural T than others, and that is largely why some people have work hard for muscle mass but others don't. Why should the benefits go only to those with "good" genes; do we believe in a Master Race or something? Why are steroids worse than cosmetic surgery?

"Steroids are an epidemic in sports." The only time you hear about steroids in the news is when a professional athelete gets caught with them. Talking heads express moral outrage at such "cheating", and press Congress for further restrictions. This leaves out 95% of the population who aren't professional atheletes, Olympians, or college atheletes. If they want to be big, so what? The solution to steroids in sports is simple: have an all-natural league and a no-questions-asked league side by side. Let the fans decide what they want to watch. This would draw the spotlight to hitherto-unrecognized natural champions, while allowing enhanced atheletes to, er, get out of the closet. And no doubt some natural atheletes will join the no-questions-asked league just to kick the chumps' asses and show them how it's done. Our current system fails on all counts: it exposes enhanced atheletes to witch hunts, and since witch hunts aren't 100% effective, natural atheletes still end up competing against them anyway. And really, professional sports lost their integrity years ago when they sold out to Mammon, coerce cities into paying for stadiums, offer million-dollar players' salaries, and screw the fans who can't afford inflated ticket prices. Whether a few few players use steroids or not doesn't make a bit of difference. And why not watch the local amateur teams anyway, and screw the professional teams?

"It's unfair that the 'haves' can afford steroids but the 'have-nots' cannot." Improvements in science will probably solve this problem, and gene therapy and nanotechnology are coming that will blow the socks off steroids and make them seem quaint, and that will bring a whole host of new controversies. The current prices are inflated because the pharmacompanies retain a 90% profit (in the US).

It's my hope that as legal steroid therapy becomes more widely known and available in clinics, and if the government doesn't get hysterical over it due to activist pressue, this whole controversy will blow over. It's like abortion: "If you disagree with it, don't have one." Except in this case there's no innocent second life to consider. Athletic competitions will continue to have drug policies, but that's a separate issue.

Further reading

Here are a few reasonably balanced articles about steroids:

Slade on MySpace has a series of detailed articles on specific roids:

[Update: It looks like these articles originally came from think those articles came from bodybuilding.com, which also has some others. There are also some <a href="http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bbinfo.php?page=Steroids">general articles</a> about steroids.]

You can also follow the Wikipedia links above and find links to other articles.


Pro-hormones are chemicals that convert to T. They are technically steroids (as shown in The Steroid Tree), but due to the nature of US law they were sold over the counter as dietary supplements until 2003 or so. Now they are considered the same as steroids, but since they were expensive and inefficient, good riddance. It's not that the chemicals themselves were necessarily inferior, just that the pill form they were forced into to qualify as "dietary supplements" is inefficient: over half the product is lost as it passes through the liver. Some of them were marketed as "as good as steroids" but that's baloney. A high dose (three times what the bottle said) may have had one third the effect of steroids. That's just a wild guess. But the feminization and liver damage dangers were not proportionally less.

The feds basically put the manufacturers in a catch-22: it could be sold only if it didn't do what its purchasers believed, that is, build muscle. But of course it did build muscle, otherwise people wouldn't have recommended it to their friends; you can't build a sustainable marketing plan on one-time-only buyers. But when a few manufacturers started claiming it built muscle -- in spite of the trade publications begging them not to -- that gave the FDA the ammunition it needed to pull the plug, saying it was being marketed as a "drug" rather than a "supplement", and therefore the FDA had jurisdiction over it. Fancy being able to sell a product only if it doesn't work; try that with TVs.

The first and most common pro-hormone was androstenedione ("andro"). Later came a series of chemicals ending in -ol, every six months better than the last. Who knows what the manufacturers could have achieved if they'd been allowed to continue? They eventually overcame the problem of E conversion; maybe they could have overcome the inefficiencies of pill delivery. Wikipedia has a list of the various pro-hormones and what they do.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) seems to have escaped the ban because it's still found in some supplement formulas.

New stuff

Manufacturers continue to come up with new T-boosting products, of course. Most seem to contain some combination of tribulus, zinc, and perhaps DHEA. I don't know anybody who's tried them so I can't comment on their quality.