Do Test Boosters have Side Effects?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Test boosters are widely available over the counter and accross many online outlets, however, many different dietary supplement formulas can be marketed as a testosterone booster. This can mean there are some products with unwanted side effects.
We take a look how to minimize the risk, what nutrients to look out for and some basic research tips when looking to buy a supplement.
This article covers the following points:
- What's a test booster?
- How to minimize risk
- Possible side effects
- Common unsafe ingredients
- Research tips
If you are looking to improve many aspects of your health, but particularly physical capabilities such as enhanced muscle growth, libido, or fertility, you may wish to use a natural testosterone booster. This can be especially true for men over the age of 30 who see a gradual decline of their own natural production as they age.
These products do not use synthetic, lab produced hormones which can come with side effects if used incorrectly. These are often prescribed under medical guidance or sourced illegally. A natural test booster often contains vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts (phytotherapy).
However, as with much of the supplement market, there is no set standard of production, nor a standard of ingredients.
Furthermore, the nutritional supplement market is unregulated, so there is a lot of risk, as a consumer.
A good example of this is the common use of a ‘proprietary blend’. This is where a manufacturer does not show the amounts of each ingredient that is included. That means you may only get trace amounts of the nutrients listed and a lot of cheap filler.
What is a testosterone booster?
As briefly mentioned, a t-booster often contains a variety of ingredients with the aim of stimulating more natural testosterone production. They key point here is that these products aim to help your body produce more of its own testosterone through the gonads which employs the Leydig cells in the testes (or the ovaries in women) and adrenal glands.
The difference between a natural t-booster and anabolic steroids or testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)/hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is that these medications use laboratory produced hormones to purely replace the loss of testosterone rather than encourage the body to produce more of its own.
For the purposes of this article, we will only cover the potential risks and side effects of natural test booster that can be bought over the counter.
Because there is such little regulation surrounding dietary supplements a consumer must place trust in the manufacturer.
This is often through customer testimonials which are a good way of understanding whether the product is not only effective, but safe and whether they will receive a good customer experience.
With the growth of unlicensed online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay it can be difficult to understand whether these product reviews are fake or not as it is widely recognised that there are services offering fake product reviews to enhance or elevate their search position.
It is best going direct to the company through their own website and doing some research in to who is behind the company. Also check whether they have any relevant qualifications or manufacturing process accreditations and other company information to ensure it is a legitimate business.
Furthermore, you should research the product formula; the website should clearly list every ingredient included and the doses, with any supporting scientific evidence for its use. If this is not available, simply walk away and do not waste your money.
You may also wish to establish whether what they are selling is simply a re-branded widespread ‘off the shelf’ formula which is known as a ‘private label supplement’.
If this is the case, it is clear they have not done any of their own research and development, and ultimately, are probably not providing a service or product that is in your best interests.
Possible Side Effects
Because there isn’t a standard ‘testosterone booster’ formula, the products can widely differ in the nutrients, doses, and the effects. Just because you have tried one brand, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get the same from another brand.
And not all manufacturers are responsible. Therefore, you may find products which include banned substances or unsafe substances.
This was brought to the main stage with the action from the FDA against the manufacturers of the pre-workout called JACK3D. This product contained DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine) which is a compound related to amphetamine. In the past it was marketed as natural, but the proof was non-existent, nor is there any evidence that DMAA is safe to use.
Therefore, to understand whether a testosterone booster will have any side effects, you will have to check the ingredients panel carefully to ensure there aren’t any negative side effects relating to any of the ingredients.
Common Unsafe Ingredients Found in Test Boosters
Because test boosters often contain different ingredients, we have complied a list of unsafe ingredients that are commonly found in products that are being marketed as a testosterone booster.
If a product you are considering contains any of these ingredients do not buy it, as you may experience unwanted side effects.
This plant extract has origins from north and eastern Africa. It is commonly used as a testosterone booster and aphrodisiac. As such, it can be found in some test booster or male enhancement products.
Studies using the rat model have found that it can increase testosterone but it is reported to increase white blood cell count, and have a negative affect on the kidneys and liver.
While this is often found in fat burner products, it is also used as an aphrodisiac and to help with erectile dysfunction, as such it is found in some test boosters and male enhancement products.
However, it is a highly stimulatory ingredient which can have many adverse effects including an increase of anxiety, heart rate, blood pressure and even cortisol which is a stress hormone. There’s also reports of it triggering manic episodes amongst people who are bipolar.
This compound is often described as the extract of Acacia rigidula to hide its pharmaceutical origins.
It is not actually approved for use in over the counter dietary supplements because while it is often used to increase athletic performance and burn fat, it can cause cardiac arrest, or vomiting if you are lucky.
This is a mixture of compounds which are extracted from the leaves of the ginkgo tree. It is marketed as a testosterone booster and fertility agent. However, it has been reported that it can cause subdural hematoma which is a serious condition where blood can collect between the skull and brain.
Known as DHEA, this substance is made synthetically from chemicals found in soy and yam. DHEA itself is produced in the body naturally and is a steroid hormone, hence why DHEA is often found in supplements. However, the benefits from DHEA supplements are not clear cut.
That said, it can cause some androgenic effects in women, such as facial hair and acne which is well documented in our article concerning testosterone's effects on hair growth. There’s also reports of gynecomastia (breast growth) in men.
Put quite simply, this is a jelly food source created by worker bees for sole consumption of the Queen bee. It is very nutritious, with a similar composition to pollen.
It has demonstrated some positive effects on testosterone levels in the elderly. However, there have been cases whereby those who suffer from allergies have experienced harmful side effects.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
Sometimes found in supplements, HGC is reported to increase testosterone and penis size. However, it may cause depression, blood clots, fatigue and gynecomastia.
5 alpha Hydroxy Laxogenin
Often used as a cover to disguise other chemical compounds. Laxogenin is touted as a plant based anabolic agent, but there aren’t any reports of this being isolated from a natural plant source. So, while there are no human studies available to measure the side effects or risks.
However, products that say they contain 5 alpha Hydroxy Laxogenin are often tainted or spiked with other restricted substances that can be dangerous.
These are Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators and are a classification of compounds that have similar effects to anabolic steroids.
You won’t find a product stating is contains SARMs, but rather one of the SARM products, these may include:
- Ostarine (Enobosarm, MK2866, S22)
- Andarine (S4)
- LGD-4033 (Ligandrol)
- RAD140 (Testolone)
- SR9009 (Stenabolic)
- Ibutamoren (MK-677, Nutrabol)
- GW501516 (GW1516, Cardarine, Endurobol)
Side effects can include liver toxicity, stroke or a heart attack.
Like SARMs, there isn’t a single prohormone, but rather a few compounds that fall under the prohormone category.
These products are precursors to hormones, so by themselves have little effect, but convert to active hormones when ingested by the body and processed by enzymes.
Different prohormones have slightly different androgenic effects, and can be named as:
- Androstanedione (5α-androstan-3,17-dione)
- 1-Androstenediol (3α,17β-dihydroxy-5α-androst-1-ene)
- 4-Androstenediol (3β,17β-dihydroxy-androst-4-ene)
- 5-Androstenediol (3β,17β-dihydroxy-androst-5-ene)
- 1-Androstenedione (5α-androst-1-en-3,17-dione)
- 4-Androstenedione (androst-4-en-3,17-dione)
- 5-Androstenedione (androst-5-en-3,17-dione)
- Norandrostenediol (19-nor-4-androstenediol or 3β,17β-dihydroxyestr-4-ene)
- 19-Nor-4-androstenediol (3α,17β-dihydroxyestr-4-ene)
- 19-Nor-5-androstenediol (3β,17β-dihydroxyestr-5-ene and 3α,17β-dihydroxyestr-5-ene)
- Norandrostenedione (19-nor-4-androstenedione or estr-4-en-3,17-dione)
- 19-Nor-5-androstenedione (estr-5-en-3,17-dione)
In fact, there are so many available, you will have to check the label to see whether a product does contain a prohormone. A rule of thumb is if the name looks like it is a chemical compound, it requires further research.
Due to their precursor effects of being anabolic steroids, prohormones have a mixed legal class.
They are almost certainly all banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and can have a negative effect on cardiovascular health and liver function.
What can you do?
If you are looking for a testosterone booster to support your fitness and health goals, then do a bit of background research. As mentioned, here are a few points to follow:
- Avoid marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay – these are often rife with fake reviews and lots of cloned products.
- Check for genuine testimonials – look at the company/brand website, check their social media profiles. Lots of supplement manufacturers don’t like using Trustpilot, so if they have a Trustpilot account it shows how transparent and open they are.
- Research the company – any legitimate company will have full address and contact details available, even members of the team and any registered company numbers Check any qualifications or accreditations.
- Where’s it made? – The reality is, lots of products are made in countries where there aren’t any manufacturing regulations. If it’s made in the US, Europe, or Australasia they must obey strict rules and procedures.
- Check the ingredients – There should be a full page dedicated to explaining what ingredients are included, how much is included and the clinical evidence. If it’s difficult to understand what’s in the product just avoid it and move on. Sometimes they may say it’s a ‘secret’ formula. Again, this just sends alarm bells ringing.
- Is there a guarantee? – If they are offering a money back guarantee, they must be confident that it works otherwise they will run out of business.
The real issue consumers face when looking for supplements is the lack of standardisation, any product can be produced and labelled as a testosterone booster or fat burner.
Yet, put two labelled testosterone boosters’ side-by-side and it more often that not they will contain widely different ingredients and doses.
Therefore, as a customer it is necessary to do a little bit of background research on a product that you are interested in. This way you can be sure to minimize any unwanted side effects or health risks.
Here at Military Muscle we have done the hard work for you, our team of qualified sports nutritionists have developed a testosterone booster based on clinical evidence including nutrients that can provide a 360 degree approach to improving performance and recovery.
Our product is vegan-friendly, military safe and completely transparent, whilst considering the finer details such as HMPC and transparent capsules to eradicate any chance of food coloring toxicity while supporting a number of great charities and grassroots sports clubs.