The Truth About Testosterone Boosters

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Dietary Supplements

You’ve probably seen ads for products that claim to boost testosterone. Over-the-counter (OTC) products sometimes use words like “male enhancement” or “natural testosterone booster.” Are these products safe? Do they work? The simple answer to both of these questions is “No.” 

Testosterone replacement therapy is the only treatment proven to boost testosterone. Testosterone is a controlled substance. That means you can get it only with a prescription from your doctor. OTC testosterone boosters do not contain testosterone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate these products, so you really don’t know what they contain. 

However, safe ways do exist to enhance your body’s natural testosterone. Diet and lifestyle changes are two examples. Certain dietary supplements might help, too. 

Zinc, Quercitin and Grape Seed Extract

Some nutrients won't directly boost your testosterone level. Instead, they help protect your natural testosterone. These include zinc, quercitin, and grape seed extract. They may help if you have extra belly fat. Belly fat produces an enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase breaks down testosterone and changes it into estrogen. 

You can take supplements for each of these. Always check with your doctor before you try supplements. Even dietary supplements and supplements marketed as “natural” can cause unwanted side effects and interfere with other medicines you may take. 

You can also get these nutrients from foods you eat. To do that, eat more: 

  • nuts
  • grapes
  • citrus fruits
  • vegetables


DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone your body makes. The body uses DHEA to make testosterone. You can also get DHEA as an OTC supplement made from soy beans. 

Talk to your doctor before taking DHEA. Some research suggests that it might improve sexual function in older men. It might lower the good type of cholesterol (HDL) though. It also may not be safe if you have liver or kidney disease

One safe way to help your body make more DHEA is to avoid stress. DHEA levels go down when stress goes up. 

Healthy Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining a healthy body weight is probably the most important thing you can do to boost your testosterone. As belly fat increases, testosterone goes down. Low testosterone (low T) gives you more body fat and less muscle mass. It can be a vicious cycle. That may be why about half of all men who are obese have low T. 

Other ways to boost testosterone include:

  • Exercise: Do both aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise includes walking and biking. They increase your heart rate. Strength training exercises use muscles against resistance. Weight lifting and push-ups are two examples. These exercises cause the body to make more testosterone.
  • Get a good night's sleep: You produce testosterone at night while sleeping. If you regularly experience poor quality sleep, your testosterone level will fall.
  • Manage stress: When stress hormones go up, testosterone goes down. Good options for managing stress include identifying and avoiding stress triggers, talking with supportive friends and family about your stressors, and engaging in physical activity several times a week.
  • Eat well: Enjoy a healthy, well-balanced diet. For optimal testosterone health, include these foods: green tea, nuts, brightly colored vegetables and fruits, and soy foods. Avoid red meat and animal fats.
  • Don’t smoke, and drink moderately: Both smoking and alcohol are linked to low T. Don’t have more than two alcoholic drinks a day. 
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol: Forty percent of men with high blood pressure or high cholesterol have low T.
Was this helpful?
  1. Beware of ‘Natural’ Testosterone Booster for Low-T. Cleveland Clinic, 2013.
  2. Risks and Realities of OTC Testosterone Supplements. Sexual Medicine Society of North America, 2013.
  3. Maintaining Testosterone Levels Naturally. University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine, 2012.
  4. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). NYU Langone Medical Center, 2013.
  5. Low Testosterone (Hypogonadism). Urology Care Foundation, 2013.
  6. Stress Tip Sheet. American Psychological Association.
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 4
View All Low Testosterone Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.