Zinc, Tribulus and Vitamin D - common test booster ingredients
TL:DR save your money
There’s a lot of money to be made in the supplement industry as men in particular look for steroid like results without using steroids. Like many natural lifters, I had bought into the hype and the necessity of supplementation until one day I didn’t. I'd like to turn our attention, briefly, from true PEDs and into compounds that are often shilled as giving PED like results, specifically common 'testosterone booster' ingredients, starting with Zinc, moving on to tribulus and finally ending with vitamin D. For many of us, knowing that OTC supplements marketed as increasing testosterone are a waste of money - this post is not aimed at you, you will likely learn nothing you did not already know. For those that are holding out and clinging to the hope that they can achieve their fitness goals with some tweaks to their (legal) supplement regime, hopefully this will shed some light on just how shady the supplement industry truly is and how unlikely these products are in helping them achieve their goals.
Zinc is a great compound with other health benefits but as it relates to athletic performance for those with adequate levels of zinc already, zinc (or specifically ZMA, which is Zinc, Magnesium and B6) has no measurable impacts on levels of testosterone production. In this study, researchers took 14 men who were active and aged between 22-33. They also had a baseline zinc intake of 11.9mg – 23.2mg day. The RDA for zinc is 12mg, so what we’re seeing is that subjects were consuming enough zinc prior to the study. During the study, subjects consumed an additional 30mg of zinc, in addition to 450mg of magnesium and 10.5mg of B6.
This may seem to conflict with other research on zinc and its effect of increasing levels of free testosterone which the researchers acknowledge. They reference three studies (including the common cited study by Brilla and Conte) that showed zinc supplementation increased testosterone and show that in at least two, testosterone was increased by supplementation with zinc in men who were zinc deficient. It seems reasonable to me that the third studies results were also due to general deficiency in zinc as well.
For those without adequate levels of zinc, supplementation is one option. But so is adding in more foods in which zinc can be found. These include meat, fish, eggs as well as beans and nuts. Unfortunately, zinc does not get stored by your body, so eating balanced diet is important in maintaining zinc levels.
If you are getting enough zinc in your diet already, or can modify your diet so that you do, fantastic. If you're not, the Brilla and Conte study showed an increase in total test from 567ng/ml to 752ng/ml from zinc supplementation. That's a 25% increase in testosterone!
But let’s also be real about results – going from 567ng/ml to 752ng/ml is going to have only a marginal benefit on strength and appearance. It is absolutely not going to land you on the front cover of Men’s Health any time soon. That said, zinc by itself is also not all that expensive. At time of writing, I found 3 months’ supply for $5 on Amazon.com.
Tribulus is far more open and shut – it has absolutely no impact on testosterone or strength: r/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10997957; r/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11601567; r/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15994038; r/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17530942. It was apparently popularized by bodybuilder Jeffrey Petermann in the 70s but has since shown to be in no way effective. As far as this is concerned, save your hard earned money.
Vitamin D on the other hand is an incredible compound which helps improve absorption of calcium, magnesium and phosphate, and for many it is free to get sufficient of it, just by getting enough sun. But even in Australia, up to a third of Aussies have vitamin D deficiency. Even in the sunniest of places our jobs and lives can make health in that area difficult to achieve. Vitamin D supplementation is almost a must for bone health.
And if avoiding osteoporosis in your old age is not reason enough, consider that vitamin D is essential for full gonadal function in both sexes. There’s also a study that showed an increase of total test levels in 54 men who received 3332IU of Vitamin D supplementation daily, with total test going from 10.7nmol/l to 13.4nmol/l.
So there we go, team. Thank you for bearing with me as we deviated from our regular programming, as it was at topic I wanted to cover to answer the occasional delusion in /r/PEDs. Supplementing with 'test boosters' will have only marginal impact and frankly, you will be disappointed like I was, and lighter in the wallet.