The Testosterone Myth: Boosting Testosterone is Overhyped

By on June 27, 2023

Sometimes it feels like half of fitness YouTube and half of self-improvement YouTube is about increasing testosterone. And this is maddening.

“Do X to double, triple, quadruple your testosterone!”

This is not only boring, it’s also pretty much a waste of time.

Let’s start with the obvious: with the best will in the world, raising testosterone within normal ranges is not going to transform your physique. Testosterone is measured in nanograms per decilitre. An normal amount for a male is somewhere between 400-600ng/dL and this can go as low as 300ish or as high as 1,000ish.

What really matters, though, is that “free testosterone.” This is how much testosterone that is not bound to a protein (sex hormone-binding globuline or albumin). This tends to range from 5-25ng/dl.

Boosting testosterone is wasting your time

Someone using PEDs to increase their performance in the gym and their physique would could expect their total to raise to anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000ng/dL.

Conversely, someone who is perfectly optimizing their testosterone with every trick and method in the book might realistically expect to see a 10-20% increase.

Of course, there are exceptions. But if you have normal-ish levels… that’s what you’re likely to find.

So, you’re talking about going from 600 to 660. Not exactly life-changing.

The ACTUAL Effects of Testosterone Boosting Hacks

“But how can this be?” I hear you ask.

If tongkat ali increases testosterone by 10% and some other intervention improves it by 15%, according to the studies, why not just do both and there’s your 25%?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. The human body is a HIGHLY complex, self-regulating system. Interventions in the real world don’t act in a simple, additive manner like this and tend to yield diminishing returns. 

Alpha Male High Testosterone

And when we hear that tongkat ali can increase testosterone by “100 points” – which I’m presuming to mean ng/dl – we need to really assess this claim. Because 100 points for someone at 800 ng/dl is very different from a 100-point increase for someone at 300. We also need to assess things like sample sizes and the nature of the participants. Some of these studies, at least, are actually looking at individuals who alreadyhave low testosterone.

For example, this study: Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism?” published in Andrologia in 2012, looked at men suffering from hypogonadism (link). The same is true for many others.

Likewise, I explained in my recent video that cold exposure directed at the testicles is only really effective for those with varicoceles – a condition that causes enlargement of the veins in the genital region. 

So… get your junk out of the freezer!

Mechanisms of Action for Boosting Testosterone

It also depends, very much, on the mechanisms of action of that specific herb, mineral, or intervention and what your specific issue might be. For example: taking extra magnesium and zinc isn’t going to have as big an impact for someone who isn’t deficient in those nutrients. 

Tongkat Ali is currently the new hotness when it comes to boosting testosterone. The research surrounding this one is pretty positive and the anecdotal evidence is crazy. There are plenty of videos of people exclaiming that it helped them regain lost energy and build more muscle. To the extent that some have even experienced some of the negative impacts associated with high T – like hair loss and acne.

High testosterone

But there is a confirmation bias happening here. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in some cases but, again, those are likely people with testosterone levels at the very lower end of the spectrum. And they are likely unusually strong responders. Those with “meh” experiences, tend not to make videos about their crazy results with eye-catching thumbnails.

Just take a look at this poll on Reddit where users were asked to rate the kind of impact the herb had for them. 58 of users said the results were “good,” 12 described their experience as “godly.” But 62 described it as “Ok,” while 38 were “meh,” and 11 were “bad.”

And what is “good but not Godly?” I’d suspect that’s a moderate change. You know, the sort of change where you’re a bit excited for the first few weeks until you eventually stop taking the supplement and notice no change whatsoever…

Remember: if these interventions are to be effective, they need to be worth doing forever. Be honest with me: when was the last time you adopted a testosterone boosting strategy and genuinely stuck with it for 2+ years? 

Similar surveys offer similar results and yet this is not the narrative. Because the internet loves hype.

Testosterone is a waste of time

Animal studies suggest that tongkat ali might work by stimulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (that’s the HPA axis) and jacking up luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone and encouraging the leydig cells to get to work. And/or it may work by inhibiting sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and thus increasing free, usable testosterone. There’s some evidence of it inhibiting aromatase enzyme to reduce the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. And it may even have some positive effect on testosterone by simply decreasing stress. If you’re someone who has high levels of stress, or who has higher levels of sex-hormone-binding globulin, then you could see disproportionately positive benefits from using TA. This is speculative, keep in mind; I simply wanted to demonstrate that just because one person sees a big effect, it doesn’t mean everyone will. 

Those signals then get amplified and, suddenly, everyone is buying this random herb! Just like everyone was buying tribulis terestris a while back. 

The Many Confounding Factors

Remember, too, that testosterone alone doesn’t determine muscle mass or mood; raising it won’t necessarily have the effects you’re hoping for.

For example, you need androgen receptors for testosterone to affect the muscle in a significant way. Genetics is partly responsible for determining just how many of these an individual has, but training can also increase your number. This, at least partly, explains why some people who take steroids right at the start of their fitness journey, won’t look like someone who takes steroids!

Manly man

Likewise, it’s about the balance of testosterone to other hormones. Cortisol, for example, will blunt the benefits of testosterone. Too much oestrogen will do the same (although oestrogen is not inherently bad and also serves a number of important functions).

We’ve already discussed the importance of free testosterone.

And there are SO many other things affecting muscle mass and mood. From other neurotransmitters in the former case, to things like growth hormone and fibre type in the latter.

In other words: testosterone is just one tiny piece of the puzzle.

What Does High Testosterone Feel Like?

But if we were to play devil’s advocate for a moment, what would it look like if you were able to increase your testosterone by 200 points?

Probably not all that much.

I have no issue with most of the people explaining methods to raise testosterone. If you watch their content in its entirety and get the context, MOST will say that the muscle gains are going to be extremely subtle even in successful cases. That’s great if you’re professional athlete looking to eek out every little bit of performance and you’ve already optimised every other aspect of your lifestyle. It’s not so exciting for you or me.

To be clear: there are people who use performance enhancing drugs and still have very average physiques. You still need to put in the work and be highly disciplined with your diet. So, don’t expect that 5% boost from some herb to turn you into an Adonis overnight.

Cold Exposure Boost Testosterone

So, why are people so obsessed with testosterone in the first place? I’d wager it has less to do with muscle and more to do with becoming “Alpha.” Young guys that aren’t where they want to be in life think that boosting testosterone will make them stronger, more energetic, sexier, and more confident. Girls will want them, guys will want to be them.

Good luck with that!

Stop Trying to be “Alpha”

Those that say testosterone will fix your mood and make you love working out and getting up 4am are making some pretty big logical leaps. Think back to the last time you probably had very high testosterone levels: your late teens.

Were you happier and more assertive? Were you more confident and energetic? Of course, this is an unfair simplification – as many other factors likely affected your mood at that age. But that’s the point: increasing testosterone does not guarantee an amazing mood or cognitive performance. Far from it, in fact. 

Boosting testosterone
This is what teenagers look like, right?

Likewise, steroid users don’t suddenly become highly effective in their work or extremely alpha. In fact, a number of emotional issues like, depression and mood swings, can result from the use of steroids. Now, again, some of this is due to concurrent increases in oestrogen which wouldn’t necessarily be as much of an issue for more natural cases. But it just goes to show that “more testosterone” isn’t the answer to all your problems.

You’ll likely feel the same. Maybe a *little* more motivated. But you might equally find you feel grumpy or sulky. Again, the body is very complex.  

Also: being more alpha won’t solve all your issues anyway. As I’ve said before, any issues you have with pulling are a personality thing. I have NEVER understood the obsession with trying to get status among other guys.

How about just doing things you enjoy and not worrying about it?

P.S. I do speak from experience here, a little, too. I DID try a lot of this stuff. I’ve made old videos on it. But my views have changed because none of it made any difference. And the more I’ve looked into it, the more I’ve realised that is 100% to be expected. 

Restoring “Normal” Testosterone

Of course, this is different if you have very low testosterone. If you have very low testosterone and you struggle with erectile dysfunction, low mood, weight gain… then, of course, you’ll want to do something about it. And you might well find you get some tangible benefits. You should do this, though, under the supervision of a doctor. In which case, you might find that some of these interventions are a useful alternative to HRT. 

But that’s not going to apply to 99% of the people watching, right now. 

The next counter-argument, though, is going to be that the average person today DOES have low testosterone (study). After all, we’ve all heard how average testosterone levels are falling. How thirty years ago we all had super-high testosterone and what have you. It’s not about boosting testosterone to the “normal level,” then, it’s about boosting it to the optimal and natural level. 

But here’s the thing. YOU are not average. Averages take into account everybody – including the elderly, the overweight, and everyone in between. 

On average, we sleep less, we move less, we eat worse, we spend more time indoors, and we are living longer. So, if you’re young and healthy and you spend a lot of time working out, chances are that this doesn’t apply to you.

And if you DO fall into these categories? Don’t worry about your testosterone. Just worry about getting healthy. Workout and fix your diet and sleep and then testosterone will take care of itself – in many cases.

THIS is my big issue. I’m not saying that there is no way to boost testosterone or even that you shouldn’t bother.

But people think that they can boost testosterone to make themselves stronger, happier, more confident, and more energetic. The reverse is FAR more effective: become stronger, happier, more confident, and more energetic and you’ll likely see an increase in testosterone.

As usual, we shouldn’t look for shortcuts. Think “training” and not “hacks.”

And the amount of focus given to testosterone boosting online, versus its actual usefulness, is completely disproportionate.

Bioneer Muscle

Don’t waste your money on expensive supplements. Don’t waste your time and energy on exhausting protocols. Don’t get disheartened when you see no major changes to your life. 

The answer is the same as it always is: train and do what you can for your health generally.

And if you want a genuinely powerful change that I truly believe can boost your energy, your strength, your metabolism… and pretty much everything you were maybe trying to achieve through testosterone boosting… Try training multiple times throughout the day. 


  • Finkelstein, J. S., Lee, H., Burnett-Bowie, S. A., Pallais, J. C., Yu, E. W., Borges, L. F., Jones, B. F., Barry, C. V., Wulczyn, K. E., Thomas, B. J., & Leder, B. Z. (2013). Gonadal steroids and body composition, strength, and sexual function in men. New England Journal of Medicine, 369(11), 1011-1022. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1206168
  • Kadi, F. (2008). Cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the action of testosterone on human skeletal muscle. A basis for illegal performance enhancement. British journal of pharmacology, 154(3), 522–528.
  • Rehman, S. U., Choe, K., & Yoo, H. H. (2016). Review on a Traditional Herbal Medicine, Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali): Its Traditional Uses, Chemistry, Evidence-Based Pharmacology, and Toxicology. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 21(3), 331. DOI: 10.3390/molecules21030331
  • Schmidt, P. J., Nieman, L. K., Danaceau, M. A., Adams, L. F., & Rubinow, D. R. (1998). Differential behavioral effects of gonadal steroids in women with and in those without premenstrual syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 338(4), 209-216. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199801223380401
  • Sinha-Hikim, I., Artaza, J., Woodhouse, L., Gonzalez-Cadavid, N., Singh, A. B., Lee, M. I., Storer, T. W., Casaburi, R., Shen, R., & Bhasin, S. (2002). Testosterone-induced increase in muscle size in healthy young men is associated with muscle fiber hypertrophy. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism, 283(1), E154-E164. DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.00502.2001
  • Tambi, M. I., & Imran, M. K. (2010). Eurycoma longifolia Jack in managing idiopathic male infertility. Asian journal of andrology, 12(3), 376–380. DOI: 10.1038/aja.2010.7
  • Thu, H. E., Mohamed, I. N., Hussain, Z., & Jayusman, P. A. (2017). Eurycoma Longifolia as a potential adoptogen of male sexual health: a systematic review on clinical studies. Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines, 15(1), 71-80. DOI: 10.1016/S1875-5364(17)30010-9
  • Tambi, M. I. B. M., Imran, M. K., & Henkel, R. R. (2012). Standardised water-soluble extract of Eurycoma longifolia, Tongkat ali, as testosterone booster for managing men with late-onset hypogonadism? Andrologia, 44, 226–230. DOI: 10.1111/j.1439-0272.2011.01168.x

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.


  1. Josh Poole says:

    Hello Adam,
    Every morning I wake up at 6, and I go outside to meditate and trying the different versions you’ve talked about in your channel. I read a new article every morning. But I was wondering since you’ve made a ton of insane Batman plans which I’ll be sure to try when I’m strong enough I still love that superhero concept and was wondering if you could make one of Moon Knight who is essentially Marvel’s Batman. Thank you and keep posting!

  2. Blair Chafe says:

    I’m 59 and still lift heavy several times a week. i’m finding these days that my friends talk about just lifting to maintain or, even worse, that they just focus on not getting hurt. Myself, I think I’m as ambitious about getting stronger and fitter as I have ever been, even if I understand my limits get greater every year. My theory is that picking up big weights gives me a little rush of T. That’s not life changing, but it could be the reason I’m still really motivated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!