If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you know that I enjoy hosting random Q&A’s using the hashtag #AskBorn. And while I love the rapid fire interaction, sometimes 140 characters just isn’t enough. That’s why I cover certain questions more in-depth, providing you with the details that will help you understand my answers.
Ask Born: After reading Alpha I was curious about Tribulus. Does it really boost testosterone and help gains? –Kevin
If there was a pill (let’s assume it’s legal) that caused men’s testosterone to skyrocket, I’m fairly confident most men would have it stocked in their homes. But most guys don’t use tribulus and for a good reason: it really doesn’t do what it promises.
Tribulus is an herb that it commonly found in over-the-counter testosterone products. Without stereotyping, it’s popular with the bodybuilding community. This led me to design a scientific study 7 years ago, in which I helped two researchers put together a (never published) review on tribulus use and the impact on strength, muscle gain, and testosterone levels. I’ll be honest and admit that the research wasn’t air tight (hence the lack of publishing) and the sample size was small (n=16), but the findings were still relevant. The bottom line: Compared to a placebo group, there was no difference after 16 weeks of supplementation, which was a long enough trial period where you would expect to see something. And trust me, we looked. (Side note: ANOVAs, ANCOVAs, and multi-variate analyses are things I do not miss at all. If you’re a stats nerd you get this and probably also enjoy these things more than I ever could. And that’s a big reason why I left the research side of academia.)
When you take a deeper look, there’s plenty of research to suggest that tribulus is a big waste of money if your focus is boosting testosterone.
In fact, according to Examine.com, creators of the most authoritative guide on supplements (and a resource that I use to cross check everything in the supplement industry), here’s what you need to know about tribulus:
The thing is, tribulus doesn’t work. And there is plenty of research to prove that it doesn’t work; we have direct and repeated evidence that tribulus doesn’t increase testosterone in athletic males. In other words, if you’re taking tribulus to become stronger or add more muscle, don’t expect much.
That’s not to say tribulus is useless. In fact, it could have potential benefits to the cardiovascular system and organ health. It just doesn’t boost testosterone.
And this is a very important point. You see, tribulus most likely remains on the market and appears to work because it can be an effective libido enhancer. Usually, libido-enhancing herbs are used in testosterone boosters to make the users ‘feel the effects’ of testosterone. The unfortunate reality is that while higher testosterone tends to cause an increase in libido, these herbs increase your libido without affecting your testosterone.
The Born Reality: Tribulus, while known as a testosterone-boosting herb, does not offer the benefits related to strength, muscle, or recovery. It might help your libido, but that doesn’t mean it is doing anything for your testosterone levels.
Want more supplement information?
The biggest problem with the supplement industry is that you don’t know who or what to trust. That’s why if you take supplements or are considering them, I highly recommend you do yourself a favor a pick up the Supplement Goals Reference Guide. In all my years in this industry, I have yet to find something as honest, useful, and accurate. The creators of this guide have no supplement affiliation, which results in information that has no bias. (A rarity in the industry.) The guide includes the analysis of more than 20,000 studies and has a review of every supplement you could ever imagine. Trust me, if you’re looking for a supplement, it’s covered. And that means you never have to worry if a supplement is worth your money or will deliver on the (oftentimes inaccurate) claims.
Neychev VK, Mitev VI. The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men. J Ethnopharmacol. (2005)
Rogerson S, et al. The effect of five weeks of Tribulus terrestris supplementation on muscle strength and body composition during preseason training in elite rugby league players. J Strength Cond Res. (2007)
Make it Count,
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and, according to The Huffington Post, “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, E! News, and The Cheddar.