‘Hey bro, what are you taking for gains?’
It’s a common question (though asked in different ways). And it’s a fact that many bodybuilders, athletes, powerlifters, and gym rats (like myself) take something to get that extra edge for muscle growth and performance.
So what type of testosterone do bodybuilders use for the best results? What do they take?
There are several ways to increase testosterone, and I’m going to cover them. And I will give you the pros and cons of each so you can decide what’s right for you.
I’ll also give you ways you can boost testosterone without taking anything at all, if you choose that route.
Let’s get started!
Why Bodybuilders Take Testosterone
Bodybuilders take testosterone to build muscle. It’s that simple.
Whether boosting testosterone naturally or taking synthetic or unnatural methods, the ultimate goal is to get jacked! And whether you compete professionally or just want to be strong and look good, testosterone is part of the equation.
But there are other benefits to bodybuilding and testosterone. Elevated testosterone helps bodybuilders…
- shape their muscles by developing round, full muscle bellies (this achieves that typical bodybuilder look, or what I like to call ‘cartoon muscles!’)
- drop body fat and get shredded so that definition and striations are visible
- build strength, which in turn builds bigger muscles and gives your muscles that dense, grainy look
- workout harder and longer
- recover from workouts faster, which accelerates muscle growth
Now let’s get into the types of testosterone that bodybuilders take.
Types of Testosterone
Let me rephrase…when I say types of testosterone, I really mean types of substances that boost your testosterone. This could be anything from synthetic to natural ways to increase hormone levels.
I’m going to cover a broad range of substances that include…
- substances that are illegal in most places
- doctor prescribed testosterone
- different types of supplements that are available over the counter (there are some sub-categories here as well)
Anabolic steroids are common among bodybuilders. But let’s get a few things straight:
- This doesn’t mean that every bodybuilder takes them.
- And it also doesn’t mean they are necessary to be a bodybuilder.
It is, however, a choice that many take. The risk is greater, but so are the rewards, and we’ll get into that.
But first, let’s define what they are…
Anabolic steroids are drugs that are chemically related to the main male hormone testosterone. They are best known for their effects on building muscle (called anabolic). Some people, though, use these drugs illegally to improve athletic performance or to get a more muscular look.Endocrine Society, Anabolic Steroids, hormone.org
Pros of Anabolic Steroids
- Helps you recover from workouts faster
- Allows you to quickly pack on muscle mass
- Greatly enhances your strength
- Can give you a competitive edge
- Can give your muscles a specific shape desirable for bodybuilders
Risks of Anabolic Steroids
- Illegal in most countries
- Purchasing can be risky in the sense that you’re not certain what you’re getting and if it’s pure
- Included in the banned performance-enhancing drugs for most sports
- Steroid users are prone to many side-effects and health risks
- Can shut down your body’s ability to naturally produce testosterone
- Most muscle and strength gains are lost once you come off of steroids
- Cosmetic (acne, water, and fluid retention)
Forms of Anabolic Steroids
There are actually many forms of anabolic steroids. You have substances made for human use, and there are some made for animal use. Certain types come in pill form, while most are injectable as going directly into the muscle is most effective.
Some steroids are made in private labs and are experimental, or a combination of different types of steroids in hopes of further enhancing their effects on muscle growth. There could be additional risks to this, for obvious reasons.
Now, let’s move off the ‘black market’ and into the realm of doctor prescribed substances…
Doctor Prescribed Testosterone
Testosterone prescribed from a doctor is different from the anabolic steroids you can buy on the street or online (which again, in almost all cases, this is illegal).
And it has become more acceptable for doctors to prescribe testosterone. Some of the reasons are:
- To balance hormonal deficiencies
- Treat people with low testosterone
- Treat medical conditions that lead to muscle loss (such as HIV or cancer) per medicalnewstoday.com
Let’s take a look at the benefits and risks of taking testosterone prescribed by a doctor.
Pros of Prescribed Testosterone
- Pharmaceutical grade testosterone is much more effective and safer than using non-prescribed anabolic steroids
- Taking testosterone under a doctor’s supervision and getting your blood work done on a regular basis greatly reduces any risks
- Will help you build muscle and get stronger faster
- Treats low testosterone, reducing the health risks that come with having low T levels
- Helps you recover faster
- Helps you sleep better (which will also enhance the natural release of your growth hormone) – Read my post: 9 Ways to Build Muscle While You Sleep
- Maintaining healthy testosterone levels along with a good diet and working out reduces the risk of many diseases and ailments
Cons of Prescribed Testosterone
- Can shut down your natural testosterone production (same risk as with anabolic steroids)
- In some cases, it may be difficult to attain as not all doctors are on board with this treatment
- The prescribed dose is typically much lower than the amounts that anabolic steroid users take, meaning you may not experience substantial results
- Can be expensive (some insurance companies may not pay for testosterone)
- Overuse can lead to health problems
We’ve covered most forms of synthetic testosterone, so let’s move on to those substances you can buy over the counter or online without legal repercussions.
Testosterone Boosting Supplements
Before we dig into supplements that boost testosterone it’s important to note that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe.
On the flip side, just because a product claims to boost testosterone doesn’t mean it actually works.
Most of us have tried supplements that promise to boost test by 50% or 150% or 300% (or insert another ridiculous percentage here), only to be left with an empty wallet and no results!
With that said, I’m going to break this down into 2 categories. Unnatural and natural test boosters. And like we did above, I’ll give you the pros and cons of each.
Unnatural Test Boosters
Unnatural testosterone boosters are supplements that are legal to buy but do not contain natural substances. In short, this means they’re not based on micronutrients, which we’ll get into when we talk about natural test boosters.
The most common supplement in this category is prohormones. What are prohormones?
Per healthguidance.org, prohormones contain chemical precursors to steroids and hormones. The idea is for these ingredients to convert to testosterone once they enter your system.
There are other types of unnatural testosterone boosters, as it seems new ones are being developed consistently. SARMs is one. However, these substances do the same thing prohormones do, albeit the goal is to do them more effectively and safer.
Pros of Prohormones
- Can have the same effects of steroids or testosterone, but typically milder
- Will help you recover faster to rebuild muscle tissue
- In most cases, less risky than steroids
- They’re the closest legal substance you can get steroid-like effects
Cons of Prohormones
- Also, carry much of the side effects of steroids, but typically milder (just like the benefits)
- Can be harsh on your liver and other organs
- Easier to abuse (since they’re more accessible)
- Like with steroids, it’s less likely you’ll keep your gains after a cycle
- Can also temporarily shut down your natural testosterone production
- Usually expensive (or should I say, overpriced)
Natural Test Boosters
Lasty, let’s get into natural testosterone boosters. These are supplements that typically contain a combination of herbs, vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients.
The goal with natural test boosters is to supply your body with what it needs to boost natural testosterone production.
Pros of Natural Test Boosters
- Extremely low risk (in fact, I don’t know anyone who has had legitimate side effects from natural test boosters)
- Ensures you’re getting essential micronutrients that you’re probably not getting enough of
- Does help your body produce more natural testosterone
- Though subtle, you can make muscle and strength gains over time
- The most natural way to reduce body fat
- Organically increases your energy
- Muscle and strength gains made while on a natural test booster are less likely to diminish once your off (unlike steroids or prohormones)
- Don’t require cycling; you can stay on this year-around
Cons of Natural Test Boosters
- Muscle and strength gains may not be substantial
- Can take several weeks to see results
- You must stay on these for long periods of time for best results
- Some natural test boosters simply don’t work
Read about my recommend natural test booster that actually works here.
Do All Bodybuilders Take Some Form of Testosterone?
No, not all bodybuilders take testosterone or testosterone boosters. There are some that aim to increase their testosterone solely through the foods they eat and their training.
There are certain foods high in zinc and magnesium that will help you produce more natural testosterone. Also eating foods high in certain vitamins will help trigger this, such as vitamin D and B6.
Working out also plays a role in boosting testosterone naturally without drugs or supplements. Lifting heavy weights is one sure way to spike those levels. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench press are best for this.
Here are some other blog posts on this site you can read that will help you boost testosterone naturally:
- 7 Foods That Raise Testosterone and Lower Estrogen
- 10 Exercises You Need To Increase Testosterone
- Food That Will Kill Your Testosterone Levels
- 9 Ways To Build Muscle In Your Sleep
- How To Build More Muscle Naturally
I encourage you to read those posts. There’s a TON of helpful information that you can apply starting today.
If you’re serious about gaining more muscle and getting stronger, you’ll get the best results by combining these 3 things:
- Weight training (a mixture of heavyweights and hypertrophy exercises)
- Foods high in testosterone boosting nutrients
- Taking a natural testosterone booster
Although a test booster isn’t required to make gains, it will indeed complement your workouts and nutrition plan to ensure your body is getting the appropriate amounts and ratio of nutrients to support healthy testosterone levels.
I think you’ll find that the little extra you get from a natural test booster will go a long way. Especially if you’re goal is long term results and keeping your gains.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and learned something new! If this was helpful to you, please share it!
Don’t forget to read about my recommended natural testosterone booster. I’ve tried several test boosters over the years and this is one of the few I’ve found that produces visible results. It does not work as good as most of the ‘unnatural sources.’
But for long term muscle gains, it’s perfect. Read more here: Top Testosterone Booster