In Part One of this series, we discussed a testosterone product, Tribex, which has some interesting affects. The two most noticeable being increased testosterone levels and an increase in libido. Tribex, unlike similar supplements, is truly an exciting supplement because the user gets an almost immediate positive feedback. In Part Two, we’re going to discuss three other testosterone boosters that work through different mechanisms than Tribex, but perhaps are of more importance to the user.
The Everyday Grind
Stress. Unless you’ve been in a cave for the last 20 or so years, you’ve heard about the debilitating effects it can have on the body. Many different things in our environment cause stress: family, job, friends, money. However, what I think a lot of you don’t realize, is that exercise is a stress on the body. And even though it has some very positive effects, like all forms of stress, it can deplete the body of vital nutrients. And in extreme cases of over-training, can even inhibit the body’s immune system.
Heavy training has been shown to cause deficiencies in vital nutrients, and the two nutrients we’re concerned with in this article are zinc and magnesium. Chances are that many of you who lead stressful lives and/or train hard are deficient in both of these elements.
So you have low levels of zinc and magnesium. What’s the problem? Your body can still function normally and feel fine even with low levels of these vital nutrients. For instance, in one study 70 percent of 250 NFL players tested were found to be deficient in both zinc and magnesium. These players, many of them starters, were obviously still able to perform at a high level and had no idea they were deficient. However, it’s what happens to people when they get their nutrient levels back to normal that we’re most concerned about.
Back to Normal
Nutritionists and scientists have found that while many athletes -- weekend warriors to professionals -- pay close attention to diet and supplementation, they still continue to be deficient in the key nutrients zinc and magnesium. When these elements are brought back to normal levels, there is an increase in free testosterone and strength.
Researchers from Western Washington University reported increases in free testosterone and muscle strength in NCAA football players. The findings were published in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol. 31, No. 5.”
NCAA football players who took ZMA nightly for eight weeks during spring practice had greater strength gains and higher free and total testosterone than the placebo group. The ZMA group also had slight increases in insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) as compared to a decrease in the placebo group.
These increases in testosterone and strength can be seen when supplementing with a product developed by Met-Rx called Hardcore ZMA, a special zinc and magnesium formulation. The two elements are combined in a specific ratio, and are in a form that has the highest possible absorption. I have been using ZMA products off and on for about 10 years. I have found it to be an excellent supplement. Not only do my workouts feel better, I seem to sleep better. These happen to be the most common effects described among users.
Can’t you just buy a mineral supplement from a health food store to ensure normal levels?
Absolutely not. The main reason is the type of binders used in the manufacture of vitamin and mineral supplements. Most manufacturers use a form of calcium as a binder. Calcium inhibits the absorption of all other minerals and trace elements by up to 70 percent. So you could be using a vitamin and mineral supplement from a very reputable company and have very poor absorption due to the calcium filler. By the way, fillers are not listed as one of the ingredients on the label, so you won’t know what filler your brand uses. Just understand that calcium binders have been the industry standard for decades. You may want to call the manufacturer to see what type of binders they use.
Should Hardcore ZMA be taken with food?
The answer is no. For the highest absorption, mineral supplements should be taken on an empty stomach (at least one hour after eating). The best time to take ZMA is at night before going to sleep.
Why does Hardcore ZMA need to be taken at night?
Muscle tissue repair and growth occurs during sleep. Our growth hormone levels are at their highest about 90 minutes after we fall asleep. Both zinc and magnesium maximize the effect of growth hormone. Zinc’s properties have a lot to do with tissue maintenance and repair. It just makes the most sense to take it at night.
Do vitamin and mineral supplements provide any insurance at all against deficiencies or imbalances?
No. Different minerals need to be taken at different times to avoid competing for absorption. It has been shown that people with deficiencies, who supplement with a multi-mineral supplement, have no change in mineral levels. Even when consuming nutritious food the elements that are contained fight for absorption.
Estrogen versus Testosterone
Testosterone levels are tied to estrogen levels. Estrogen signals the pituitary gland to raise or lower testosterone. If estrogen levels are high, it signals the pituitary gland to lower your testosterone levels. So it stands to reason that as an athlete it would be beneficial to lower your estrogen level.
Higher estrogen levels, or estrogen that is out of balance with androgen levels, can lead to a whole host of physiological maladies. Perhaps the most well known being gynecomastia, AKA “gyno” or “bitch tits.” Gyno is the growth of breast tissue in men. Higher estrogen levels can also promote excess water retention. Steroids that aromatize are known for giving athletes a bloated, puffy look.
6-OXO, manufactured by Ergopharm, is referred to as an aromatase inhibitor. When testosterone levels increase, aromatase acts to covert some of it to estrogen. This increase in estrogen is an unfortunate side effect of steroids and prohormones that does not occur with 6-OXO.
A study completed by Human Performance Specialists examined the blood hormone responses over a three-week cycle of 600 mg per day of 6-OXO. The study tracked the sex hormone changes in six men aged 32 to 40.
The results were remarkable:
- The variability among the subjects was very low.
- Most of the increases in testosterone were seen in the first week.
- Total testosterone levels increased an average of 188 percent.
- Free testosterone levels rose an average of 226 percent.
- Cholesterol levels decreased an average of 11.6 percent.
- Liver function improved slightly.
6-OXO appears to be a safe and effective way of increasing natural testosterone levels without the negative side effects associated with prohormones and steroids.
Proceed with Caution
When I started writing this article I was very excited about a product called Alpha Male. I’ve used it in the past with good results and was happy to recommend it to my readers. That is until I started to do in-depth research on the individual extracts it contained.
In Part One we discussed an exciting product manufactured by Biotest called Tribex, which contains a potent testosterone-boosting extract called tribulus. Building upon Tribex, Biotest created what they consider the ultimate testosterone -boosting combination, using the same tribulus extract found in Tribex, with two other potent testosterone-boosting extracts. The product is called Alpha Male.
Each of the three compounds found in Alpha Male, although similar in some respects, achieve their effects through different mechanisms. Moreover, these extracts do not seem to be dose dependant. In other words, the more-is-better philosophy doesn’t seem to apply. The recommended dosage on the bottle maximizes each extract’s potency, and taking more seems to elicit diminishing returns.
Ingredient number one is tribulus terrestris, which has been used in traditional medicine in China and India for centuries. It wasn’t until the mid ‘90s when Eastern European countries claimed they were taking tribulus to enhance their performance, did it become a sought-after supplement in mainstream athletics.
Tribulus causes a release of leutinizing hormone (LH). Leutinizing hormone stimulates the testes to secrete more testosterone. The more leutinizing hormone you secrete, the more testosterone you’ll have and visa versa. It’s accepted throughout the industry that tribulus is the most powerful testosterone boosting agent available today.
Ingredient number two is eurycoma longifolia, AKA TongKat Ali, traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and for improving general health. One of eurycoma’s benefit is its ability to convert DHEA and other naturally occurring androgens into testosterone. This versatile extract also has anticancer benefits, and is effective against multiple parasites.
Unfortunately, like many supplements, there is a lack of research on this herb on human subjects. However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence and several well-designed studies performed on rats, which demonstrate eurycoma’s effects.
The third ingredient in Alpha Male is vitex agnus castus. The manufacturers claim that like tribulus, it also works by secreting LH, but most importantly it also lowers progesterone and prolactin. Research, they say, has shown vitex’s ability to decrease the levels of these two hormones by acting directly on the pituitary gland. Excessive levels of these hormones will cause depression and body fat storage. Elevated prolactin levels can even result in lactation in men.
The research that I found doesn’t support the manufacturer’s claims about the benefits of vitex on males. The chaste tree, as it’s referred to, has been used for gynecological conditions since the days of Hippocrates. Several recent clinical studies demonstrate the validity of these ancient uses. Vitex works to stimulate and stabilize the reproductive hormones involved in ovulation, and menstrual regularity.
The herb is referred to as the chaste tree for good reason. It has been used for centuries as an “anaphrodisiac.” Its use to curb desires of the flesh might be explained by its hormonal effects. Studies using human subjects show an increase in progesterone and a decrease in total and free testosterone. Studies have also demonstrated an increase in sexual hormone binding proteins. These results are exactly what a male doesn’t want.
Yes it’s true I’ve taken Alpha Male in the past and noticed positive results. I cannot remember if vitex was an ingredient included in Alpha Male at that time. Biotest has updated and changed their products many times, consistently trying to improve them. However, in lieu of the evidence I have found, and the lack of evidence demonstrating vitex’s efficacy in males, I would take this product with caution, if at all.
Don't miss Part 1 of the "More Muscle and More Sex."
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