Supplement companies claim that you can gain large amounts of muscle mass with this famous testosterone booster. Science disagrees.

Tribulus: An Ineffective Testosterone Booster

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

4 min read

So you’re looking for a way to boost your testosterone levels?

Then your social media algorithm has probably already shown you ads for tribulus.

For the lasty thirty years, this natural herb has been marketed towards bodybuilders and gym-goers because of its supposed ability to boost production of testosterone, with supplement companies claiming you can expect to see large gains in muscle mass in just 5-28 days.

There’s just one problem…

it doesn’t fucking work.


What Is Tribulus Terrestris?

tribulus terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris is a plant from Ayurveda (the ancient Indian medicine system).

It first rose to fame in the 1960s when sold as an aid for increased male sexual performance, but it really caught on fire in the early 1990s when supplement manufacturers began re-branding it as a muscle building supplement.

That’s because tribulus contains protodioscin, which increases secretion of luteinizing hormone from the pitulary gland (where fertility is regulated), and this signals your testicles to produce more testosterone. Considering the key role which testosterone plays in the muscle building process, it makes sense that using a supplement which can boost your test levels should lead to more muscle growth.

Heck, that’s basically why people use steroids – and you’ll notice that supplement companies try to cash in on this similarity by marketing tribulus as a ‘legal alternative’ to steroids.



Tribulus Terrestris: Russ’ Rating

Bodybuilder lifting weights

Tribulus sounds awesome.

I mean, a pill which can boost your testosterone levels and increase your muscle building results without any of the negative side effects associated with anabolic steroids?!

Hell to the yes!

Unfortunately, you’re about to be more pissed off than a vegan who accidentally bit their tongue, because the research on tribulus shows that most of the claims being made by supplement companies are pure fiction.

In fact, there is just one study showing that tribulus supplementation can boost testosterone levels, and the team of researchers behind this study concluded that it only occured because the participants in the study were suffering from partial androgen deficiency (very low test levels). (4)

From a muscle building perspective, there is absolutely zero.

A 2014 meta-analysis, which looked at the results on 11 previous studies on tribulus supplementation and testosterone, concluded that “The evidence to date suggests that tribulus terrestris is ineffective for increasing testosterone levels in humans, thus marketing claims are unsubstantiated”. (8)

This came after a 2007 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that 5-weeks of tribulus supplementation saw no increase in testosterone production for weight trained men and rugby players, and a 2008 study which showed that it also has no effect on testosterone levels in females. A 2005 study also found that, contrary to marketing claims, tribulus does not increase luteinizing hormone. (1, 2, 3)

Of course, no supplement is entirely useless.

Tribulus does offer some benefits with regards to boosting sexual appetite (it was originally sold as an aphrodisiac, and it does work) and guarding against the formation of kidney stones. (6, 7, 5)

However, that’s not the reason bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts are buying it, so let me make this clear; tribulus is not a muscle building supplement.


References:

  1. 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 Stregth Cond Res (2007).
  2. Saudan C., et al. Short term impact of Tribulus terrestris intake on doping control analysis of endogenous steroids. Forensic Sci Int (2008).
  3. Neychev V. K., et al. The aphrodisiac herb Tribulus terrestris does not influence the androgen production in young men. J Ethnopharmacol (2005).
  4. Roaiah M. F., et al. Pilot Study on the Effect of Botanical Medicine (Tribulus terrestris) on Serum Testosterone Level and Erectile Function in Aging Males With Partial Androgen Deficiency (PADAM). J Sex Marital Ther (2016).
  5. Sellandi T. M., et al. Clinical study of Tribulus terrestris Linn. in Oligozoospermia: A double blind study. Ayu (2012).
  6. Santos Jr C. A., et al. Tribulus terrestris versus placebo in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: A prospective, randomized, double blind study. Actos Urol Esp (2014).
  7. Anand R., et al. Activity of certain fractions of Tribulus terrestris fruits against experimentally induced urolithiasis in rats. Indian J Exp Biol (1994).
  8. Qureshi A., et al. A systematic review on the herbal extract Tribulus terrestris and the roots of its putative aphrodisiac and performance enhancing effect. J Diet Suppl (2014).

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own russhowepti.com.

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

2 responses to “Tribulus: An Ineffective Testosterone Booster”

  1. Barry avatar
    Barry

    Thanks for clearing this up Russ. I remember using Tribulus 10 years ago and getting spots on my back, and a bad temper too, but you’re right, it didn’t help in the gym.

  2. Tony avatar
    Tony

    Great post. Years ago I bought a sketch test booster online, from a Men’s Health looking website, it had a monthly subscription which they never mentioned and it was a nightmare to cancel but other than making me horny it made totally no difference to me 😀

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