When the environment is trying to mess with the balance of your muscle-building hormones, these supplements can help.
By Jenevieve Roper PhD, CSCS, CISSN, SFN
While I know that many of you avoid anything that has the potential to increase estrogen, it’s becoming more and more impossible to avoid. Average levels of testosterone have decline over the last decade. One reason for that is the number of estrogen compounds that are found in pesticides, meat, some plastics, and even our drinking water as a result of discarded birth control pills. The combination of these can slowly reduce your testosterone levels. While proper diet, supplementation, and training have been known to help boost testosterone, these environmental factors can potentially leave you in the same hormonal spot and not making the gains you should.
It’s necessary to understand how you can combat the estrogen that incidentally enters your system. While there are many commercially available products that claim to do this, little research has been conducted to support these claims. Here are some of the ingredients we feel give you your best shot at slashing estrogen and boosting testosterone.
1Grape Seed Extract
Grape seed extract is a derivative of whole grape seeds that has high levels of procyanidin dimers, which are known to be a potent inhibitor of aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme that is responsible for the creation of estrogen from androgens in the body. Potentially at times, unused testosterone in the body can be converted to estrogen and reduce the amount of free testosterone in your system available for use. Therefore, reducing estrogen benefits your muscle-building and fat-shedding ability.
A 2006 study determined that grape seed extract was found to inhibit aromatase in a dose-dependent manner. Essentially, the more consumed, the more aromatase that was inhibited. However, much of the research was conducted in women, so we need a bit more research in men, but the results appear to be promising.
Research indicates that 120 milligrams is all that’s needed each day. While it does work in a dose-dependent manner, it’s recommended that you consume no more 300 milligrams each day. It is considered safe, although moderate side effects such as headache, itchy scalp, dizziness, and nausea have been reported, especially with the higher doses.
Indole-3 Carbinol (Ultimate Nutrition Testostoro)
Indole-3 carbinol (I3C) is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and mustard greens, which are all members of the Brassica family of vegetables. It has been recently researched regarding its ability to act as an aromatase inhibitor, similar to grape seed extract, by reducing the conversion of androgens to estrogen. Research as recent as 2015 has determined that I3C can inhibit estrogen (in its estradiol form), which can potentially lead to an increase in free testosterone.
Again, much of the research has been conducted in women with regards to cancer; however, this does not mean it will not work in men. Many reviews have concluded that the results with regards to being a supplement in men are inconclusive, and more rigorous research is needed before a solid conclusion can be made.
Doses of 200 to 400 milligrams per day appear to be effective. Because this has not been seen to work in a dose-dependent manner, it appears that 200 milligrams is just as effective as 400 milligrams. I3C is safe, however, high doses have been shown to cause skin rashes, balance problems, tremor, and nausea.
Green Tea Extract
Green tea extract is one supplement that we talk about quite a bit. It has properties similar to caffeine, so we know it works in many different ways, including boosting your metabolism and testosterone. Green tea extract has a high level of polyphenols, which inhibit aromatase, leading to a decrease in estrogen (estradiol). Even the consumption of brewed green tea has shown that it reduces estrogen. But this is exclusive to green tea and not black tea.
Similar to the others, research has been conducted mostly in women with regards to breast cancer. A handful of studies in 2006 concluded that green tea extract does indeed reduce estradiol in postmenopausal women; however, more research is emerging in regards to its ability to reduce aromatase and estradiol in men, which makes us believe it has great potential.
Because a standard capsule of green tea extract is the equivalent of five cups of green tea, we recommend that you consume the supplement form to receive the most benefit. Because it is a stimulant, it is best to consume smaller amounts before consuming upwards of 400 to 500 milligrams. As with any stimulant, there is a potential to experience nausea and discomfort as a result of higher dosages.
Resveratrol (Blackstone Eradicate)
Resveratrol is a compound found peanuts, grapes, and red wine that is full of polyphenols. Because it has a great number of polyphenols, it works very similar to green tea extract. Resveratrol can, therefore, inhibit aromatase, which will lead to a reduction in estrogen (estradiol).
Much of the research conducted on resveratrol has investigated its anti-cancer properties, with little evidence on its ability to work as a bodybuilding supplement. Regardless, the research has shown that it reduces estrogen, so the potential is there for it to work as a supplement. More evidence is needed and emerging, in human studies, but it looks promising.
Dosing depends on several factors, such as age, health, and other conditions. Currently there are no strict dosing guidelines for how much to take, so it’s best to follow the manufacturers’ dosing guidelines of your selected supplement. Try not to exceed about 250 milligrams each day, as it can potentially have interactions with other medications and supplements.
Zinc (MuscleTech Pro Series Alpha Test)
Zinc is a mineral that we like to discuss because it has many health benefits as well as bodybuilding abilities. It is most known for its ability to boost the immune system and help prevent illness; however, it works as a testosterone booster as well. While we’ve discussed its ability to increase free testosterone since zinc is involved in the conversion of androgens to testosterone, it also works as an aromatase inhibitor—preventing the conversion of free testosterone into excess estrogen.
Studies have been relatively consistent demonstrating that zinc supplementation increases free testosterone in infertile men. While we are still awaiting studies that show the same in healthy adult men, it is still important to try and use zinc as an estrogen blocker. During exhaustive exercise, we lose a significant amount of zinc, which can cause a slight zinc deficiency and reduction in testosterone. Research has shown that supplementation will prevent this reduction in zinc.
Dosing recommendations for zinc tend to vary. If you perform a lot of high-intensity exercise daily, it’s probably better to take a dose of 25 to 45 milligrams per day since you are likely more at risk of a zinc deficiency. If you train at a more moderate pace, five to 10 milligrams per day is a sufficient dose. There is a tolerable upper limit of zinc supplementation that we should be aware of, as more than 40 milligrams per day can interfere with calcium, magnesium, and iron transport and absorption.
Vitamin C (GNC Beyond Raw – place between Vitamin C and food sidebar if possible)
Vitamin C is particularly well known for its ability to help boost the immune system and treat the symptoms of the common cold. While we don’t talk about vitamin C much, it’s worthwhile to take a look at. Vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables that are red, orange, and yellow in color—so your citrus-type foods. Vitamin C has been known to reduce aromatase reductase, which is the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen when there is an excess of testosterone. This allows for a sustained increase in free testosterone.
While research is still out on its ability to reduce estrogen, it looks promising. Early studies have shown that supplementation with vitamin C has led to increased sperm quality in men as well as reducing estradiol concentrations. Most of the studies have been animal studies, so it’s recommended to take these results with a grain of salt.
Vitamin C is relatively safe, as it’s a water-soluble vitamin that gets flushed out of your system regularly. Typically, around 500 milligrams is needed for health benefits. The safe upper limit is 2,000 milligrams; however, it has been known to irritate the stomach with higher doses. IM
Eat Like A Man
Supplements aren’t the only things that work to reduce estrogen. There are several foods that have been known to reduce estrogen as a result of consumption. Some examples are:
- Green tea
- Red wine
- White table mushrooms
- Stout beer (score!)
While it’s great to know that these foods boost your estrogen-inhibiting ability, it’s important to note that foods such as yogurt, soy, and tofu have been known to increase estrogen after regular consumption.