Whether to improve fitness, physical appearance, and libido or to address health concerns linked to testosterone deficiencies, the demand for safe, effective alternatives to anabolic steroids has spurred a booming market of new, innovative solutions. 

However, the plethora of available testosterone enhancers inevitably causes choice paralysis for most new users—with so many available options, determining the correct product may feel overwhelming.

We’ll relieve this indecision and investigate two of the most popular categories of testosterone enhancers you can buy today—prohormones and testosterone boosters—so you can feel confident that you’re making the right choice.

Defining Prohormones

Defining Prohormones

A prohormone is a hormone precursor that naturally converts into testosterone in your body following ingestion. Think of them as building blocks that provide all the necessary material the body needs to build testosterone. 

Prohormones shouldn’t be confused with anabolic steroids—they may help provide similar results but are very different compounds. Steroids consist of substances used to mimic testosterone, whereas prohormones are made of substances that the body uses to build testosterone. The difference is subtle but meaningful: steroid application adds more testosterone-like compounds into your system, which can cause hormone imbalances. In contrast, prohormones rely on the body’s hormone-production pathways to transform into testosterone. Thus, the body controls production, helping keep testosterone levels within normal, healthy values. 

However, despite the potential health benefits and improved safety parameters, some prohormones are prone to severe side effects, and many are illegal for purchase in the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

The side effects of prohormones

Although prohormones enjoy much higher safety margins than steroids, they still come with a variety of health concerns:

  • Mood swings

    Prohormones are fast-acting, which can cause hormone fluctuations that can set off mood swings. This can range from bouts of depression to periods of intense aggression.

  • Acne

    Did you think you were over all that acne stuff now that you’re past high school? Well, not if you are taking prohormones. Messing around with your hormone physiology with sudden testosterone spikes can result in acne flare-ups and other skin problems.

  • Fatigue

    Prohormones may also cause energy fluctuations as your body adapts, resulting in periods of exhaustion regardless of your activity level. These symptoms are usually only temporary, and your metabolism should stabilize after a few days of use.

  • Serious health concerns

    Although prohormones are perceived as a safer alternative to anabolic steroids, long-term prohormone abuse can express many of the same health concerns. This includes: testicular shrinkage, breast enlargement (gynecomastia), hair loss, cardiovascular risk, liver and kidney damage. 

Defining testosterone boosters

Testosterone boosters are supplements containing natural herbs, organic compounds, vitamins, and minerals found in everyday foods and are designed to optimize testosterone levels and counteract the symptoms of testosterone deficiency. Every T booster brand has a unique, proprietary formulation of active ingredients. However, the mechanisms used to improve the body’s T levels are very much the same among products, including:

Testosterone boosters are perfectly safe, have few side effects, do not require a prescription, are legal for over-the-counter purchasing, and do not contain any banned substances.

The side effects of testosterone boosters

Testosterone boosters are made from natural herbal ingredients, vitamins, and minerals, making them completely safe and side effect free. However, the long-term effects of many T booster ingredients are poorly understood and may cause minor side effects if consumed regularly for 3+ months. Additionally, it may stimulate allergic reactions in those sensitive to the ingredients. Some users have professed minor side effects, including headaches, mild bloating, stomach upset, and gas.

The major differences between the two

  • Mode of operation

    The main distinction between prohormones and testosterone boosters is the methods used to instigate testosterone production and improve T levels: your body converts prohormones (ex. androstenedione and formestane) into testosterone, whereas T boosters provide resources to help stimulate natural T production and release, inhibit estrogen activity and production, and counteract the adverse effects of testosterone deficiency. 

  • Ingredients

    Prohormones are testosterone precursors that transform directly into testosterone in the body, whereas testosterone boosters are a cocktail of natural herbs, vitamins, and minerals capable of improving T levels.

  • Temporal effectiveness

    Neither prohormones nor testosterone boosters offer the immediately discernible testosterone supercharge characteristic of anabolic steroids. T boosters can take at least two weeks of consistent dosing to cause any measurable results. They may take over two months of continuous use to optimize their potential health benefits. In contrast, the prohormones’ health improvements tend to top out within a couple of weeks.

  • Safety

    The consequences of long-term prohormone use are unclear. However, evidence suggests that prohormones may cause serious health concerns similar to anabolic steroid abuse. Conversely, testosterone booster ingredients are well-studied and considered perfectly safe for consumption.

Who should use which?

Testosterone boosters are best for first-timers due to safety concerns and prohormone’s potential side effects. Testosterone boosters are made of all-natural ingredients found in food, making them risk and side-effect-free. Thus, it makes sense to start with T boosters and then consider alternative treatments if you don’t achieve your desired results.

Prohormones are more potent and faster-acting—but come packaged with more health and safety concerns. Thus, we only recommend this option for athletes or men with severely low testosterone who could benefit from a high-potency testosterone boost. However, if you prioritize getting a potent, high-quality, fast-acting testosterone boost—prohormones are the way to go. Still, be warned that some countries prohibit prohormones.

Avoid getting into legal trouble, perform your due diligence and determine which products are acceptable for consumer use in your region before committing to a purchase. Prohormones are not recommended for those under 21 years of age, and testosterone boosters are designed for men 18 and older.


They aren’t as potent or fast-acting as prohormones, but from a safety perspective, testosterone boosters are the best option on the market. They pose next to no health risk while granting a significant testosterone lift for those with below-average T levels. 

Testosterone boosters are sufficient for topping off your T-levels. However, if your testosterone levels are low enough that receiving fast-acting treatment outweighs the possible long-term side effects of prohormone use, prohormones may be the option for you.


Which is a more potent testosterone enhancer—testosterone boosters or prohormones?

Prohormones are faster-acting and provide a more potent testosterone supercharge than testosterone boosters. Testosterone boosters may also include substances that lack sufficient evidence supporting their testosterone-enhancing capabilities (maca root, green tea extract, pomegranate extract, etc.)

Are prohormones and testosterone boosters anabolic steroids?

No! Prohormones are hormone precursors that the body transforms into testosterone, while testosterone booster supplements are a blend of natural ingredients known to enhance T levels. Both improve how your body produces and releases testosterone, whereas anabolic steroids directly raise your hormone levels by adding synthetic testosterone imitations to your system.

Are prohormones and testosterone boosters safe to use?

Testosterone boosters are perfectly safe. In rare instances, users have experienced minor side effects such as bloating and minor stomach issues. 

Prohormones are considered a safe alternative to anabolic steroids. However, long-term use may cause similar health problems such as testicular shrinkage, hair loss, and breast enlargement—even increased cardiovascular risk and liver/kidney failure.

About the Author Tim Rockwell

Tim Rockwell is a highly skilled and knowledgeable fitness expert. With a background in exercise science and years of experience in the fitness industry, Tim is passionate about sharing his expertise with others through his writing. He currently contributes articles to Eurasc, where he shares practical tips and strategies for leading a healthy, active lifestyle.

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