Passing the Test: How Easy Is It to Accurately Test Your Testosterone Levels?
By now you’ll probably have noticed that the testosterone booster market is a pretty crowded one.
Most of us will have seen and maybe even bought some of the many competing brands vying for our attention, all making bold claims about their ability to deliver the many health and performance benefits of higher male hormone.
Yet so much of how we decided;
- a) if we need a booster in the first place or
- b) whether that one we’ve been taking for months has actually worked
remains about gut feeling.
A sense of more energy, a few more extra reps at the gym, the bed springs being put through their paces more frequently; all these things we might well attribute to that new supplement, but surely these products are too expensive and your hormones too important not to be absolutely sure?
The question is then, just how easy is it to gauge your testosterone levels either independently or with help of your doctor?
Home testing can be an appealing option because it maintains a certain level of privacy and potentially cuts down on the hassle of requesting a hormone test from your doctor, especially if you’re testing out of curiosity alone.
However despite home tests being available for a range of issues such as thyroid function, recently HIV/AIDS and most famously of course pregnancy, kits to determine testosterone levels are surprisingly hard to come by. The most widely available product in the U.S is probably produced by ZRT Labs.
ZRT is a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) accredited lab, which offers a range of home tests, on sale from either their own website or Amazon.com.
As far as male hormone goes they offer a blood spot test – pricking your finger and letting samples drop onto a card – to measure total testosterone (priced at $50.00 for the kit and $30.00 for the actual test) or there are two salvia based options.
The first of these costs the same as the blood spot kit and tests for free testosterone (the amount of testosterone available for our bodies to use) alone, while the second, Testosterone Plus, gives a reading on free testosterone, oestrogen and cortisol.
This costs just over $80, but the price of the test is included in the purchase. Usually a list of insurance companies possibly willing to cover your cost will be included with a payment form. Whether a prescription is required before tests can be carried out varies from state to state.
ZRT normally contact you with results, which can be forwarded on to your doctor if need be, within 10 to 14 days.
How Accurate Are These Tests?
Serum blood tests are considered the gold standard in hormone testing, which is why it’s surprising that the blood spot test in particular has pretty mixed feedback from customers on Amazon.
A few buyers go as far as to claim that they had a test done with their doctor after this kit and got radically different results.
This is to be expected to an extent. Home test kits are never going to be as accurate as medical samples taken by professionals on site, because the conditions are less clinical at home, there are more variables generally and chances for contamination; still, that even a few have found their results to be so far out should give pause for thought.
The free testosterone kits get far better reviews, which is ironic considering saliva as a hormone marker still divides the scientific community. The official line from the American Association of American Endocrinologists for example recommends blood testing for conclusive reliable results, yet a review of the research on this topic in 2008, entitled ‘Current Status Of Salivary Hormone Analysis’ concluded that testing this fluid can be just as accurate.
We found 3 studies of note examining saliva’s reliability; 2 from the University of Buenos Aires and Saint Louis University respectively found a correlation between testosterone readings drawn from saliva and blood, but researchers from researchers from Case Western University found no link between saliva and serum testosterone in the course of their study.
Of course arguably the only way to be completely confident of reliable results, at least for the moment, is to go the traditional route and ask a doc. Depending on where you are in the world however, this can involve a few different hurdles.
Here we’ll give a quick overview of the process and costs involved with getting your testosterone tested around the globe.
Data shows that between the years of 1994 and 2003 testosterone prescriptions in the U.S rose by 1700% while they stayed largely static in the U.K and Europe, which is arguably a representation of an increased willingness on the part of the medical profession to test patients for low testosterone compared to other countries.
The nature of the healthcare system in America means you can request a testosterone test whenever you wish, however whether not your health insurance will cover it, if not for a specifically diagnosed complaint is dependent on your plan.
Opportunities to get tested have also increased thanks to the recent boom in commercially operated Testosterone Replacement Therapy clinics, however these remain prohibitively expensive and the testing is usually part of an extremely costly process you will be required to commit too in advance if results show that you are low.
U.K & Europe
The same study which reported a boom in the U.S found that testosterone prescriptions over the same period in Europe & the U.K stayed largely static. This is doubtless down to the state funded nature of many of the healthcare systems involved, particularly the NHS, where tests are likely to be ordered on the basis of need rather than curiosity.
However in most cases it is possible to access the private sector for tests. This usually requires a referral from a doctor, but as you’ll be covering the cost, this is rarely a problem. Blood work, which encompasses testosterone levels, are typically priced around £50-£60 in Britain and €70-€75 on the continent.
Australia is one place which has to a certain extent mirrored America’s rise in men seeking both testosterone testing and treatment.
Again this may be indicative of a more open minded attitude to testing from the medical profession, so it’s definitely worth asking your doc to see if they’re sympathetic.
Even if they won’t order the tests under the Medicare system in operation, we found plenty of examples of guys getting them by offering to cover the typically around $70 cost themselves.
What About Those Results?
The normal range of male testosterone is generally adjudged to be between 300 and 1070ng/dL. Below 300 is considered medically low T with 679 ng/dL being thought to be about average. But why settle for average?
New benefits of higher testosterone are being discovered all the time – everything from the more traditional stronger libido, greater stamina and muscle mass to the relatively newly linked improved mood, healthier heart and less chance of metabolic disease.
Why not do all you can to strive for the top end of your body’s natural, hormonal output, through regular exercise, healthy diet and a natural booster you can prove actually works.