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Ranking the best natural steroid alternatives of 2021

Natural steroids are herbal extracts or supplements that can help you gain muscle and increase your strength and performance without the legal and health risks of steroid drugs. Many of them are testosterone boosters as well.

On paper, “real” steroids look great—they help you pack on muscle and boost your vitality. But then there’s the health effects and the legality issues.

Natural steroids offer many of the same advantages, but without these downsides. They’re not quite as effective, of course, but that’s part of the trade-off.

A natural steroid can target your body’s natural muscle-boosting processes to enhance or amplify them, helping you gain the benefit of your workouts more effectively.

The right natural steroid can lead to bigger muscles, heavier lifts, and greater virility and vigor. Not all natural steroids are equal, though—some are far more likely to lead to muscle gains than others.

Our research team has combed through the scientific literature to determine the best natural steroids you can get.

Rankings

IMAGE PRODUCT

Best Overall

1. CrazyBulk Bulking Stack

  • Fast muscle gains
  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Boosts the body’s natural reserves of free testosterone
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For cutting

maxgains bulking stack

2. The Max Gains Bulking Stack

  • Designed to get you bigger
  • Safest and effective
  • Natural ingredients
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for Testosterone

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  • Powerful herbs to boost androgen levels
  • Reliable herbal supplement for natural steroids
  • Highest-quality ingredients
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for Men Over 40

ON ZMA

  • Increases muscle and power gains
  • Enhances your recovery
  • Improves your sleep quality
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  • Widely used for muscular gains
  • Improves your sex drive
  • Increases workout recovery
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5. Jacked Factory AndroSurge

  • Effective androgen boosting supplement
  • Keeps testosterone and growth hormone levels high
  • All-natural
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  • Boosts the level of hormones
  • Restores their sex drive, libido, virility, and energy
  • Highest-quality ingredients
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7. Prime Labs Testo Xplode

  • Boosts testosterone levels without relying on a prescription steroid
  • Builds muscle and burn fat
  • Boosts performance with tribulus
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  • Lean muscle gains
  • Body fat losses
  • Combination of caffeine and theobromine
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1. CrazyBulk Bulking Stack

Crazy Bulk

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If you’re looking to seriously bulk up and transform your body, then you need the very best natural steroid alternative on the market.

Enter the CrazyBulk Bulking Stack, and specifically, D-BAL (Dianabol). If you are looking for serious strength gains, coupled with rapid recovery, then CrazyBulk is what we recommend.

D-Bal is best for fast muscle gains, increasing strength, reducing muscle soreness, stripping body fat, and boosting the body’s natural reserves of free testosterone.

Each bottle comes with a 30 day supply. It’s designed to mimic the powerful gains seen with real Dianabol, the granddaddy of steroids. This natural alternative contains only legal, natural, proven ingredients to help you boost muscle strength and recover fast.

The main ingredient in this powerhouse product is an herb called Ashwagandha, a powerful ingredient that has had people raving about it for a long time now.

This is the best all-around steroid alternative on the market right now.

2. The Max Gains Bulking Stack

maxgains bulking stack

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If you’re looking to put on serious size then you’re looking for the Max Gains Building Stack, designed to get you leaner, stronger, and bigger.

This powerful stack is three supplements that work together for undeniable results: Anadroxin for increasing muscle mass and strength, Clenbulen for builds strength and lean muscles and gets rid of body fat, and Venabol for massive gains in muscle size, mass, strength, and endurance.

It’s hands-down the safest, most effective way to build: Natural ingredients. No harmful side effects. No prescriptions needed.

Best of all, it’s been proven to work for both beginners and seasoned pros, and it’s easy to fit into your high-powered workout schedule.

3. Zhou Boost Elite 

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Look no further than Zhou Nutrition if you want a reliable herbal supplement for natural steroids.

Boost Elite has got the basics, like zinc, as well as powerful herbs to boost androgen levels, like Tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, and fenugreek seed extract.

On top of this, it’s got a few ingredients you may not find in other supplements that could augment the hormone-promoting effects of the supplement.

4. Optimum Nutrition ZMA

ON ZMA

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ZMA is a classic combination supplement of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6 that was originally developed to increase muscle and power gains in football players.

Bodybuilders mostly use it now to improve recovery while you’re sleeping–by boosting testosterone and growth hormone levels, you enhance your recovery and improve your sleep quality.

5. Havasu Nutrition DHEA

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DHEA, short for Dehydroepiandrosterone, is technically a steroid, but it’s one you can get legally over the counter. It’s a precursor to testosterone, and it’s widely used for muscular gains, improving your sex drive, and increasing workout recovery.

While it’s not as potent as straight-up testosterone, it’s effective enough that it’s banned by most professional sports organizations as a performance-enhancing compound.

If you compete in sports with performance-enhancing compound policies, DHEA is a no-go. Of the DHEA supplements on the market, Havasu Nutrition makes the best.

6. Jacked Factory AndroSurge

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While it’s only got a few active ingredients, AndroSurge is still lauded as an effective androgen boosting supplement thanks to diindolylmethane, rhodiola root extract, and eurycoma.

It’s got some basics, too, like zinc and vitamin D, which will help keep testosterone and growth hormone levels high if you have a deficiency.

7. Zhou Horny Goat Weed

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When most people think of steroids, they are thinking of putting on muscle. But for many men, boosting the level of hormones like testosterone and HGH is the means by which they hope to restore their sex drive, libido, virility, and energy.

Horny goat weed is a supplement that’s especially helpful for men with this goal, as it’s thought to similarly boost energy and libido.

Zhou Nutrition makes a great horny goat weed supplement, thanks to its inclusion of other hormone-boosting compounds like Tribulus terrestris and saw palmetto.

8. Prime Labs Testo Xplode

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Well-renowned for its testosterone-boosting abilities among bodybuilders, Testo Xplode is a good option for anyone looking to boost testosterone levels without relying on a prescription steroid.

It uses saw palmetto, horny goat weed, longjack, and other herbal ingredients to target testosterone levels. It doesn’t have zinc or magnesium, which would be better for overall hormone levels, but it’s still a solid pick.

9. Modern Man V3

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Modern Man aims to recreate the effects of testosterone—namely, lean muscle gains and body fat losses. It uses a combination of caffeine and theobromine to achieve the fat burning effects; these two compounds work synergistically to increase fat metabolism to promote body fat loss.

Withania somnifera extract, forskolin, and eurycoma make up the herbal compounds—these may have a mild testosterone boosting effect, but they aren’t the most powerful natural steroid alternatives on the market.

Category winners

Best natural steroid alternative overall: CrazyBulk Bulking Stack

For all-around versatility, it’s hard to beat CrazyBulk Bulking Stack when it comes to giving your body the ingredients it needs to produce anabolic hormones. From muscle synthesis to sustaining high androgen levels, CrazyBulk meets all your needs.

Best natural steroid alternative for testosterone: Zhou Boost Elite

Zhou includes natural minerals and herbal extracts that work together to sustain high levels of testosterone. With zinc, tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, and fenugreek seed, to name just a few key ingredients, it’s your best bet for sustaining high testosterone naturally.

Best natural steroid alternative for bulking: CrazyBulk Bulking Stack

As the name suggests, CrazyBulk Bulking Stack is custom-built for putting on muscle as fast as possible. Its multi-supplement formulation is designed to stimulate all the same metabolic pathways you’d get on a steroid stack, so it’s your best option for a natural bulk.

Best natural steroid alternative for cutting: The Max Gains Bulking Stack

To sustain an effective cut, The Max Gains focuses on supplying androgen-boosting steroid alternatives like DHEA and wild yam. It’s your best option once you’ve turned your attention to shedding fat while retaining muscle mass. 

Best natural steroid alternative for men over 40: Zhou Boost Elite

Men over 40 face decreasing testosterone levels, which impedes their ability to sustain strength gains. Zhou Boost Elite attacks this problem directly with a multi-ingredient strategy for naturally boosting testosterone and sustaining muscle mass. 

Best natural steroid alternative for bodybuilding: CrazyMass P-MB ELITE

For a one-capsule solution for taking your bodybuilding to the next level, CrazyMass P-MB ELITE is the way to go. It has cutting-edge ingredients like deer antler velvet extract and ornithine, which aim to naturally support high levels of human growth hormone, or HGH.

Who should buy natural steroid alternatives?

If you are focused on getting as strong as possible and gaining as much muscle mass as possible, you’re bound to bump up against your body’s natural limit at some point.

A natural steroid alternative is category of supplement that can help you push past these limitations and increase your strength and muscle mass gains.

They combine plants and herbal extracts that are thought to boost testosterone, increase human growth hormone, and accelerate muscle repair and synthesis. 

If you don’t want to deal with the potential health risks and legal issues surrounding actual steroids, a natural steroid alternative might be a good supplement to consider.

They’re also well-suited for people who are searching for supplements that can increase strength gains from weight lifting, and increase muscle mass a bit beyond what your normal capacity would be.

Athletes who compete in sports that use drug testing standards may want to think twice about natural steroid alternatives, because while they do not contain actual steroids, some products do contain precursors, like DHEA, that are still on banned substances lists.

Of course, some people find this one of the attractive aspects of natural steroids alternatives: including ingredients like DHEA, a testosterone precursor, is seen as evidence that natural steroid alternatives actually do increase levels of endogenous steroids.

How we ranked

For our natural steroid ingredient rankings, we only considered supplements that had ingredients with a proven track record of boosting hormones or natural steroids linked to gains in muscle mass or athletic performance.

This included ingredients like DHEA, a testosterone precursor, horny goat weed, which is used to boost testosterone and other androgens, as well as more fundamental ingredients like zinc and magnesium, plus some of the more cutting edge ingredients like DIM and rhodiola.

These ingredients don’t have quite as much research supporting their use, but they do have some very promising preliminary research that suggests they could augment muscle gains.

We sought to have balance in our rankings between newer and flashier ingredients with early but promising research, and tried and true formulations like ZMA.

Whether you want to go with an older and more reliable formulation or a newer and potentially more useful one depends on your risk/payoff preferences, which will vary from person to person, which is why we have supplements at a range of points along this spectrum on our rankings. 

We had a strong preference for supplements that were direct and up front with their ingredients: most products that hide some or all of their ingredients behind a “proprietary blend” got dropped from consideration.

Among those remaining, we looked for supplements that used doses of their active ingredients that corresponded to the dosages used in scientific studies that successfully used these ingredients to either augment performance or increase levels of specific hormones in the body.

Finally, we applied our usual criteria of purity and clean supplement design: we axed anything with too many binders, fillers, and artificial coloring agents.

The result? The top-performing natural alternatives to steroids for people who are looking to build muscle, get stronger, and perform better.

Benefits

Natural steroid alternatives are designed to mimic the benefits of real steroids. If you want the benefits of a real steroid without the negative health effects and legal issues, you’ll want to know more about natural steroid alternatives.

True steroids target your body’s muscle building process by directly providing more steroids and hormones that build muscle.

Natural steroid alternatives, on the other hand, do so indirectly: they provide the building blocks that your body uses to synthesize steroids and hormones, or they enhance biological processes that improve the efficacy of the natural steroids your body already makes.

The fact of the matter is that no natural steroid alternative is going to outperform a prescription-grade anabolic agent, but you can still reap many of the same benefits using a natural steroid alternative, on a lesser scale, without worrying about the health effects.

Broadly speaking, people seek two related goals when they try to boost levels of anabolic steroids and hormones in their body. They are either seeking to improve muscle growth and recovery, or enhance virility, libido, and sex drive (or both).

Hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone directly improve your wellness on both of these fronts. The natural steroid alternatives that work the best will be the ones that are most successful at boosting anabolic hormone levels.

Taking mineral supplements with zinc and magnesium can boost testosterone. When you think about natural steroid alternatives, the first thing that springs to mind is usually obscure herbal extracts, but the scientific research indicates that many people should start with the basics.

Deficiencies in zinc and magnesium have been connected to lower levels of testosterone and growth hormone. One study, published in 1996 in the scientific journal Nutrition, found that zinc levels in the blood were positively correlated with testosterone levels (1).

Similar work published in 2014 in the International Journal of Endocrinology found that magnesium levels are strongly related to testosterone levels too (2).

In both cases, the prevalence of mineral deficiencies and decreased testosterone increased with age. This means that older adults should pay particularly close attention to their mineral intake, and consider a supplement such as ZMA to increase zinc and magnesium levels.

DHEA is the strongest steroid alternative you can buy over the counter. DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, and scientific research indicates that it can substantially boost testosterone levels.

One review study published in the journal Urologic Clinics of North America described an experiment in which men taking a 300 mg DHEA supplement experienced a 34% increase in testosterone levels compared to a placebo group (3).

The same study warns that many lower quality DHEA supplements have not taken the requisite steps to ensure that the active ingredient is actually biologically available.

Many supplements that source DHEA from plants, such as wild yam, do not process DHEA in the correct way. As such, these supplements are essentially worthless, since your body can’t make use of the DHEA.

In addition to its testosterone boosting abilities, DHEA may be able to aid erectile dysfunction. The same research above cited emerging experiments that indicate that DHEA in small doses may be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, though higher quality studies are needed.

Tribulus terrestris is great for libido, but not for muscle gains. The herbal extract Tribulus terrestris is a common ingredient in many natural steroids, with manufacturers claiming that users can experience significant gains in muscle mass and muscular strength, as well as improvements in libido.

However, scientific research into the performance benefits of Tribulus terrestris for athletes has been disappointing.

One study at Southern Cross University Lismore in Australia looked at the effects of a Tribulus terrestris supplement on muscle mass and strength in rugby players over the course of a season (4).

The researchers found no effect of the supplement compared to a placebo. A similar study was conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska on weightlifters, and again found no benefits in terms of strength gain from a Tribulus terrestris supplement (4).

However, there is some research that indicates Tribulus terrestris may be useful for increasing libido and combating erectile dysfunction.

Research in animals has demonstrated a consistent effect of Tribulus terrestris on a wide range of measures of sexual function, though research in humans is limited to date (5).

Ginseng supplements are strong performance enhancers. A comprehensive review on the performance-enhancing effects of a wide range of herbal supplements published by Luke Bucci in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition cited ginseng (specifically ginseng varieties native to Asia) as consistent performance-enhancers in clinical studies (6).

As long as the dosage is high enough and the duration of the study is long enough, Asian ginsengs appear to show consistent improvements in athletic performance, whether it’s muscular strength, speed, or endurance.

For athletes in training, ginseng might be the best legal steroid alternative you can get.

Rhodiola can directly benefit both strength and endurance performance. Rhodiola rosea is a plant whose herbal extract has been intensely studied as a potential performance enhancer for athletes.

You’ll find it in some of the more cutting-edge natural steroid alternative supplements on the market, and for good reason: evidence is accumulating that indicates that it is an effective way to boost both endurance and strength performance. A study published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness demonstrates the typical effects (7).

Fourteen trained men took a rhodiola supplement for four weeks, then had their cardiovascular function assessed in a standard athletic test. The experiment was repeated on the same men, but using a placebo instead.

The results showed lower levels of lactate and lower markers of muscle damage when the men were taking the rhodiola supplement compared to when they were taking the placebo.

A systematic review study published in the journal Phytomedicine in 2011. The study reviewed all of the randomized rhodiola supplement trials published to date, evaluating them on their quality and efficacy (8).

The results of this meta-analysis found that rhodiola supplement had benefits on both physical and mental performance, and encouraged further research into the topic.

While research is still ongoing, you’ll find rhodiola in some of the natural steroid alternatives on our list thanks to the promise from this initial evidence.

Side Effects

One of the advantages of natural steroid alternatives is that they do not appear to carry the same side effect profile as actual steroids. Still, since these compounds do alter your hormone chemistry, there is a risk of side effects with some natural steroid alternatives.

Excessive use of DHEA, for example, has been connected to an increase in estrogen (a female sex hormone), which can impair performance and lead to conditions like gynecomastia.

With the more powerful legal steroid alternatives, you should stick to the dosage levels established by scientific studies.

Saw palmetto, an herbal extract often found in natural steroid alternatives, has been reported to have a blood-thinning effect, which can lead to serious problems if you take it before surgery (9).

Other supplements, such as Tribulus terrestris, have not had any adverse effects reported across numerous clinical studies.

Recommended Dosage

With any natural steroid alternative, the best bet is to stick to the dosage recommendations established in scientific research (like 1 gram per day of ginseng, or 100-300 mg per day of DHEA), or in the case of multi-ingredient supplements, what is recommended by the manufacturer.

If you aren’t getting the results you want, it’s better to try a different supplement than to increase the dosage. As discussed earlier, side effects are more likely to show up when you exceed the recommended dosage.

Given the variety of natural steroid alternatives available, it’s better to try something else than to push the limits with high doses.

FAQ

Q: What is a natural steroid? 

A: A “natural steroid” is a bit of a vague definition, because it comes from the supplement industry, not scientific research.

Generally, you can expect a supplement branded as a natural steroid to target some of the same biological mechanisms that would be targeted by real (anabolic) steroids and androgens like winstrol, nandrolone, testosterone, and human growth hormone.

Of course, even real steroids are, in some sense, “natural,” but in the context of supplements, the term “natural” usually refers to compounds derived from plant extracts that can also generate strength and muscle mass gains.

Clearly, you’re not going to get gains of the same magnitude as you would with a real steroid, but natural steroids may not pose the same health threats as 

Q: What supplement is the closest thing to steroids? 

A: In terms of the most similar chemical analogue, it’s hard to argue with DHEA—it’s a direct precursor to testosterone, and it can be purchased over the counter.

DHEA is also on many lists of officially prohibited substances, such as the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substance list, due to its chemical proximity to testosterone.

In isolation, research is conflicting on to what extent DHEA actually boosts testosterone levels, but it’s still one of the best over the counter steroid alternatives.

DHEA is arguably not “natural,” since it isn’t a plant or herbal extract, so if you are strictly sticking to natural compounds, you may want to try formulations that use compounds like Rhodiola rosea or horny goat weed instead.

Q: What foods contain steroids? 

A: To get steroids in food, you need to turn to animal products: beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy all have detectable levels of natural steroids, and indeed the proportion of steroids in these foods was the subject of a 1998 study in the journal Food Chemistry (10).

Beef and eggs are significant sources of androgens (e.g. testosterone) compared to other foods in the typical diet, but they also supply estrogens like progesterone.

Plant-based foods contain no detectable amounts of steroids, which makes sense because anabolic steroids were developed specifically for animal physiology.

The important takeaway from the 1998 Food Chemistry paper isn’t that you can get steroids from meat, eggs, and dairy, though; it’s that the levels of steroids in foods are trivial compared to the amount your body can produce naturally.

You aren’t likely to get any tangible benefit from steroids in food; you’ll need to generate an anabolic hormone profile through an alternative method to boost your strength and muscle mass. 

Q: Is turmeric a natural steroid? 

A: Some nutrition experts compare the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric or its active compound, curcumit, to steroids, but it’s important to understand the context here.

The steroids being referenced with regards to the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric are corticosteroids, which are completely different than anabolic steroids.

Corticosteroids modulate your body’s immune system and inflammatory response; anabolic steroids modulate your body’s muscle synthesis.

Turmeric, while it is a great supplement, is not known to induce any muscle synthesis, at least as understood by current scientific research. 

Q: What are some healthy alternatives to steroids? 

A: While steroids can be very effective at building muscle, they also carry the potential for some very real side effects. Fortunately, some easy alternatives exist that are much safer, albeit somewhat less effective.

Some men who would like to boost their testosterone levels, for example, could see significant gains just from a zinc or magnesium supplement: deficiencies in these minerals have been associated with low testosterone levels, particularly in older men.

To improve exercise performance, beet supplements are a very effective and very safe way to accomplish that goal. If strength gains are your priority, BCAAs or even a run of the mill whey protein supplement can increase muscle synthesis and reduce muscle damage, leading to better workout results.

If your goal is the kind of lean and muscular physique that steroids can help create, a fat burner for men could do the trick as well. Whatever your goal, there are healthier, natural alternatives to steroids that can help you achieve it.

You may not get the magnitude or rate of results that you’d get with a real steroid, but it’s a small price to pay to not have to deal with all of the headaches of using actual steroids.

Q: What steroid alternatives work?

A: Some of the most effective alternatives to steroids are also the most simple: boosting testosterone can be as easy as upping your zinc and magnesium intake, for example.

You can get more sophisticated with DHEA, which is a chemical precursor to testosterone (though arguably, because of its chemical structure, may not be a “steroid alternative” at all) and is thought to boost testosterone levels directly.

For muscle synthesis, there is a pretty substantial body of evidence indicating that L-arginine supplements are an effective way to up-regulate muscle repair and increases in muscle fiber size.

For increasing muscle mass, it’s also hard to argue with the success of creatine: it is both safe and very effective. When combined with supplemental protein, you can make a lot of gains in muscle mass, especially if you are a relative beginner.

For more experienced athletes and weightlifters, a more advanced supplement like HMB might be what you need to push past your current plateau and increase muscle mass and power.

Regardless of the route you choose, there are several natural steroid alternatives that have solid evidence supporting their efficacy. 

Related articles

Recap

Natural steroid alternatives offer some of the same benefits of true steroids: improvements in muscle strength, athletic performance, libido, and sexual function.

However, they do so without the legal and health consequences that can come along with true steroid drugs.

Something as simple as a supplement that provides zinc and magnesium can boost your anabolic hormone levels, but better improvements can come with herbal extracts like Tribulus terrestris for sexual function and ginseng or DHEA for athletic performance.

Natural steroid alternatives can be an effective part of a program to push the envelope of performance and health for those who seek it.

For BodyNutrition‘s #1 natural steroid alternative recommendation, click here.

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