The relationship between masturbation and testosterone is a hot topic of discussion that's surrounded by myths, misinformation, and outright lies.
Does masturbation decrease testosterone?
The short answer is, no - ejaculation from masturbation does not lower testosterone.
The long answer, though, is that it depends.
With the influence of religion and morality, many taboos have developed around masturbation and how it affects male health.
This article is will get right down to the science and clear the air on everything you need to know.
Let's do this.
Testosterone is the primary regulator of male libido1 2. .
A reduced desire for sex and a decreased frequency of erections are the most prominent symptoms of low testosterone.
But other than its role in fuelling your sex drive, testosterone also plays a part in determining your success in the mating game.
Although the link between testosterone and mating success is not causal - we can't prove that testosterone is directly responsible - there is evidence to suggest that high testosterone men have a reproductive advantage over their lower testosterone counterparts3.
In one study, 76 men were brought into a lab in pairs and instructed to compete for the attention of an attractive female confederate.
Across the board, pre-competition testosterone levels were associated with how much the woman indicated that she "clicked" with each man4.
The caveat is that these were the preferences of just one woman, i.e. we cannot extrapolate these results on to the entire population.
Women assess the attractiveness of a man based on whether their goal is short-term or long-term mating.
In one study, women's judgements of short-term mate attractiveness were directly related to a man's testosterone levels. Long-term mate attractiveness, on the other hand, was judged according to a man's score on the interest in infants test8
Hormones are your body's chemical messengers that stimulate specific cells and tissues into action. They are released and suppressed based on a number of different stimuli as your body strives to maintain homeostasis.
Ejaculation is a stimulus that triggers a cascade of hormonal reactions, one of which is a significant increase in prolactin.
Prolactin was originally named for its role in stimulating milk production in women after childbirth (lactation). Since then, researchers have found that it plays an important role in a number of reproductive, metabolic, and behavioral functions in both men and women.
Prolactin is important in our discussion because too much of it can actually suppress the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (a testosterone precursor), resulting in lower testosterone levels and even erectile dysfunction9.
Researcher Tillmann Krüger and his team have conducted a number of studies in the area of ejaculation and its effects on prolactin:
a) Various hormonal parameters were assessed in ten healthy men before, after, and during masturbation induced orgasm. Transient increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and nonadrenaline plasma were noted. Significant increases in prolactin were also noted, which remained elevated for up to 30-minutes after orgasm.10
b) In another study, Krüger and his team observed that the increase in prolactin is solely dependent on ejaculation and does not occur under the conditions of non-orgasmic arousal11
c) In yet another study, Krüger and his team found that variations in prolactin dictated their subjects' sexual desire - higher levels of prolactin suppressed sexual desire, while lower levels accentuated it12
d) And finally, in this last study, Krüger and his team theorized that the increase in prolactin after orgasm serves the function of suppressing further sexual desire13
One of the reasons that ejaculation has been suspected to negatively affect a man's health is due its effect on prolactin.
But although chronically elevated levels of prolactin can cause sexual dysfunction 14, ejaculation only results in acute increases of the hormone.
And prolactin inhibits sexual appetite not by inhibiting testosterone, but by acting antagonistically with dopamine - another key regulator of male libido.
I have a friend who's convinced that ejaculation lowers testosterone and causes impotence.
"Think about it," he tells me, "testosterone is made in your balls and rubbing one out completely empties your supply."
That would make sense if...
...sperm and testosterone were the same thing - which, of course, they're not.
My friend is not the only one who holds this belief.
Rumours abound and the question of how ejaculation affects testosterone is one that is frequently asked and heavily debated.
Here's what the research has to say:
a) In a study of seven healthy male subjects, ejaculation from masturbation failed to have a significant effect on testosterone levels15.
b) Hormonal parameters (adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, prolactin, luteinizing hormone and testosterone concentrations) were assessed in ten healthy male subjects before and after masturbation-induced orgasm. Although ejaculation increased blood pressure, heart rate, plasma catecholamines and prolactin, testosterone levels remained unaltered16.
c) In a study performed on male rats, being in the proximity of a female rat instantly increased testosterone, but ejaculation in itself held no correlation to testosterone17
In the short-term, masturbation does not affect testosterone.
But taken to the extreme, it can result in negative side-effects - as you'll learn in the next section.
Okay, so we've established that the acute effects of masturbation on testosterone are negligible.
But what about ejaculating to the point of sexual exhaustion?
The answer to this question has not been explored in human research, but animal studies reveal interesting results:
a) In male rats, ejaculating to the point of sexual satiety significantly reduced androgen receptor density in their brains19.
b) Not only does ejaculation to the point of exhaustion reduce androgen receptor density, but it also significantly increases estrogen receptor density20.
c) In yet another rat study, researchers looked at how four consecutive ejaculations impacted a rats' testosterone levels and androgen receptor density in the prostate. They found that testosterone levels elevated after two ejaculations and remained elevated above baseline after four ejaculations. Androgen receptor density in the prostate elevated after each subsequent ejaculation for up to three ejaculations, but immediately dropped after the fourth21.
So you might be wondering:
What is an androgen receptor?
Think of it like a lock and testosterone as the key - only by attaching to an androgen receptor site can testosterone begin to exert an influence.
The studies above show that ejaculating to the point of sexual satiety significantly reduces androgen receptor density in the brain (in rats).
Though the impact of ejaculation on testosterone is negligible, excessive ejaculation makes it so that testosterone is unable to exert an influence.
Furthermore, estrogen receptor density is increased, i.e. estrogen increases its influence.
Abstinence from sex is common practice in boxing - there's a belief that ejaculation saps aggression while abstinence builds it up.
Muhammad Ali was said to hold-out for up to 6-weeks before a fight.
Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao's trainer, tells his fighters to abstain for at least 10-days before a fight.
Mike Tyson apparently went 5-years without having sex when he was up-and-coming.
This practice is nothing new - abstinence from sex has been recommended to fighters since the time of the ancient Greeks.
As it turns out, modern science actually lends some credence to this:
a) Ten healthy men were brought into a lab and assessed for their testosterone levels before and after a 3-week period of sexual abstinence. Across the board, the 3-weeks of abstinence significantly elevated the subjects' testosterone levels22.
b) 28 healthy male volunteers were brought into a lab and instructed to abstain from sexual activity for 7-days. Blood samples were collected everyday. On the 7th day, the average increase in T was noted to be 145.7% above baseline23.
c) 83 impotent men were screened for their hormonal concentrations before and after receiving various treatments for their condition. In men that resumed normal sexual activity after 3-months of treatment, testosterone levels made a dramatic rise. In men that did not resume sexual activity, testosterone levels remained unchanged24.
At this point, we've established that ejaculation does not impact testosterone levels over the short-term.
Ejaculating to the point of sexual exhaustion, however, may reduce androgen receptor density, which then reduces the body's ability to utilize testosterone.
And all of this leads us to the question:
What about sex?
Here's some research:
a) 44 male volunteers were assessed for their salivary testosterone levels during their time at a sex club. 26 of these men watched other people having sex while 18 of them engaged in the act. The average increase in testosterone across both groups was 36% - 72% in the men who had sex and 11% in the men who merely watched.25.
b) Testosterone levels were assessed in 4 heterosexual couples on 22 different evenings. On half of those evenings, the couples had sex. On the other half, they abstained. Across the board, both the men and women had higher testosterone levels on the nights that they had sex26.
c) A cross-sectional study in men over 60 years old revealed that those with higher levels of sexual activity had significantly higher levels of testosterone27.
Physiologically, there is no difference between ejaculation from sex and ejaculation from masturbation.
Psychologically, however, there is:
Pheromones, interpersonal feelings, dominance, touch, etc. are all factors involved with sex that aren't involved in masturbation, and these are the factors that cause testosterone to increase during sex and not during masturbation.
NoFap is an online community and forum that serves to support men in their pursuit of abstaining from masturbation and porn.
Browse around the forums at reddit.com/r/NoFap and you'll find a plethora of testimonials from men who've successfully broken the habit of masturbating and seen a radical positive shift in their lives as a result.
Personally, I've seen a massive increase in my quality of life since making the decision to finally quit jerking off to internet porn. Some of the many benefits I've experienced include an increased consistency with my content creation, being more disciplined with my nutrition, and overall I've developed an increased enthusiasm and energy towards life.
As we talked about earlier, short-term abstinence causes a significant increase in testosterone levels - which could be part of the reason why NoFap is so powerful.
In the words of 20th century success philosopher Napoleon Hill:
"Sex is one of the greatest of all forces which motivate human beings. Because of this fact it is also one of the most dangerous forces. If humans would control their sex desires and transmute them into a driving force with which to carry on their occupation - that is, if they spent on their work one half the time they dissipate in pursuit of sex, they would never know poverty."
Does this mean that one should abstain from sex altogether?
No. In the words of Hill, the desire for sex is a force that should be understood, mastered, and made to serve you. He goes on to write that the greatest damage of an over-indulgence of sex is that it depletes the source of man's creative energy and dissipates the energy needed to maintain physical health.
The power of the emotion of sex is evident given that porn is, in large part, what initially drove the widespread of the internet.
But ask yourself:
Is fapping to internet porn a natural and healthy expression of your desire for sex?
If you answered yes, then stop reading right now and never return to this website again.
If you answered no, then you've either already quit masturbating to internet porn or you've tried to but find yourself relapsing.
Masturbating to porn literally rewires your brain and depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you are, it can be difficult to quit. If that is the case with you, I suggest joining a reboot challenge over at NoFap.com or reddit.com/r/NoFap. Being part of a community and accountability group is a proven way to significantly increase your chances of success.
NoFap is a journey and you may find yourself at battle with yourself. Your lower self will constantly try to justify why it's alright for you to fap while your higher self will whisper that you need to stop. Your success in this journey (and life for that matter) will depend on which voice you listen to.
We've just gone over a bunch of research on how masturbation affects testosterone levels in men.
Here are the main takeaways:
I've done my best to provide an unbiased, fact-based answer to the question of how masturbation affects testosterone levels in men.
What's your view on the topic of masturbation and testosterone?
Have you tried NoFap?
If so, what benefits did you experience?
Let me know in the comments below.
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