Does Masturbation Decrease Testosterone Levels? Dispelling the Myth

Does Masturbation Decrease Testosterone Levels? The Endocrine Response to Sexual Activity

Testosterone is the principal androgenic anabolic steroid in men and women. While it's normal for testosterone production to decline as we grow older, the connection between sexual activity, masturbation, and testosterone levels is somewhat nebulous. Naturally, many people — especially men — wonder, "Does masturbation decrease testosterone levels?"

Or maybe we should consider the converse, "Will abstaining from masturbation and sexual activity increase testosterone levels?" To help answer these questions, this article will summarize salient takeaways from research on masturbation and testosterone.

Masturbation Lowers Testosterone: Myth or Fact?

The "No Fap" movement in recent years seems to espouse the idea that masturbation and testosterone levels are negatively correlated; in other words, the more a man masturbates, the lower his serum testosterone levels will be. This notion is discordant with what research has found; masturbating a few times per month or having regular sex is generally beneficial for endocrine (and prostate) health [1, 2].

Regardless, there is a putative dose-response relationship between masturbation and testosterone levels [3]. And just like anything, overdoing it will come with consequences, just like not doing it enough will.

But as of now, clinical trials of healthy men have shown a generally positive correlation or no correlation between plasma testosterone levels and sexual activity (e.g. intercourse and masturbation) [4, 5]. Research has also shown that female testosterone levels exhibit a similar response to sexual arousal/activity [6].

Alas, masturbation — a nearly universal safe sexual activity that transcends societal boundaries and geography — continues to be met with stigma in modern society. The moral, religious, and cultural aspects of fulfilling sexual desire through masturbation-induced orgasm have created a phenomenon of "masturbatory guilt," where individuals experience mental strife after self-pleasure. Hence, excessive masturbation could reduce testosterone levels indirectly.

Does Sexual Abstinence Increase Testosterone Levels?

Along with the assumption that masturbation lowers testosterone, some people believe sexual abstinence increases testosterone. But is there any truth to this?

One study found that men who didn't masturbate or have sex for seven consecutive days had a modest increase in testosterone, but after that, no further increase was observed [7]. Thus, abstaining from sex/masturbation for extended periods will not increase testosterone production. By the same token, routine sexual activity will not lower testosterone levels.

The association between sexual function and serum testosterone level is generally positive in men and women.

Other Myths About Testosterone

Read on to make sure you don't fall into any (more) of these mythical pitfalls about boosting testosterone:

Myth: TRT is the best way to boost testosterone

Ironically, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is the best way to reduce your natural testosterone production. As you will learn in our Guide to TRT, exogenous testosterone treatment suppresses the body's biological mechanisms for creating endogenous testosterone.

When you're on TRT, the body becomes dependent on the testosterone injections/patches/creams you're using. So it's not really boosting endogenous testosterone levels; rather, it's artificially replacing the testosterone your body produces.

Myth: Eating a high-cholesterol or high-fat diet increases testosterone levels

There is next-to-no evidence to suggest a high-cholesterol or high-fat diet is beneficial for testosterone levels. This is a misconception based on the premise that cholesterol is the precursor to all steroid hormones in the human body.

In fact, a recent systematic review of studies found that chronic high-fat diets may negatively impact testosterone levels in men [8]. Though, some data shows that moderate consumption of specific types of fats, like those found in extra-virgin olive oil, can be beneficial for androgen profiles in men [9]. 

Myth: Soy (protein) lowers testosterone and increases estrogen in men

Another of the many myths surrounding soy, this fallacy has been debunked repeatedly in clinical studies of men consuming upwards of 50 g of soy protein per day [10]. 

If anything, eating some soy protein can be beneficial for heart and metabolic function due to the unique isoflavones in soy [11]. However, it's best to limit soy protein intake to 30 grams or less per day, particularly for men.

Myth: Taking medication for erectile dysfunction boosts testosterone

While low testosterone and erectile dysfunction (ED) are linked, taking ED medication like sildenafil or tadalafil won't increase testosterone. These medications work by counteracting underlying physiological or psychological problems that may perturb blood flow to the penis.

What Are the Signs of Low Testosterone?

So, you hit the gym daily and eat a healthy diet, but you're still struggling to lose fat and build muscle for whatever reason. You also notice your sex drive has been in the gutter, and it's hard to "keep it up" in the sack. 

What gives?

Well, would it surprise you to know that low testosterone is associated with all of the above? Low testosterone is a significant risk factor for impotence, metabolic dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, and all-cause mortality [12, 13].

As you can see, testosterone is a veritable fountain of youth. Even rudimentary daily activities can become quite a task with low testosterone levels.

Sure, an occasional "lazy day" where all you want to do is lounge on the couch can be a nice hiatus for all of us, but when that becomes habitual, something is wrong. Just think about how enthusiastic, energetic, and easily excitable you and your peers were in your teenage years. It's no coincidence that testosterone levels tend to peak in our late teens to early twenties. 

But being older doesn't mean you can't feel like your younger self again. If anything, age is just a number, and it sure as heck isn't an excuse to be out of shape! Optimizing your testosterone levels can not only add years to your life but life to your years. 

--> Read more on how to boost your natural testosterone levels

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