You have probably heard of famous athletes and successful men who have abstained from masturbation and sex for long periods in order to boost their performance and success.
One of the main reasons behind doing so is the belief that masturbation may “drain” your testosterone (T) levels since T is made in the testes, and during ejaculation, you are dumping the contents away.
Yet, research on the topic is scarce, despite its popularity. And the available studies suggest the overall effect of masturbation on testosterone levels may be neither positive nor negative.
On the other hand, the effect of sex on testosterone appears to be mostly positive, and men with higher testosterone levels often have increased sexual desire as well.
In this article, we will discuss how sexual activities such as masturbation affect testosterone and whether abstaining from ejaculation may have any benefits for your T levels.
How does ejaculation affect testosterone?
One of the concerns regarding the effects of masturbation on testosterone levels is the fact that sexual tension and desire are reduced after an orgasm, which is often associated with low T.
Yet, ejaculation itself does not appear to have an immediate effect on testosterone, according to research. T levels may actually increase during sexual intercourse, but they remain unchanged before, during and after the orgasm.
A trial in 10 men also showed that ejaculation during masturbation had no effects on their testosterone. Animal studies in primates also do not show any change in T levels following ejaculation.
Ejaculation may even help maintain normal T levels by reducing stress levels. Certain types of stress, such as anticipatory stress, can lower T levels in men.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any studies reporting on the long-term effects of ejaculation during masturbation
However, research on T levels in older men reports that those who have sex more frequently (and therefore ejaculate more often) tend to have higher testosterone levels than the other participants.
It’s important to note that the long-term increase in T levels in these men may be due to the frequent ejaculations but also due to the psychological effects of sex, such as feelings for intimacy, success, and dominance which are usually missing during masturbation.
Therefore, it remains unclear whether masturbation may have any long-term effects on testosterone in men.
Can masturbation decrease testosterone levels in men?
Despite the fact that the evidence is scarce, both human and animal studies suggest that masturbation and ejaculation do not decrease testosterone levels in the short term.
However, experiments in rodents report that the frequency of ejaculation may influence the response of the body to testosterone.
One study in male rats found that having 1-2 ejaculations in a short time span had a boosting effect on the testosterone receptors in their bodies. On the other hand, four or more had the opposite effect and reduced the receptors’ activity.
Therefore, the researchers suggested that too many ejaculations can lead to sexual exhaustion and lower the responsiveness of your receptors to T levels.
Other animal studies also confirm these results, reporting both a decline in testosterone receptors and an increase in estrogen receptors in rats following multiple ejaculations.
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How much testosterone is in semen?
Normally, semen contains testosterone alongside other hormones such as estrogens, luteinizing hormone (LH), and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Testosterone is the main hormone found in semen because the testes produce large amounts of it, and it is mandatory for normal sperm growth and development.
In fact, your intratesticular T levels are much higher than the testosterone levels in your blood, so the fact that some amounts of the hormone will pass into your semen cannot influence your serum levels.
On the other hand, synthetic testosterone that’s administered via medications will not pass into your sperm.
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can be administered via pills, intramuscular injections, subcutaneous implants, and gels, so it cannot affect intratesticular T levels. Even if a transdermal patch or gel is applied to the scrotum, the TRT dosage is much lower than the normal intratesticular levels in healthy men.
In fact, men who take synthetic testosterone may experience lower intratesticular T levels and, therefore, lower amounts of the hormone in their semen.
That’s because exogenous testosterone suppresses the normal synthesis of T in the testes, and in some cases, it may even lead to infertility.
What are the benefits of not ejaculating?
Avoiding ejaculation, such as by abstaining from sexual activity, is a practice that is purported to provide both mental and physical benefits, including improved athletic performance, more stamina, better self-control, increased confidence, and more.
Most of those alleged benefits are based on the belief that semen retention can significantly increase testosterone levels.
However, the evidence on the long-term effects of not ejaculating and semen retention is limited. Currently, only one study has shown that abstinence can lead to a significant increase in male T levels.
The trial was conducted in 28 male patients who abstained from ejaculation for several days, and there was a significant 145% spike in testosterone levels only on the 7th day, which was then followed by a return of T back to normal.
A longer trial, which involved three weeks of abstinence, showed only a minor increase in testosterone. Furthermore, even longer studies that lasted up to 3 months reported that such periods led to a dramatic decrease rather than an increase in T levels.
It’s important to note that the last study was conducted in infertile men, so there could be other factors influencing those results as well.
On the other hand, maintaining high sexual arousal and edging without ejaculation may increase T levels in men. One study of men visiting a sex club showed that watching sexual acts in person led to an 11% increase in testosterone levels.
However, it is important to note that those who participated in the act and reached an orgasm achieved an even higher peak in their testosterone levels – a 72% increase on average.
Are there any side effects of not ejaculating?
Sexual abstinence and semen retention are not dangerous for men and their health. From a health standpoint, there is no limit to how long one can go without ejaculating, and holding your sperm for too long does not pose any risks to your well-being.
Your testes form sperm all the time, and the sperm cells that do not get ejaculated will get broken down and reabsorbed by your body.
Therefore, many men practice semen retention or abstinence due to personal, religious, or spiritual reasons without any health risk
However, when practicing it in an attempt to increase testosterone, it is important to consider that research also shows an increase in T levels after regular sex.
For example, one study on couples reported that men had significantly higher testosterone levels on the nights that they had sex compared to the nights spent in abstinence.
Therefore, semen retention is a safe practice and a personal choice but not necessarily the most effective strategy to increase your testosterone levels.
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