masturbation and bodybuilding

“Does masturbation affect muscle growth?”

After having received this question on a near weekly basis over the past 10 years of publishing online fitness content (often accompanied by unwanted intimate details of the individual’s personal masturbation schedule) I figured it was time to just devote a blog post to it once and for all.

The basic fear that most guys have here is pretty straightforward: they’re worried that masturbation will lead to a decrease in their natural testosterone levels, and that since testosterone is the primary muscle building hormone in the body, their size and strength gains will be negatively affected as a result.

But is there any truth to this, and should it be a legitimate issue of concern for those looking to build muscle, gain strength and burn fat?

The Truth About Masturbation And Muscle Growth

Before I go any further, I just want to establish the following…

This primary aim of this post is to specifically address whether or not masturbation and ejaculation have any direct, measurable effect on one’s ability to build muscle and stay lean at their maximum capacity from a pure physiological perspective.

That is, if you took two individuals who were following an identical training and nutrition protocol with the only difference being that one masturbated more frequently than the other, would there be any noticeable variance in their bottom line results.

If frequent masturbation causes behavioral changes in you (such as decreased motivation, focus or energy levels) which then negatively carries over to your bodybuilding efforts, that’s a different story and is a topic for a different discussion.

With that out of the way, the answer to this question seems to be fairly straightforward at this point:

Masturbation and ejaculation do not appear to have any significant long term positive or negative effect on blood testosterone levels.

For that reason, assuming the consistency of your training and nutrition remains unaffected, there is no good reason to suspect that masturbating less frequently will improve your natural muscle growth rate, or vice versa.

Ejaculation does cause a natural spike in prolactin (this decreases sexual desire and is responsible for the temporary “downtime” you experience after orgasm) and produces a decrease in dopamine (a neurotransmitter that positively regulates libido among many other things) but does not cause any significant changes to testosterone itself.

masturbation and testosterone

There have actually been several human and animal studies conducted in this area that demonstrate this.

Some studies show a small short term decrease in testosterone as a result of ejaculation while others actually demonstrate an increase, however, the changes are modest and return back to baseline fairly quickly.

These are just a few examples among many…

Masturbation And Testosterone Studies

Study #1 – This study measured testosterone levels every day for 16 days in 28 men who were abstaining from ejaculation. Although a temporary 45% spike in testosterone levels was seen on the 7th day, these levels returned back to baseline or lower from the 8th day onward.

Study #2 – Testosterone levels were measured in 10 men both before and after a 3 week period of sexual abstinence. No significant difference in testosterone levels was seen.

Study #3 – This study was conducted on 32 pairs of rhesus monkeys and showed no reliable correlation between ejaculatory frequency and testosterone levels.

Study #4 – Rodents who ejaculate to the point of “sexual exhaustion” did not experience any significant alteration in their plasma testosterone levels.

These are all fairly boring reads, but if you have any interest in clawing through them, here is a collection of other available studies examining the effects of masturbation on testosterone levels which all basically show the same thing: minor short term fluctuations with no significant long term significant effects…

Sexual inactivity results in reversible reduction of LH bioavailability
Lack of sexual activity from erectile dysfunction is associated with a reversible reduction in serum testosterone
The impact of sexual activity on serum hormone levels after penile prosthesis implantation
Orgasmic frequency and plasma testosterone levels in normal human males
Neuroendocrine and cardiovascular response to sexual arousal and orgasm in men
Endocrine effects of masturbation in men
Relationship of serum testosterone to sexual activity in healthy elderly men
Plasma testosterone levels of sexually functional and dysfunctional men
Is there a relationship between sex hormones and erectile dysfunction?
Effects of testosterone on sexual function in men: results of a meta-analysis.

Also keep in mind that short term fluctuations in testosterone are completely normal and can range anywhere from 10-40% over periods of a few days or weeks, which brings me to my second point…

Even if masturbation does cause a short term alteration in testosterone levels, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all when it comes to your ability to succeed in building muscle naturally.

masturbation and muscle growth

This is because in order for your actual rate of muscle growth to be negatively impacted in any noticeable way, not only do testosterone levels need to be decreased, but they must be decreased by a significant margin AND they must remain there for a prolonged period of time.

Up and down spikes of 5% here and 25% there over a short period of time are NOT going to positively or negatively impact your bottom line muscle gains in a measurable way. This is why, as I’ve discussed before, “natural testosterone booster supplements” that provide small temporary increases are virtually worthless when it comes to increasing muscle growth. (The same logic holds true for “growth hormone boosters” as well)

So, in terms of its direct physical effects on testosterone, there does not appear to be any measurable connection between masturbation and muscle growth, strength gains or fat loss.

If you’re purposely abstaining from masturbation for the purpose of increasing testosterone levels, then you’re likely wasting your effort… and if you’re feeling guilty for masturbating because you’re afraid it’s going to slow down your rate of muscle growth, you can stop worrying.

Now, this does NOT necessarily mean I’m recommending a “fap-free-for-all” at all hours of the day, or that frequent masturbation is guaranteed to have no negative consequences for you at all.

All I’m saying is that when it comes specifically to masturbation and bodybuilding, all things equal, it’s not going to change how much muscle you can build or how much fat you can burn from a direct physiological perspective.

However, the truth is that I actually DO think most guys will be better off by moderating this area of their lives, as I do believe it has legitimate benefits in terms of maximizing motivation to workout (among other things), focus and productivity among other things.

If you find that a reduction in overall frequency leads to positive psychological effects which then carries over and benefits you both in and out of the gym, then obviously you should aim to moderate it.

I can attest to this without question in my own life, and the majority of other people I’ve spoken to on this topic general say the same as well. This has even been backed in the research, as plenty of emerging studies are now showing that frequent masturbation/pornography use actually does lead to measurable negative changes in brain function associated with motivation, attention and mood.

brain scans

However, that’s a whole other topic and something I may go into more detail on at another time. (If you are interested in a more detailed explanation of this along with supporting research then check out this site.)

To recap, we can simply leave it at this…

The Bottom Line On Masturbation And Bodybuilding

Masturbation in and of itself will not hinder your muscle building or fat burning efforts as long as your training and nutrition remains unchanged since it does not cause any significant long term changes to the body’s testosterone levels.

However, if you find that masturbating less frequently has other noticeable positive effects for you, then despite the fact that it may not cause you to gain more muscle or lose more fat, I’d still recommend that you consciously moderate it as an overall life choice.

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