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Does Masturbation Lower Testosterone?

Does Masturbation Lower Testosterone?

By Mike Kocsis | 7 minutes read | Last updated: February 19, 2024
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  • Medically Reviewed by Dr. George Touliatos

    Evidence Based Research

    When it comes to testosterone, many misconceptions and rumours circulate on the internet. One such misconception is about the impact of masturbation on testosterone. Some believe masturbation can cause lower testosterone levels, leading to concerns among men.

    There is conflicting information available online on this topic. That is why it is important to check scientific facts and uncover the truth. In this article, we will help you understand the connection between masturbation and testosterone, backed by evidence-based research.

    But before we delve into the main topic, let’s first see what the role of testosterone is in men.

     

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    Testosterone and its role in men

    Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone that is often associated with male characteristics. It is mainly produced in the testes of men. Women also produce it but in smaller amounts.

    It is involved in many physiological processes in men, such as:

    • The development of primary and secondary male sex characteristics
      • Primary male sex characteristics: Reproductive structure, ability to ejaculate, etc.
      • Secondary male sex characteristics: Deepening of voice, facial hair growth, etc.
    • Stimulation of sexual desire
    • Production and maturation of sperm
    • Formation and maintenance of erection
    • Promotion of muscle growth and strength
    • Increase in bone density and strength
    • Improvement in mood and cognitive function
    • Body fat distribution

    On average, testosterone levels range from 300 to 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) in adult men. However, they do not stay the same throughout the day. Generally, testosterone levels are at their peak in the morning, and then they decline throughout the day.

     

    Understanding testosterone production

    Testosterone production is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in both men and women.

    It begins when the hypothalamus (a part of the brain) sends signals in the form of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to the pituitary gland (a tiny gland located at the base of the brain). Upon receiving this signal, the pituitary releases luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). LH travels through the bloodstream towards the testes stimulating Leydig cells in the testes to synthesise testosterone.

    They release testosterone in the bloodstream where it binds to certain proteins and is transported to target tissues. It interacts with androgen receptors (AR) present on tissues to produce different effects.

    Many men believe masturbation can reduce testosterone production, but science does not support this claim. Masturbation may cause short-term fluctuations in testosterone levels, but they are temporary and a part of your body’s natural hormonal response to sexual activity.

     

    Examining the research

    Research on testosterone and masturbation is limited so far, and results are also somewhat conflicting. It is possibly due to the reason that researchers in labs are unable to create a proper environment for men to masturbate.

    In a small study, researchers found that masturbation had no impact on testosterone levels in participants. It means masturbation does not lower your serum testosterone levels.

    In a 2011 study, participants visited a US sex club. Some participated in sexual activity, while others only observed. Results show that participants who were involved in sexual activity had significantly higher salivary testosterone levels than men who did not perform any sexual activity.

    A 1992 study observed testosterone levels in both men and women before and after intercourse. Researchers found out that men had higher testosterone levels after intercourse than they had before intercourse or on no-sex days. This study shows that sexual activity may increase your testosterone levels temporarily.

     

    Debunking common myths

    Myth: Masturbation leads to low T.

    Reality: As mentioned earlier, masturbation does not have any long-term effect on testosterone levels. Fluctuation in testosterone levels is a natural process that happens throughout a man’s life. Various factors affect testosterone production, including age, sleep quality, diet, overall health, etc.  

    Myth: Masturbation causes acne and hair loss.

    Reality: No, there is no direct connection between masturbation and acne or hair loss. A variety of factors, including hormonal imbalance and genetics, can influence your hair and skin health.

     

    Factors affecting testosterone levels

    Masturbation seems to produce no noticeable effect on testosterone levels. However, some factors can truly reduce your serum testosterone. These factors are:

    Age: As described earlier, testosterone levels decline in men as they get older. Some men may develop low T symptoms and learn to live with them anyway.  

    Hormonal regulation: The HPG axis controls testosterone production. Any disruption in its three parts (hypothalamus, pituitary, and gonads) can reduce testosterone generation.

    Lifestyle: Poor lifestyle habits such as inadequate sleep, daily consumption of fast food, stress, smoking, and inactivity negatively impact hormone balance. Replacing bad habits with good ones can help you have normal testosterone again.

    Diet: You should have a balanced diet consisting of healthy fats, protein, veggies, and fruits to maintain your testosterone levels. Certain nutrients, including zinc, are required for testosterone production. Their deficiency can lead to low T. Similarly, some nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B are associated with healthy testosterone levels.

    Certain diseases: Type 2 diabetes, HIV, chronic liver or kidney failure, brain tumour, prostate cancer, and obesity are a few diseases that cause low T. This kind of testosterone deficiency often goes away when you get rid of the disease.

    Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for the overall well-being of a person. Some essential hormones like testosterone are mainly produced during sleep. So, when you do not get enough sleep, you disturb testosterone production time, leading to lower testosterone levels (if you do not restore your sleep quality and quantity in the long run).

    Psychological factors: Anxiety, depression, and stress are known to induce hormone imbalance. They increase serum cortisol levels and lower testosterone levels. However, confidence, success and other positive emotions can produce the opposite effect.

     

    Signs of low T

    Low T, also called hypogonadism, produces different effects on the body that vary from man to man. Some potential low T symptoms are:

    Some of these symptoms can be managed by making certain lifestyle changes. However, others can negatively influence your life in various ways.

    If you have testosterone deficiency and are troubled due to it, you should consult with a hormone specialist to get insight into the issue and find a suitable treatment. Most healthcare providers prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to men with low T when natural ways of increasing testosterone do not work.

     

    Steps you should take to restore your testosterone levels

    If you suspect you have low T, you should contact a healthcare provider to diagnose the issue. They will conduct a thorough evaluation to look for symptoms and understand your medical history.

    You will have blood tests, including serum testosterone test and prolactin test, to measure your current hormone levels. You will be declared testosterone deficient if your testosterone level is below 300 ng/dL.

    Your healthcare provider will prescribe testosterone if you are the right TRT candidate.

    They will explain different types of TRT and their effects. Furthermore, they will learn your health goals and preferences to help you choose the right TRT form.

    They will design a customised TRT plan for each patient based on how low their testosterone level is and what are their health goals.

    Once you start taking testosterone, you will have follow-up appointments every 6 to 12 months, during which your testosterone levels will be evaluated. Experts will find out how your body is responding to the treatment and make adjustments to your treatment plan if it is not producing optimal results.

     

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    Risks and other considerations

    Like other medical producers, TRT also has some side effects, including fluid retention, prostate enlargement, acne, etc. You must get this treatment from a qualified person and monitor your health once you start it to avoid possible side effects and make the most of TRT.

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    Summary

    Masturbation does not seem to lower testosterone levels. There are self-regulating mechanisms in the human body that maintain hormone balance.

    More research needs to be done on this subject to understand the long-term effects of masturbation. Current studies show mixed results, but most suggest that sexual activities like masturbation may temporarily increase testosterone in men.

    If you have low T symptoms, you should speak with your doctor to find a timely solution. TRT is often used to restore testosterone levels in men unable to produce the hormone naturally. However, this treatment is not suitable for all. You should discuss it with your doctor to determine whether you should have it or not.

     

     

    References/Bibliography/Scientific studies/Further reading

    Fox, C.A., Ismail, A.A.A., Love, D.N., Kirkham, K.E. and Loraine, J.A., 1972. Studies on the relationship between plasma testosterone levels and human sexual activity. Journal of Endocrinology52(1), pp.51-58.

    Purvis, K., Landgren, B.M., Cekan, Z. and Diczfalusy, E., 1976. Endocrine effects of masturbation in men. Journal of Endocrinology70(3), pp.439-444.

    van Anders, S.M., 2012. Testosterone and sexual desire in healthy women and men. Archives of Sexual Behavior41, pp.1471-1484.

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    Evidence Based Research

    This article has been researched and written based on scientific evidence and fact sheets that have then been crossed checked by our team of doctors and subject matter experts.

    References, sources and studies used alongside our own in-house research have been cited below, most of which contain external clickable links to reviewed scientific paper that contain date stamped evidence.

    Our team of healthcare experts and GMC registered doctors are licensed to UK GMC standards. We strive to provide you with the latest evidence based, researched articles that are unbiased, honest and provide you with accurate insights, statistics and helpful information on the discussed topic to ensure you gain a better understanding of the subject. You can read more about our Editorial Process by clicking here.

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    About the Author: Mike Kocsis

    Mike KocsisMike Kocsis has an MBA with a focus on healthcare administration and is an entrepreneur and medical case manager for Balance My Hormones Ltd which offers medical services in the UK and Europe. Mike has over 20 years of experience in the healthcare sector, much of that working with people who have hormone imbalances. Mike has appeared on podcasts and radio and is an expert speaker on the subject of hormone imbalance. He specialises in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) and Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and has helped thousands of people suffering from hormone imbalances recover and regain control of their lives. You can follow him on LinkedIn and on the Balance My Hormones YouTube Channel.

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