Does Masturbation Raise or Lower Testosterone? Doctors Explain

Does masturbation raise or lower testosterone? Doctors explain

The links are complex, but here's what to know

MASTURBATION IS GOOD for you in so many ways. It can lower stress, boost your mood, and help you sleep. And, ejaculating regularly can even potentially lower your risk for prostate cancer and may help you live longer. But how does it affect your testosterone?

It’s tricky. Brian McNeil, M.D., chief of urology at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, says there haven’t been many studies showing a solid relationship between masturbation, ejaculation, and testosterone levels.

“Sometimes there could be a transient increase in testosterone in times of arousal or sex,” he explains. “I don’t think that it’s anything that’s really sustained.”

However, testosterone can affect your sex drive – and potentially how much you feel like masturbating (or having sex with a partner). Dr. McNeil says when testosterone is low, your libido and energy might also be low, and getting an erection could be a struggle.

“That could pinpoint an issue with testosterone” – one that you should talk to your doctor about, he emphasizes.

There’s a myth that masturbating can lower your testosterone, but it’s not true. However, whether sex decreases or increases testosterone levels really isn’t known, says James Hotaling, M.D., a urologist and male fertility expert at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Testosterone levels are highest in the morning and fluctuate throughout the day, Dr. Hotaling explains. “So, this would be hard to study,” he says, since “testosterone levels vary from minute to minute.”

Still, you may be wondering about the connection between masturbation and testosterone levels. Doctors explain what you should know.

The relationship between masturbation and testosterone

As a refresher, most of the testosterone in your body attaches itself to two specific proteins: albumin and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Albumin carries testosterone throughout your system, while SHBG controls the amount of “active” testosterone your body uses.

The rest of your testosterone, free testosterone, isn’t attached to those proteins, but can instead flow and attach to any cell in your body. You have a smaller amount of free testosterone. A total testosterone test measures both free testosterone and testosterone that binds to proteins.

Most of the studies on masturbation and testosterone have been pretty inconclusive.

2021 study in the journal Basic and Clinical Andrology measured hormonal responses to masturbation. It found that masturbation may prevent a drop in free testosterone, but not total testosterone over the course of a day. However, it was a temporary effect and not significant in terms of changing your testosterone levels, based on what free testosterone is and does.

Another older study revealed that testosterone levels were slightly higher after men abstained from masturbation for three weeks.

Other studies have looked at whether just getting turned on changes testosterone levels. A 2012 study found that while having sexual thoughts can obviously lead to sexual arousal, it didn’t cause any increase in testosterone levels in men.

Bottom line: masturbation is unlikely to increase or decrease your testosterone levels significantly.

Does recent ejaculation affect a testosterone test?

Since testosterone levels are highest in the morning, Dr. McNeil says that’s when doctors like to test. Although there’s no data on the subject, he says masturbating or ejaculating before a test probably won’t affect the results.

“If someone is masturbating then ejaculates and has their blood drawn right after, there could theoretically be a transient increase, but I don’t really think that it will be much of an increase,” he explains.

Sexual health symptoms that signal low T

Sexual health and testosterone levels are closely linked, explains JD Golon, PA-C, a urology physician assistant at Rush University Medical Group in Chicago.

“Sexual function is a good overall barometer of a person’s health,” he says. When your testosterone is low, you might experience more sexual dysfunction symptoms.

This includes low libido, erectile dysfunction, or decreased volume of semen, he says. Dr. McNeil says men also might notice their erections aren’t as strong as they used to be.

Lacking energy, feeling irritable, and not enjoying activities you usually like are also signs of low T, Golon says.

“Generally, I try to add more context to this symptom by asking, ‘Do you shy away from sexual activity more than seek it out?’” he adds. “Libido can wax and wane for numerous reasons.”

When to see a doctor

Whenever you’re struggling with sexual problems or changes in your libido or sexual functioning, Dr. McNeil says to talk to your doctor. Your testosterone might be low.

Doctors will do a blood test to check your levels and may recommend testosterone replacement therapy. Dr. McNeil says doctors will also monitor how you’re responding to the therapy and recheck your T periodically.

Keep in mind, however, that taking testosterone could impact your fertility, so that’s something to talk to your doctor about if family planning is important to you, Golon says.

This article originally appeared on Men’s Health US.


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