You’ve probably heard that masturbation can drain your testosterone levels, dampen your drive to work out, and decrease muscle growth.
This idea that masturbation (or more specifically, ejaculation) hinders muscle building and athletic performance goes all the way back to ancient Greek and Roman times, when athletes would refrain from sex before athletic contests.
It turns out this idea still persists among many modern athletes.
As former heavyweight boxing champion David Haye said, “I don’t ejaculate for six weeks before the fight. No sex, no masturbation, no nothing. It releases too much tension. It releases a lot of minerals and nutrients that your body needs, and it releases them cheaply.”
Hmm . . . sounds an awful lot like an international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
Perhaps he’s right. But what does the scientific literature say?
Does masturbating interfere with your gains or your athletic performance?
The short answer is no, it doesn’t, unless you masturbate immediately before working out.
The long answer is studies show masturbation and sex have a variety of effects on the body and can impact your testosterone levels in the short term, but they’re highly unlikely to affect muscle growth.
So, if you want to live a longer, healthier life while avoiding disease and optimizing your brain, listen to this episode!
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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Does masturbation get in the way of muscle growth? That might sound silly to you, but it is a question that I get fairly often, probably once or twice per week, and usually from Middle Eastern guys must be a cultural thing because if I get an email from uh, a Mohammed, there is a 50% chance this is his only question and a 50% chance.
This is one of his questions. Now I’m joking, but I’m half joking. ’cause it actually usually is Middle Eastern guys asking about this and I’m assuming it’s a cultural thing. Again, I dunno if it’s a religious thing. From what I’ve read, Islam doesn’t have any hard stance on it. Some Islamic leaders say, or thought leaders or religious leaders say It’s okay.
Others do not. Whereas in Catholicism, for example, it’s explicitly bad. Now, before we get to the show, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, and if you wanna help me help more people get into the best shape of their lives, please do consider supporting. My sports nutrition company, Legion Athletics, which produces 100% natural evidence-based health and fitness supplements, including protein powders and protein bars, pre-workout and post-workout supplements, fat burners, multivitamins, joint support, and more.
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Now, this topic also connects to sex, and that’s something I get asked about less often, but does having too much sex, that’s usually the question, does that get in the way of muscle growth? And the simple answer to both of these, Masturbation and sex questions is no. There’s no evidence that masturbating or having sex is going to get in the way of your gains.
Now, the reason these are even questions, the reason people wonder about these things has to do with testosterone because there are a couple studies that suggest that not having sex and not masturbating. Can increase your testosterone levels and as we all know, more testosterone is better if you want to get bigger and stronger.
Now the problem is the effects seen in these studies tend to be small, too small to matter, even if statistically significant and short-lived. Too short-lived to matter. If you raise your testosterone by even a, a relatively large amount for only a few days, for example, it’s not gonna make a difference in your body composition.
So a good example of this is a study that was conducted by scientists at Hung J Normal College, and this experiment was done with 28 healthy dudes, aged 21 to 45, and they were split into two groups. The first group was told no, punching the clown for. Eight days and the other group was told to masticate away to do whatever they normally do over the same period.
And by day seven, the researchers found that the masturbator had significantly lower levels of testosterone on average than the abstainers. Now that sounds cool if you are just reading the abstract, but if you go read the paper and you look at the data, you see that the. Abstainers had higher testosterone levels on two days out of the eight days, day six and day seven.
Testosterone levels were significantly higher, but days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and eight. They were not, they were at normal, their normal levels. So when viewed on the whole, there was basically no change in testosterone. What’s more, the scientists didn’t control how many times the masturbator were cracking it off. So it could have varied wildly from person to person.
And of course, this is a, a relatively small sample size, and it’s a short study, so you definitely can’t take it. As definitive evidence that not masturbating is going to significantly increase your testosterone levels. Now, there is other research out there that has been represented as evidence that sex and masturbation reduce average testosterone levels.
But again, when you look at the data, That is being reviewed. In those studies, what you find is that testosterone tends to rise during masturbation and sex and then come back down to a normal level after orgasm. And while those changes can be made to look significant percentage-wise, so if you only view them relativistically, it can sound.
Like it’s meaningful when you look at it in an absolute sense. How much are testosterone levels rising and falling in terms of nanograms per deciliter? You realize that they are very small fluctuations, too small to matter. Certainly if we’re talking about body composition, I. But that doesn’t stop people from either misunderstanding the research or misleading people about it.
Because if you cherry pick your data and you slice and dice it just right, you can make it look like sex and masturbation lowers testosterone levels, and so therefore, you should have as a little. Of either as possible if you want to get as jacked as possible, or if you have some sort of athletic event coming up where you want to maximi, maximize performance.
That is, uh, a myth that’s out there that if you have sex or you masturbate, some people will abstain for. Upward of two or three weeks before an event, because I think that any sex or any masturbation during that period is going to markedly reduce testosterone levels and markedly impair their performance.
But again, this is a myth. There’s no good evidence that that happens. And if we focus again on muscle gain and strength gain, Even if it did happen in a significant amount, like if the level of increase or decrease from either abstaining from sex and masturbation or masturbating to having sex was actually big in terms of percentage and actual, um, testosterone levels, it wouldn’t be big enough.
To impact muscle and strength gain, because research shows to do that, you really need to reach super physiological levels of testosterone above and beyond what is achievable naturally. Now, of course, there are some exceptions to that rule. So if you took a guy who’s at the bottom of natural testosterone production, so let’s say you take a.
30 year old guy and he’s at like 400 N G D L, three or 400. That’s, that’s not very high. That’s not necessarily low. Depends on symptoms, but that’s really probably the bottom of the natural range. And you were to administer exogenous testosterone. You give him steroids, basically you give him testosterone and you were to raise that to, let’s say a thousand N G D L, which is where you’re getting that.
That’s probably 1,011 hundred ish in that range is really as high as anyone is gonna go. Naturally, yes, that is gonna make a difference in the gym. It’s gonna make a difference in his body composition. But if you’re gonna take him from, let’s say, 400 to 600 N G D L, which is a big jump, 50% increase. Also pretty significant in terms of an absolute amount.
While it may make him feel a little bit better, he may sleep a little bit better, have a little bit more energy, a little bit more sex drive. It’s not gonna have any major direct impact. On his body composition, it may have an indirect impact because of the benefits I just mentioned carrying over into the gym.
And now he pushes himself a little bit harder in his workouts, but he is not going to blow up in the way that he would blow up if he went from, let’s say, 400 to a super physiological, uh, dose that put him at, let’s say 2000 N G D L. That is going to have a big impact on his body composition. Another little bit of research that is relevant to the natural fluctuations in testosterone that we see associated with masturbation and sex is what happens to our hormones when we work out.
So there was a study conducted by scientists at McMaster University that looked at how guys endocrine systems responded to resistance training. So that is, they put some guys through workouts, they took blood to see how anabolic hormone levels changed in response to exercise. And what they found is that the individual response to exercise is highly variable.
So some guys experience a rather dramatic spike in anabolic hormones during exercise, and particularly they looked at testosterone growth hormone and IGF one. Whereas others experience a much more blunted hormonal response to exercise. Furthermore, what the researchers found is that muscle and strength gain was not correlated with the acute response, the acute hormonal response to exercise.
Meaning that the guys who experienced the greatest anabolic response to the exercise hormonally did not gain on average more muscle and strength than any of the other guys. There was no statistically significant difference in the gains between the highest responders and even the lowest responders.
And the reason for that is it’s just not enough time, even among the best responders to the exercise, the best hormonal responders, the. Effect duration is just too short. The hormone levels are spiking during the workout, and then after the workout, they’re coming back to normal. That’s it. Another example, why sex and masturbations effects on testosterone just don’t matter in terms of muscle or strengthening or even physical performance is research that shows that.
Testosterone levels tend to be highest in the morning in most men, and they decline throughout the day and they’re at their lowest point in the evening. Yet, studies show that most guys are stronger later in the day than they are in the morning. They get better performance with lower testosterone levels.
And the reason for that is the reduction in testosterone that we experience throughout the day is significant, but not enough to acutely impact performance. Okay. Now let’s shift gears to another claim that is commonly made about sex and masturbation in the context of physical performance. Usually athletic events or workouts.
So what people say is sex and masturbation drains your body of energy. And so you definitely don’t want to do it before a workout or an athletic event. And some people will say you don’t even want to do it the day two or three proceeding, any sort of physical activity that you want to do to your highest and best ability.
And there’s some truth to this, but not in the literal sense, not if we’re talking about energy. Right. Literally. Then we’d be talking about calories. That’s not the problem. Fing does not burn many calories. You’ll probably burn more calories cleaning up dinner tonight. Now, sex is slightly better in this regard, but unfortunately it does not burn nearly as many calories as all of us would hope.
Research shows that on average, people burn about 70 calories per hour during sex. So unless your job is to just knock boots all day, you are not burning very many calories through sex and certainly not enough if we’re talking about having sex before a workout to get in the way of the workout. If you were to go do, uh, an intense hour long session on the, uh, assault bike, yeah, that’s, that’s gonna get in the way You go burn a thousand calories and then try to go do a heavy squat session.
It’s gonna be quite a bit harder, but a handful of calories, not even an appetizer’s worth of calories through sex, not so much, but as anyone who has played with themselves or someone else before a workout can tell you, it does make a difference. It does make the workout quite a bit harder. The weights feel heavier, you have less energy, and there is a good reason for that.
And it has nothing to do with calorie burning. You see, after you orgasm, your body releases a hormone called prolactin, and this suppresses dopamine and causes you to feel kind of sluggish and tired, and so that’s mostly what you’re experiencing. The good news is this effect doesn’t last very long. So there was a study that was conducted by scientists at the University of Florence.
It was a review study, so they looked at a number of other studies and came to a conclusion on the body of research. And what they were looking into is the effect of sex on high. Performing athletes both in competitions and in the lab, and particularly they wanna look at timing. So how long should an athlete wait, uh, after having sex to go do a workout, or if they have a, a competition or an event or some important thing that they need to perform well for at a certain time?
When should they cut off? When should the orgasm cut off be? And what they found is so long as there was no orgasm in the two to three hours proceeding the lab test or the competition or event, there was no impact on performance. So it only took a couple hours for them to get all of their vitality back.
And keep in mind, these were high level athletes, people pushing their bodies to the limit, not your average everyday gym goers. Who are scrolling through Instagram while they’re on the leg press machine. Now, one final way, sex and masturbation can get in the way of muscle and strength gain and physical performance.
Almost doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll say it anyway. If you’re staying up too late, uh, Googling yourself or somebody else, and if you’re cutting into your sleep, that is going to hurt your gains and that is going to hurt your performance. Okay, so. What are the key takeaways here? Don’t worry about sex and masturbation and testosterone levels.
It’s not getting in the way of muscle growth. It’s not getting in the way of fiscal performance. Don’t have sex or masturbate in the, let’s say, one to two hours preceding a workout or some sort of event that you wanna perform well in and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. All right. Well, that’s it for today’s episode.
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