Sexual Health
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
How Does Masturbation Affect Testosterone?
Published: Feb 1, 2022

You’ve probably heard that masturbation lowers testosterone levels or that abstinence increases it. Small studies led people to draw these conclusions and make recommendations like abstaining from sexual activity prior to competitive sports, but how accurate are these conclusions?

Scientific research on sexual behavior is notoriously difficult because it is hard to achieve consistency across studies. There is no evidence that masturbation has any long-lasting effects on testosterone levels, and there isn’t much evidence that it has any short-term effects either. Nevertheless, the question is important because testosterone does affect your health as does masturbation.

Masturbation provides several mental and physical health benefits, including:

  • Sexual pleasure
  • Stress relief
  • Mood improvement
  • Feelings of empowerment
  • No risk of pregnancy
  • Low risk of sexually transmitted infections
  • Ability to orgasm
  • The ability to better understand your body

A compulsion to masturbate to where it gets in the way of everyday life is clearly a negative effect of masturbation. Besides affecting a person’s ability to meet the demands of everyday life, it can negatively affect coupled relationships.

Does Masturbation Increase or Decrease Testosterone?

There has been limited and contradictory research linking masturbation, abstinence, and testosterone levels. One reason is that it is difficult to standardize masturbation and replicate it consistently in a test setting. In addition, testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day in response to a variety of factors. Most studies exploring the link between masturbation and testosterone levels were small. There were enough differences between the study participants that introduced confounding variables, making it difficult to draw any conclusions.

In a 2021 study, hormone response after masturbation was assessed in young, healthy men. The authors investigated the claim that masturbation or coupled sexual activity before resistance exercise could boost free testosterone levels and optimize muscle building. Participants were all elite athletes, who were in committed relationships and had no record of sexual dysfunction. They did not use anabolic steroids or other medications.

The men’s free testosterone levels were higher after masturbation, according to the researchers. Total testosterone, free testosterone, and cortisol ratios, on the other hand, remained unchanged. Refraining from masturbation or sexual activity before a workout had no effect on muscle building. The researchers hypothesized that the circadian rhythm of testosterone release and time of training had a greater impact on muscle growth. According to their findings, training may be most effective in the early evening.

In a 2020 study, researchers collected blood samples to test testosterone, prolactin, and cortisol levels before erection, after erection, at ejaculation, and ten minutes after ejaculation. Testosterone levels increased from before erection to the moment of ejaculation and then returned to pre-erection levels within ten minutes. The increase in testosterone levels could be a result of prostate contraction.

Effects of Abstinence on Testosterone

The researchers also looked into whether there was a link between abstinence and testosterone levels. After three weeks of abstinence, researchers measured hormone levels in ten men during sexual arousal and masturbation-induced orgasm. Blood testosterone levels remain unchanged after orgasm but increased after three weeks of abstinence. This was a small study, and the findings have not been replicated in a larger study.

What Does Low Testosterone Mean?

Testosterone is the principal male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid. It is produced in the testes and adrenal glands in men and the adrenal glands in women. Testosterone levels fluctuate throughout the day and are affected by external stimuli. Low testosterone is a condition characterized by persistently low testosterone levels.

Decreased testosterone levels may result from testicular failure or secondary to a problem in the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, a hierarchy of hormones that regulate testosterone release. An estimated 4 to 5 million men in the United States have hypogonadism, with 60% of men over the age of 65 having free testosterone levels below the norm for men aged 30 to 35. Only 5% of men with low testosterone receive treatment.

What Are the Signs of Low Testosterone?

Low testosterone levels can significantly impact health in both men and women. Low testosterone, also called hypogonadism, occurs when the testes and adrenal glands fail to produce adequate testosterone.

Low testosterone levels can cause the following signs and symptoms in men:

  • Reduced muscle mass
  • Decreased strength
  • Low sex drive
  • Decreased facial and body hair
  • Decreased bone density
  • Increased body fat
  • Unexplained mood changes
  • Erectile dysfunction

Although women naturally have lower testosterone levels than men, low testosterone levels can also negatively impact women. Low testosterone levels in women can cause:

  • Low sexual desire, arousal, and responsiveness
  • A decline in bone density
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased motivation

The first step to diagnosing hypogonadism is to screen for low testosterone levels by collecting a morning total testosterone level. Morning testosterone levels of less than 300 ng/dL (10.4 nmol/L) suggest hypogonadism and should be confirmed with a subsequent test. If the follow-up test results concur, the next step would be to perform a more in-depth hormone analysis to determine whether hypogonadism is due to testicular failure or related to a hypothalamic issue.

Invigor Medical offers a men’s standard hormone panel and a men’s advanced hormone panel, allowing men who suspect they may have low testosterone levels to confirm whether this is the case.

Seeking Treatment for Low Testosterone

Although masturbation may not significantly affect testosterone levels, other lifestyle factors may.

Lifestyle factors that can affect testosterone levels:

Resistance exercise produces an age-dependent increase in testosterone, though the effect is short-lived, and overexercise appears to decrease testosterone levels. Both physical and mental stress can influence the release of cortisol and testosterone. Reducing stress can help optimize hormone levels. There are several other ways men can naturally boost their testosterone levels.

Several societies, including the International Menopause Society and the Endocrine Society, have issued recommendations for treating women with symptoms potentially caused by abnormal testosterone levels. 

They advise against using testosterone therapy in premenopausal women. However, testosterone therapy should be considered in postmenopausal women, whether menopause occurred naturally or because of surgery, to restore normal levels.

It is impossible to take a hormone with complex effects throughout the human body and find a simple, unidirectional relationship between a factor such as masturbation and testosterone levels. Testosterone levels vary throughout the day and across the lifespan.

The goal of testosterone replacement therapy is to restore testosterone levels. Doing so is expected to improve erectile function and libido, improve lean body mass, strength, and bone density. Restoring hormone levels to optimal for age is also expected to improve mood and provide an overall sense of wellbeing.

There are multiple causes for erectile dysfunction other than low testosterone levels. Therefore, it is important to discuss ED with a healthcare provider. There are several very effective treatment options available, including oral ED pills and Trimix injections.

If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with low testosterone levels, the next step is to get your hormone levels checked. Invigor Medical’s healthcare professionals specialize in men’s health and can help you determine whether testosterone therapy is right for you.

DISCLAIMER

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

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