16 March 2008

Does masturbation lower testosterone levels and affect bodybuilding?

I wanted to know if masturbation affects bodybuilding? Does masturbation lower testosterone levels?

JP Duc

Hi Andres,

Thank you for your question.

Masturbation is a perfectly normal part of human sexuality; self-gratification is actually the safest form of sex when done alone. It is also perfect for those who practice or believe in abstinence.

Masturbation is healthy, and it won’t make you less responsive to stimulation by a partner. Masturbation is actually a good way to learn about your body and sexual responsiveness, learn how to prolong the time it takes to ejaculate, learn what an orgasm feels like and how to produce it. These can make sex with a partner more satisfying.

What is important about masturbating is to ensure that your hands or the objects you use be clean when you are touching any part of genital areas. Make sure to properly wash your hands in hot soapy water before you touch yourself.

All sorts of myths exist around masturbation, most of which were created by religious banter and cultural historical beliefs, and not by true scientific facts and research. To answer your question more specifically, masturbation in fact does not affect significantly the amount of testosterone your body produces. The level of testosterone in your body does not change much over the course of days or months and is something that your body auto-regulates through your pituitary gland, a structure at the base of your brain. There is however a very slow (and totally normal) decline in testosterone levels over the years, which in most cases has not been shown to significantly affect function.

What is dangerous and can alter your body’s testosterone levels are narcotics or pharmaceutical drugs/ certain medications. Anabolic steroids are commonly used in bodybuilding to help increase muscle mass but are associated with many side effects, such as increased facial and body hair, oily skin or acne, baldness, water retention, joint stiffness, and soreness at the injection site. Lab tests may show increased levels of liver enzymes. A deepened or hoarsened voice, growth of the clitoris, and menstrual irregularities have been reported in people assigned female at birth. These side effects may be irreversible, even with short-term use.

At higher doses of anabolic steroids over longer periods, increased or decreased sex drive, mood swings, aggressive behavior, persistent painful erections, shrinking testicles, and breast growth have been reported in men. Long-term use of high dose anabolics can damage the liver, causing jaundice, hepatitis, bleeding, or, possibly, cancer.

In addition, taking Creatine or consuming too much protein powder may actually make you fatter, not more muscular. There’s anything wrong with gaining fat, but I understand that it might not be your goal. Those testosterone serums, injections, pills, supplements and whatever else is sold on the Internet or in gyms can be just plain dangerous. High testosterone levels can lead to health problems like prostate cancer and osteoporosis.

From personal experience, I have known of people who were using drugs and medications to help their bodybuilding. They went to the gym everyday, but overdid it and had bad technique and so ended up with permanent lower back problems after barely 2 years of muscle building. Mood swings, dehydration, lots of acne, being extremely tired all the time are other side effects they experienced. They built up muscle mass quickly but as soon as they started easing off on their daily routine they immediately started to loose their muscle mass and gained weight, most of which was fat.

Building muscles gives you a nice look, and your goal may be to attract a sexual partner or just to look healthy. What is important to remember is that your health should remain your top priority! Rather than being focused on building muscle mass, it is much more important just to exercise, to move your body vigorously everyday for 20-30 minutes, and to eat healthy foods all the time, including lots of vegetables and fruits.

You will look much better throughout your life if you practice healthy eating and exercise all the time, not just while you are still young. If you still want to build muscle, regular constant exercise over a long period will give your body time to adapt, and you will get all the benefits without the unpleasant side effects. Incorporate bodybuilding in a healthy lifestyle that will keep you looking fit throughout the years.

I hope the above information was helpful, and please don’t hesitate to write again if you have other questions!

JP, for AlterHeroes