Does Masturbating Kill Your Gains?

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A date with Palmela Handerson; hand to gland combat; badgering the witness; liquidating the inventory; playing five against one. Given that an overwhelming majority of men masturbate at some point in their lives [1], it’s no surprise that we’ve come up with a plethora of witty euphemisms to describe the act. And, I suppose, I shouldn’t be surprised how frequently I get bombarded by questions from guys wondering if working their “love muscle” is hindering their ability to increase the size of their skeletal muscles. In short, they want to know whether masturbating kills your gains, and in this article I set out to answer that very question.
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Unless you’re really poor at it, the end result of masturbation is ejaculation and orgasm. Fear of losing out on precious muscle gains typically stems from two similar ideas: (1) ejaculate contains zinc and, therefore, ejaculation can cause zinc deficiency (which can lead to decreased testosterone levels); and (2) testosterone levels decrease following ejaculation (as a direct result of hormonal changes during orgasm). Sounds scary! Before we get too hot and bothered, though, let’s take a closer look at these ideas to find out whether they have merit.
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Though most of the nutrients lost during ejaculation are in trace amounts, a significant amount of zinc (around 5 mg) is lost. Depending on the frequency of ejaculation (and baseline zinc levels), it is certainly possible to create a zinc deficiency via masturbation. Zinc happens to be one of the major micronutrients necessary for the growth and maintenance of muscle tissue as it plays a key role in regulating testosterone levels in healthy males [2]. As such, it is wise to increase your zinc intake with increased ejaculatory frequency to ensure your gains will be alive and well.
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With the zinc issue out of the way, let’s look now to testosterone. After all, it’s the most anabolic muscle-building hormone in your entire body and one of the main factors determining how much muscle you can ultimately build. Anyone with even a passing interest in building muscle is (or should be) concerned with maintaining a healthy level of testosterone. Well, I’m happy to report that you can have your orgasms and build muscle too—masturbation and ejaculation do not appear to have any significant long term positive or negative effect on blood testosterone levels.
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That isn’t to say that ejaculation doesn’t have any effect on testosterone levels, but rather that any effects are too small to result in actual differences. In short, fluctuations in serum testosterone levels due to masturbation and ejaculation (and abstaining from the same) are both too minor and too short-lived to result in any differences in your muscle gains.
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In one study, after three weeks of abstaining from ejaculation, a group of ten men experienced a minor (though clinically insignificant) increase in testosterone relative to their baseline levels. Further, the researchers found that, after the period of sexual abstinence, masturbation and ejaculation did not result in any change in testosterone levels [3].
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In another study, researchers found that a clear testosterone peak (a spike of 45% over baseline) occurred after seven days of abstinence from ejaculation but returned nearly to baseline levels by the eighth day. While a 45% spike sounds like serious business, participants’ testosterone levels were still well within the normal range of 300-1,000 ng/dl [4].
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Let’s turn our attention to a fact of life that manufacturers of testosterone-boosting supplements don’t want you to know: the fluctuation of testosterone levels within the normal physiological range does not affect muscle growth. Simply put, it is unlikely that a minor to moderate boost to your testosterone levels will do anything for your gains. In order for you to see any significant difference in muscle growth, you need your testosterone levels to skyrocket above the normal range—and that’s just not going to happen by abstaining from sex or masturbation or swallowing some supplements.
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Getting a minor to moderate boost to your T levels isn’t useless, per se. If your testosterone levels are somewhere near the middle of the normal range and you increase them towards the higher end you may notice a boost in libido and just generally feel a little better, but it won’t enable you to build more muscle.
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In 2003, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science conducted a 20-week study with healthy men ages 18-35 and administered different dosages of exogenous testosterone to some and varying amounts of drugs that inhibit natural testosterone production to others. While higher testosterone levels did produce greater muscle gains, it wasn’t until participants’ levels surpassed the top of the normal range by about 30%—that is, around 1300 ng/dl—that the difference became significant. Small, insignificant differences in muscle growth were observed between subjects within the normal range—even between guys on the lower and higher ends of the range [5].
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So, what’s the key take away from the research? Potential testosterone level fluctuations in either direction (whether induced by ejaculation, abstinence from ejaculation, or testosterone boosters) are virtually meaningless when it comes to your gains. The one possible caveat to this is the relationship between zinc and testosterone levels. Frequent masturbation (and/or sex) could lead to a zinc deficiency which, in turn, could result in lower testosterone levels. Even so—as we just learned—the change would need to bring you below the normal range in order to kill your gains. The other key point here, then, is— especially if you’re an upper-echelon ejaculator—to be sure you eat a zinc-rich diet and consider supplementing with zinc.
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As we have seen, masturbating does not have much potential to affect your gains at all, let alone provide them a death sentence. This is the perfect opportunity, however, to discuss something that I believe does have the potential to negatively affect your gains: worrying about the minutiae or, as I like to say, “majoring in the minors.” Our brains are extraordinarily powerful. Worrying about minor things like masturbating killing your gains results in psychological stress which can absolutely have a very real effect on training outcomes. After all, experts haven’t dubbed stress “the silent killer” for nothing!
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Can you eliminate stress from your life entirely? Of course not—but it should be pretty darn easy to quit panicking about masturbation or whether to use creatine pre- or post-workout or [insert random fear about something probably irrelevant to building muscle killing your gains here]. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t major in the minors. Make sure your training, nutrition and recovery are on point and the rest will take care of itself. Now, if you’re so inclined, feel free to take care of yourself without the underlying fear of killing your gains. Just take it easy—five on one is hardly a fair fight. 

 


 

References
[1] Exton MS, Krüger TH, Bursch N, et al. Endocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm in healthy men following a 3-week sexual abstinence. World Journal of Urology. 2001;19(5):377–382.
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[2] Herbenick, D et al. (2010). Sexual behavior in the United States: Results from a national probability sample of men aged 14-94. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7, (suppl 5), 255-265).
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[3] Jiang M, Xin J, Zou Q, Shen JW. A research on the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone level in men. J Zhejiang Univ Sci. 2003;4:236–240
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[4] Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, Hess JW, Brewer GJ. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. 1996;12(5):344–8
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[5] Storer TW, Magliano L, Woodhouse L, et al. Testosterone dose-dependently increases maximal voluntary strength and leg power, but does not affect fatigability or specific tension. J Clin Endocrinol Metab.2003;88:1478–1485.
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12 thoughts on “Does Masturbating Kill Your Gains?

  1. William Keebler Jr January 15, 2016 at 8:46 am - Reply

    “Blessed are the clean of heart for they will see God.” Matthew 5,8

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    • and I suppose if we do masturbate we will go blind too…LOL

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  2. I’ve read that masturbating at least 3 times a week in fact will reduce the chances of prostate cancer. Use it or lose it as the saying goes.

    I have made a new years resolution: to jerk 2x a day when there is no woman around or she does not know what she is doing. So fellas, take maters into your own hands and save a prostate!

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  3. Vince, I like having the article right there in the email where I can scan and choose to read it.
    Thanks for the helpful overview.

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  4. I have noticed a huge decrease in strength if I am intimate with my wife before I go to the gym. The opposite is also true. If I abstain for a few days and then at the gym I have more strength. I have noticed this on many occasions.

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  5. Very interesting article, especially the part about having to get your T levels above 1300 to make a significant difference to muscle growth. Yes, all the T boosting supplements are a waste of money, but taking zinc, magnesium and vitamin D can help, especially if you are deficient in any of these (which most people are).

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  6. Vince. I like where your going with your marketing and making platforms for people who are intrested to dhare thoughts more accessible. The content as mentioned above is sharp for the first quarter but I slowly lose pace of where it fits in overall with your reccomendation of training and eating routines, what I mean to say is ” it needs a little more Vince quality touch” and where you would insert a training technique into this, ie your mantra.

    Overall I love your content and you seem a humble guy that shares experiances with what seems to be a good foundation of marketing.
    Good on ya.

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  7. 3 thoughts on masturbation.

    1) All mammals and many other animals have been observed to masturbate. (“Insectopedia” a set of essays)

    2) It has been shown that masturbation keeps the sperm fresh. Old sperm decays over time and DNA errors appear. If there is no ejaculation over time, old sperm accumulates.

    3) Semen production is a natural gland process. Thus, like breast milk, not removing old semen will decrease seman production, if there is not a constant drawing off (masturbation, sex, any form of ejaculation). Prolonged not ejaculating leads to decreased sperm and semen production. Short term not ejaculating, like 2-3 days, can increase the amount of semen available. After that the semen is re-adsorbed by the body, not necessarily oldest first.

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  8. The article had a great headline, and that creates engagement. So that made me read on. However ultimately the article left you with no real gain. Basically the content truly had merit only at 1/4th the way through. It just did not offer enough. Kind of a song on repeat not to be too harsh. I recommend a volume or frequency of articles with shorter routes to their takeaways. More WOW moments. I prefer and typically a lot of community sites prefer typically a newsletter that by the end of it leaves the reader with some WOW moments and a couple things that make us in this specific community a better bodybuilder from it. There is a lot of information in the fitness marketplace, so if the newsletter you offer provides the useful snippets your video feeds do than Party On! Those are tremendous, thoughtful and generous.

    Thanks for creating a forum for folks like me. Being a generous provider of effort to make us all fitter is a worthy career path. I handle about 250 digital accounts in the Big Apple creating online branding. So I hope you take the commentary as valid VS fluff. Keep sharing and caring.

    Cheers!

    Chris

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  9. Excellent post on being “hand-some” ha ha. You (inadvertently or intentionally) forgot to mention it’s mythical cause of blindness or carpal-tunnel syndrome, or the potential jealousy between the left and right hands. Joking aside, I enjoy your articles and at least one per week would be appreciated. I can think of topics such as man-boobs, ways to tighten facial muscles/sags and body-weight exercises for guys like me in their 60s (and others I’m sure). Thank you Vince and may your new year be abundantly blessed.

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  10. “The other key point here, then, is— especially if you’re an upper-echelon ejaculator—to be sure you eat a zinc-rich diet and consider supplementing with zinc. I personally take 50-75 mg of zinc a day.”

    With your zinc intake does that mean you’re an “upper-echelon ejaculator”?

    Wait, don’t answer that TMI… :p

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