For guys who love wanking and being jacked, the myth that masturbation might decrease testosterone levels — and therefore cause muscle loss — is a scary one. And despite being patently untrue, this is still a common misconception among men, who frequently question what effect masturbation has on their hormones, particularly in the long-term. On Reddit, some guys wonder whether binge masturbation “drains” men of their precious T, while others point to “weirdo rappers” like Joey Bada$$ and NLE Choppa who say they don’t masturbate because “one nut is equal to running 20 miles.”
There are countless posts on Reddit that mimic these sentiments, but according to Nicole Prause, a neuroscientist who researches human sexual behavior and the physiology of sexual response, the opposite is true. “Orgasm, whether from partnered or solo activity, increases testosterone in the short-term,” she explains. “Long-term, higher testosterone has been correlated with more orgasms, but it’s not known if this is due to the orgasms, or if it drives the orgasms.”
Prause adds that this increase in testosterone can also have a positive effect on a person’s sex drive, which, she says “decreases with long-term abstinence from sexual activities like orgasm.” Long-term increases in wanking might actually boost sex drive, continues Prause — or, at the very least, it’s unlikely to lower it.
When it comes to muscle loss, Prause says, “There’s no truth to the idea that masturbation decreases testosterone, much less that any such change could be sufficient to alter muscle mass.” When asked where people might have gotten that idea, she tells me it’s likely due to “medical disinformation, most commonly by individuals selling treatments or belief systems, whether for profit or to recruit for their religious group.”
One particular community that peddles this idea is the anti-masturbation movement NoFap, whose advocates flood forums with false information about the sexual, physical and mental benefits of masturbation abstinence. As reported by The Conversation, NoFap members often use two studies to “back up” their claims — both of which found an increase in testosterone levels after a short period (three weeks and seven days respectively) of abstinence. However, in each, the increase was transient, and more data would be needed to draw a firm conclusion. Furthermore, a larger number of studies have either shown abstinence to have no effect on testosterone, or as Prause said, have reported testosterone levels to be higher after orgasm.
In fact, the main hormone your masturbation habit has an impact on is actually vasopressin, which is a somnolent. “This is why, we believe, most people become sleepy after orgasm,” says Prause. Moreover, in contrast to NoFap’s claims, masturbation can have a number of health benefits, including strengthening your immune system, enhancing your mood and improving your skin, heart health and ability to last longer during sex.
So, stop worrying about your goddamn muscles, and just go jack off!