Vigorous Steve wants you to ice your nuts. About a year ago, the YouTuber and fitness coach touted the practice in a YouTube video entitled “How to Improve TESTOSTERONE Production in 20 Minutes 3 Times Per Day Using An ICE PACK.” He certainly makes a compelling case in the video, citing blood work which did, indeed, show increased testosterone levels after his icing protocol. “Every time I talk about icing the testicles, I grin and giggle a little bit,” he says in the video, rocking a vague Scandinavian accent and a bald fade reminiscent of Phil and Lil DeVille. “But it does work.”
Steve is one of a growing number of YouTubers and Reddit biohackers who have a proclivity for icing their family jewels. The practice isn’t to be confused with cryofreezing, a quasi-clinical treatment geared toward high-‘n’-tight testicular aesthetics. Instead, testicle icing is a DIY tactic — typically involving ice packs, frozen vegetables or other readily accessible cooling apparati — said to boost testosterone production and general virility. And while the practice isn’t necessarily harmful, it’s certainly inconvenient (like this fitness influencer explains around the video’s 2:50 mark). It’s also probably unnecessary, as many doctors say.
Nevertheless, the teeth-chattering testicle talk started cropping up Reddit around a year ago, likely due in part to Vigorous Steve’s endorsement of the practice. Today, it’s a frequent topic in the r/Testosterone and r/MorePlatesMoreDates subreddits, both of which draw in amateur biohackers looking to increase their physical performance and general Chaddery. Those brave enough to let Jack Frost nip at their nuts take to the forums to discuss icing tactics and success rates. One redditor claims to be “shooting ropes” after implementing a regimen of testicle icing, ashwagandha consumption and genital sun exposure. Another celebrates an influx of morning boners after “icing them gonads.” And while neither have proof of increased testosterone levels, there are several studies that suggest lowering the temperature of the testes can boost sperm activity after all.
To find out more, I checked in with Aaron Spitz, a urologist and author of The Penis Book: A Doctor’s Complete Guide to the Penis — From Size to Function and Everything in Between. “The concept behind [these studies] is the basic understanding that testicles need to be about two and a half degrees cooler than core body temperature for sperm to form,” Spitz tells me. “This is why testicles are in the scrotum ‘outside’ a man’s body, unlike ovaries which are inside the body and do just fine at body temperature.”
As it turns out, researchers have long been aware of this, and they’ve been icing balls for decades. A 1954 study demonstrated “an improvement of semen quality in three infertile men … by means of cold sponging of the scrotum twice daily and avoidance of tight-fitting underwear.” A 1984 study showed “significant increases of sperm density and percentage of motile spermatozoa” after subjects applied cold packs to their scrotal regions on a nightly basis. There’s also a 2005 study that found a “significant increase in sperm concentration and total sperm count” after test subjects underwent eight weeks of “nocturnal cooling” with circulating air pumps. I reviewed these studies with Spitz, who noted that while “deliberate cooling of the testicles can result in increased sperm counts,” cooling has not been shown to increase testosterone.
So, testosterone gains are out, but could testicle icing still be a valid sperm-boosting therapy? Spitz says that, while the practice likely doesn’t hurt, there are much better ways to activate the swimmers. First, he advises against splish-splashing around in hot water, all of which can warm the testicles to a level that results in suboptimal function. He also points out that “experimental evaluation of the temperature of the scrotum throughout the day indicates that the temperature increases when a man is sedentary, sitting and sleeping, perhaps due to the lack of movement and confinement to the thighs.” In other words, actively swingin’ testicles are happy testicles. Give those babies some air, boys.
Spitz adds that attire may also impact sperm count. “Although there’s controversy regarding the impact of underwear, there’s some evidence of better sperm counts with less restrictive underwear, such as boxers, versus tight underwear (briefs) and tight pants,” he explains.
Ultimately, if you’re worried about your nut function, a doctor should be your first stop. “If there’s concern, get an evaluation from a physician to ensure there are not concerning medical conditions that may be impairing testicle health,” Spitz says. And while icing your testicles may not lead to catastrophic side effects, it’s certainly not a good time. Even Vigorous Steve cites “a little bit of retraction after forgetting to remove the ice pack.”
Your gonads may thrive in a wintry climate — but at what cost?