Last night, ahead of his much-anticipated rematch against fellow undefeated heavyweight boxer Deontay Wilder, 31-year-old Tyson Fury nonchalantly rattled off some lifestyle changes he’s made in hopes of giving himself even the slightest edge: He’s cut back on Diet Coke, he’s going to bed earlier and he’s eating five meals a day. “I don’t really know if any of it really matters on the night,” he told reporters in his distinctive brogue. “It didn’t matter before, but if it’s going to give me an edge on winning this fight, then I’m willing to try it.”
“Any other changes to your routine this time around?” a reporter followed up.
Fury paused for a second before going for broke. “I’m uh, masturbating seven times a day,” he answered. “To keep me testosterone pumping. Gotta keep active, keep the testosterone flowing.”
Is that really how testosterone works?
Sorry, Tyson. “There is no connection between masturbation and testosterone levels,” writes Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger, director of urology at New York Urology Specialists. “There is no scientifically validated way to ‘raise’ testosterone levels at will through some sort of activity.”
Doesn’t exercise help, though? Only as a major lifestyle change. “Long-term exercise can lead to increased testosterone levels, possibly by lowering fat content in the body and decreasing conversion of testosterone to estrogen by fat cells,” Shteynshlyuger clarifies.
To give Fury credit, there are a handful of studies that look at the frequency with which men masturbate and their testosterone levels, and the two most commonly cited do find a correlation. However, a 2003 study observed testosterone levels in 28 men and found their whose testosterone actually peaked on the seventh day of abstinence.
Does that mean, then, that Fury should actually be holding off on masturbation before his big fight? Not necessarily. The fight is 39 days away, and studies have shown masturbating doesn’t have any long-term effects on testosterone levels (thereby also dispelling the myth that the more you masturbate the less testosterone you’ll have). He could abstain from masturbating seven days before the fight, but the only guaranteed way he’d see a quick spike in testosterone is if he’s able to masturbate during the fight, since testosterone levels naturally rise right before orgasm. We’re going to assume, though, that that’s against the rules — or, at the very least, hard to do while wearing boxing gloves.
So what else could Fury be thinking? Maybe he’s taking after Ronda Rousey, who famously said she was “having as much sex as possible” leading up to a big fight. Or maybe the 31-year-old is hoping he’s a descendent of Splinter, since two 2007 studies found ejaculation has an effect on the amount of hormones in rats, which, in turn, affects their bodies’ ability to use testosterone.
Ultimately, the overall science around testosterone is shaky. It’s not clear whether or not a change in testosterone levels is even noticeable, let alone able to play a role in physical performance. But like Fury said, he doesn’t care if it works or not. He’s going to continue to furiously pump Fury Jr. seven times a day, seven days a week.
If he’s serious, he might need to take more drastic measures. “The only practical [way] one can raise testosterone levels is by creating some damage to the testis that is sufficient to ‘release’ testosterone in the bloodstream,” says Shteynshlyuger. “Obviously, that can be done only once.”
Fury may be better off meditating or getting some sunshine instead. After all, those are equally natural ways to “keep the testosterone pumping,” just with much less risk of chafing.