Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sexual Activity and Bodybuilding. By Veeraj Vic Goyaram

Male concerns
Sexual Activity and Bodybuilding
(& some interesting facts)
Researched and Composed by Veeraj V. Goyaram
We are discussing Biology, not morality
I have decided to write this article following the numerous questions that I have seen on our facebook page regarding the effect of sexual activities on bodybuilding. Sexual activity, in the context of our article, refers to sexual intercourse and/ or masturbation leading to ejaculationImportantly, right at the outset I want to make it clear that this article discusses these sexual activities from the point of view of biology rather than morality. For instance, there are mixed thoughts regarding the moral aspects of masturbation. If you feel that masturbation is immoral then I respect your views and suggest that you don't read further.  

By a Scientist who Lifts!! Click here for more details
The effect of sexual activity on exercise performance
While doing background work to write this article I did not come across any scientific article that looked into the effect of sex and masturbation on athletic and exercise performance. If any one of you come across any research article please let me know. Interestingly, there are numerous anecdotal reports about the practice of abstinence in sports circles whereby coaches would demand complete abstinence from sexual activities to team members. This practice has been around for a long time. Whether or not this provides any benefit is unknown. 

The few research papers that I came across looked at the effect of masturbation and orgasm while watching sexually arousing material on a number of hormones (Kruger et al., 1998; Kruger et al., 2002) under non-exercising conditions. While the data looks interesting, it is not easy to extrapolate these findings to deduce the effects that masturbation would have on a) performance of exercise following masturbation or on the day of masturbation and b) the effect of masturbation frequency on exercise performance and bodybuilding progress.

The first part of this article will discuss the available data on the effects of masturbation or intercourse induced orgasm on various hormones which is of interest to exercising individuals like Testosterone and Cortisol. The second part will attempt to dispel some of the common myths regarding the effects that sexual activity has on bodybuilding. 

What does Science say?

No decrease in testosterone
Short term changes in levels of certain hormones as a result of masturbation has been the subject of several studies. In one study by German researchers (Krüger et al., 1998), hormones were measured in healthy males during masturbation, orgasm and in the moment following orgasm. Interestingly, they found no decrease in testosterone levels (Fig. 1) but did find an increase in the noradrenaline which explained the increase in blood pressure and heart rate around the time of masturbation and orgasm. Blood pressure and heart rate went back to normal levels 5 minutes after orgasm. Interestingly, the catabolic hormone Cortisol was not decreased as well (Fig. 2A).
Fig 1: Masturbation and orgasm did not change testosterone levels
(Kruger et al., 1998)
Increase in Prolactin and its biological effects
Another important observation was that Prolactin levels increased post orgasm. Prolactin is a hormone which has a variety of biological functions, more than 300. One of its main functions in women is to stimulate milk production. Both men and women produce prolactin. With regard to our topic at hand, the rapid increase in Prolactin seen after orgasm works on the central nervous system to reduce sexual arousal and provide sexual gratification after the sexual act, explaining the "high" and the feeling of sleepiness that one feels after orgasm. 
                              A                                                      B
Fig. 2: Masturbation and orgasm did not alter Cortisol levels (A).
Orgasm significantly increased Prolactin levels (B).

(Kruger et al., 1998)
Prolactin is also involved in the sexual refractory period which is the time during which it is physiologically impossible for a man to have additional orgasms. Prolactin provides a psychological feeling of "satiation" and are temporarily uninterested in further sexual activity; the penis may be hypersensitive and further sexual stimulation may even feel painful during this time frame (Rosenthal, 2012). During this phase, understandably, Prolactin also reduces erections as it acts on the corpora cavernosa (erectile chambers) in the penis. 

Now, the interesting thing is that 
a) both men and women experience this rise in prolactin after orgasm
b) both sex and masturbation-induced orgasm increase prolactin levels
c) Prolactin remains elevated for about 1 hour post orgasm in both men and women and then returns back to normal levels (Krüger et al., 2002)

The implications of this for bodybuilding may be as follows:

a) Exercise performance post-orgasm: given the action of prolactin on the central nervous system to give a feeling of gratification and sleepiness and that prolactin remains elevated for about 1 hour post-orgasm we may extrapolate to say that performance may be affected if any exercise or physical activity takes place during that period. Or maybe one's willpower to go to hit the weights is so strong that even after "pleasing the missis" or "pinching the one-eyed snake" you overcome this feeling of sleepiness and hit the gym. Many people I spoke to reported that they have no problem going through a workout after having had a quickie shortly before.

b) Multiple-orgasms for the day and testosterone levels: it is a well known fact that long term (chronic) elevations of prolactin (hyperprolactinemia) produce pronounced reductions in animal sexual activity, and significant reduction of libido and gonadal function in both men and women. In men, this stems from a reduction in testosterone production. This leads us to question "what if I have an orgasm several times a day? And knowing that each orgasm bring about an elevation in prolactin that lasts one hour". Will this decrease my testosterone in the long run? This is not easy to answer because we don't know what happens to prolactin in the case of multiple daily orgasms. The link between multiple orgasms, prolactin levels, testosterone levels and exercise performance hasn't been studied. These would make for great scientific studies, indeed. 

So much for the science. Let us now look at the fiction

Some common misconceptions regarding sexual activity

1. You will lose your gains
This is a bunch of nonsense. Correct me if I am wrong but I think about it this way: The aim of the human race is to survive and perpetuate. This relies on reproduction. We are here today because our ancestors were able to copulate and reproduce. Therefore, the body is not meant to waste itself when reproducing therefore we don't lose muscle or precious "life" each time we have sex and ejaculate. It's as simple like that. Sexual intercourse may set you back by a few calories but in no way will it make you lose your gains. 

2. You lose vitamins and minerals when you ejaculate
Semen contains minerals of which Zinc (about 0.5mg per normal ejaculate) is the most significant, as well as small amounts of fructose and glucose. Contrary to popular belief you won't enter a state of Zinc deficiency if you ejaculate on a regular basis although Zinc deficiency is sometimes an issue for men due to inadequate nutrition. (Click here for my article on Zinc supplementation).

3. Ejaculation increases your risk of prostate cancer
It has been hypothesized that sexual activity increases the rate of prostate cancer. However, the evidence for this is very limited. In fact, the contrary is now known to be true. In a study conducted by American researchers (Leitzmann et al., 2004) it was found that increased ejaculatory frequency was associated with lower risk of developing prostate cancer because there is an increased clearance of secretions of the prostate that can cause cancer.

4. Masturbation weakens the knees and cause one arm to grow bigger than the other.
I've heard this one in Mauritius only. No, masturbation does not affect the knees. Masturbation also won't cause the working arm to get bigger and more vascular. Most of you already know that this is not true, anyway. Therefore, no need to alternate arms. Neither will there be any impairment in recovery if you masturbate after an arm session unless you stay awake the whole night. 

Take-home lessons:
  • Masturbation does not affect testosterone and Cortisol at least during the time of masturbation. The effect of regular masturbation on these hormones has not been studied.
  • Orgasm from masturbation and intercourse leads to a transient increase in Prolactin in both men and women. This prolactin gives a feeling of gratification and sleepiness. It may or may not interfere with training just after orgasm, depending on the individual.
  • Prolactin influences testosterone production. The effect of regular masturbation on Prolactin levels and its effect on testosterone is currently not known as no studies has been carried out.
  • Sexual activities are part of life. Enjoy it as long as it doesn't interfere with other aspects of your life. Well, sometimes a little back pain or soreness from the previous day's love making may stand in the way of your deadlifts and squats the next day but that's not a big deal. You can work around it. 
Final thoughts
  • Me I would say, enjoy love making. If your woman wants it give it to her and as much as she wants. Bodybuilding can wait. If you need to skip gym then so be it. You are not a professional bodybuilder. You can still make plans to catch up on your workout later. Sex does burn quite a bit of calories if you go intensely enough. If you got a "big mamma" to work on then she may leave you sore and unable to walk the next day. Then it may affect your bodybuilding but then your aim should be to please your "big mamma". Put her needs first. It is useless to have huge muscles if you don't satisfy your woman. 
  • Even if you are in a relationship, "pinching the one-eyed snake" may be fun at time when the Mrs. is not available. But masturbation mustn't be the only sexual activity option that you have. Everyone can get a sex partner. 


Krüger T, Exton MS, Pawlak C, von zur Mühlen A, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M. Neuroendocrine and cardiovascular response to sexual arousal and orgasm in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 May;23(4):401-11.

Krüger TH, Haake P, Hartmann U, Schedlowski M, Exton MS. Orgasm-induced prolactin secretion: feedback control of sexual drive? Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2002 Jan;26(1):31-44.

Rosenthal, Martha (2012). Human Sexuality: From Cells to Society. Cengage Learning. pp. 134–135. ISBN 9780618755714.

Leitzmann MF, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, Giovannucci E. Ejaculation frequency and subsequent risk of prostate cancer. JAMA. 2004 Apr 7;291(13):1578-86.

©,2013, Veeraj Goyaram, Bodybuilding Mauritius. Any reprinting in any type of media is prohibited.
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  1. After reading in couple of articles, and some independent scientific studies, around 8 months before I decided to do a self-assessment of masturbation on my performance in gym. Before going to gym in the evening, I would do that, and get on my wheels and rush to the gym. I did the same for around 3 weeks. The immediate effect that I noticed was a tremendous increase in stamina and performance. But that effect wouldn't persist for more than 30 mins anyway, but since I do high intensity training, I'm done by 40 mins anyway. It does makes you feel a little lazy to get off bed after orgasm, but once you're under squat rack, the effects are very clear. After 3 weeks I stopped it abruptly for another 2 weeks. On the first day itself, I could notice a significant drop in stamina and performance.
    To conclude, what I have understood from my own personal experience, it does increase the performance in gym immediately post ejaculation. I didn't have a chance to study my testosterone levels, but the type of performance increase clearly suggests a boost of test levels. Secondly, orgasm in any other time of the day doesn't have any effect on performance in gym, rather if done before 2-3 hours of gym, I've seen a decrease in performance in my own experience.
    Thirdly, multiple times masturbation in a day, will clearly ruin not only the performance but also the mood to hit the gym.
    Fourthly, if masturbation is stopped abruptly, the test level goes up for 7 days, but from the 8th day it starts to go down again for some unknown reason (read in some of the articles, maybe a year before)

    Even though masturbation has a huge bad-name in the society, it actually has many benefits in real life, starting from prevention of prostrate cancer to getting a break from boredom ...

    1. As I mentioned, there are a lot of factors that can account for the different effects that people feel after masturbation. Some people feel energetic while others feel lethargic. Neurobiology is very complex but at the end of the day it is all about doing what works for you.

  2. Rohan,
    I've heard:
    "Fourthly, if masturbation is stopped abruptly, the test level goes up for 7 days, but from the 8th day it starts to go down again for some unknown reason (read in some of the articles, maybe a year before)"

    before, and have not found the article, could you please you post it?

    1. Hello RunningJamesF,

      here is the link to the abstract of the article on Pubmed:

      The researchers found that from the 2nd to the 5th day after the last ejaculation testosterone fluctuations were minimal. Then levels spiked to about 145.7% more than baseline on the 7th day after which it dropped again.

      This spike that lasts one day, as found in the study, is unlikely to provide any significant benefit in terms of muscle gain. For muscle gain, the elevation in testosterone must be of a longer term (chronic elevation). The quick surge noted in this study cited here may probably serve a behavioural role, in my opinion.

      In that vein, Canadian researchers from McMaster University (West and Phillips, 2012)showed that the elevations in testosterone and GH after lower body exercise does not correlate with gains in lean body mass because the elevation in these hormones are small and transient. Here is a link to that study, if you are interested in knowing more:

      I hope my response sheds a bit more light on this topic and thanks for pointing that out.