Masturbation is natural way to feel pleasure by exploring your body — but you might be wondering whether it can affect your testosterone levels.

The short answer to this question? No. Masturbation and ejaculation haven’t been shown to have any long-term or negative effects on testosterone levels, also known as T levels.

But the longer answer isn’t quite that simple. Masturbation, whether solo or with a partner, can have a variety of effects on T levels, though these are mostly short term.

Testosterone is linked to your sex drive, known as your libido. This is true whether you’re male or female. It’s known to have a more direct effect on the male sex drive, however.

T levels naturally rise during masturbation and sex, then fall back to regular levels after orgasm.

According to a small study from 1972, ejaculating from masturbation doesn’t have any noticeable, direct effects on serum T levels. This means that T levels don’t get lower the more you masturbate, contrary to some people’s opinions.

One 2001 study of 10 adult males did find that refraining from masturbation for 3 weeks may cause a mild increase in T levels.

Conflicting studies on the effect of masturbation on hormone receptors also cloud the picture.

A 2007 study on rats found that frequent masturbation lowered androgen receptors in the brain. Androgen receptors help the body use testosterone. Meanwhile, another 2007 study on rats showed that frequent masturbation increased estrogen receptor density.

The implications of these findings on humans in the real world are unclear.

Testosterone is known to help build muscles because it assists them in synthesizing protein.

Because masturbation affects testosterone levels in only minor short-term ways, it won’t stop you from building muscle if you follow a healthy muscle-building regimen.

There’s little to no clinical evidence available to show that refraining from masturbation or sexual activity before a workout can help you build muscle any faster.

The signs of low T levels include:

  • decreased or lack of sex drive
  • having trouble getting or keeping an erection, or erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • producing small amounts of semen during ejaculation
  • losing hair on your scalp, face, and body
  • feeling a lack of energy or exhaustion
  • losing muscle mass
  • losing bone mass (osteoporosis)
  • gaining higher amounts of body fat, including chest fat (gynecomastia)
  • experiencing unexplained changes in mood

However, some of these signs can be caused by lifestyle choices. Smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can influence your T levels.

Certain health conditions can also impact your T levels, such as:

Masturbation is a safe way to experience sexual pleasure, whether you’re solo or with a partner. It has plenty of other proven benefits, too, including:

  • relieving stress
  • reducing sexual tension
  • improving your mood
  • helping you relax or reduce anxiety
  • helping you get more satisfying sleep
  • helping you learn more about your sexual desires
  • improving your sex life
  • alleviating cramps

Masturbation doesn’t have any negative effects on your sexual performance or other parts of your body in relation to T levels.

Masturbation alone doesn’t cause hair loss, ED, or acne breakouts on your face and back. These effects are more strongly linked to lifestyle choices, hygiene, and personal relationships, rather than to your T levels.

However, masturbation can cause psychological effects that impact your T levels.

For example, some people feel guilty when they masturbate, due to social or interpersonal pressures. This is especially common when they’re told that masturbation is immoral or equivalent to being unfaithful.

This guilt, along with relationship troubles, can cause anxiety and depression. This, in turn, can affect your T levels, which can cause ED or lowered sex drive.

You may also feel uncomfortable masturbating, especially if you masturbate more often than you engage in sexual activity with your partner. This can cause difficulties in your relationship, and these difficulties may affect your T levels if they result in depression or anxiety.

Communicate openly with your partner so that you’re both in agreement about the role of masturbation in your relationship. You might consider seeking individual or couples therapy to get to the bottom of masturbation’s effects on your relationship.

In some cases, talking about masturbation with your partner can help develop healthy sexual habits. This can help you maintain healthy levels of testosterone through a sexually satisfying relationship with your partner.

Masturbation alone doesn’t have much of an impact on your T levels.

The hormone changes associated with masturbation can cause some short-term effects, but ejaculation caused by masturbation won’t have any long-term impact on your sexual health or overall well-being.

Personal and emotional issues can affect T levels, though. If you notice signs of low testosterone while also experiencing difficulties in your relationship, consider therapy for yourself or for you and your partner.

Communicating openly about your personal or sex life may help you resolve issues that could be causing a drop in your T levels.