Rumors abound as to whether masturbation can affect your testosterone (T) levels.

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

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

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

T levels naturally rise during masturbation and sex, and fall to normal levels after orgasm. Ejaculating from masturbation doesn’t have any noticeable, direct effects on serum T levels, however. This means that T levels don’t get lower the more you masturbate.

One older study found some evidence that abstaining from masturbation and sexual activity for three months or more may reduce T levels until sexual activity is resumed. But this study was conducted on people with erectile dysfunction (ED). These results may not represent T level change in those without the condition.

In fact, a study published in 2001 found that refraining from masturbation for three weeks may cause a mild increase in T levels. Another study from 2003 found evidence that T levels may increase by nearly 150 percent seven days after you’ve stopped masturbating.

A 2007 study on rats found that frequent masturbation lowered androgen receptors in their brains. Androgen receptors help your body use testosterone. Another study on rats showed that frequent masturbation increased estrogen receptors. These assist your body in using estrogen. Over time, frequent masturbation may affect the overall ability of your androgen receptors in utilizing testosterone.

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

Testosterone is known to help build muscles because it assists the muscles in synthesizing protein. Research shows that short periods of abstinence may cause noticeable spikes in T levels. Refraining from masturbation or sexual activity for about seven days before a workout may help you build muscle somewhat faster. More research is needed to better understand this connection.

The signs of low T levels include:

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

Some of these signs can be caused by lifestyle choices. Smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can both influence your T levels. Certain conditions can also impact your T levels, such as:

Masturbation has plenty of proven benefits, including:

  • feeling pleasure
  • relieving stress
  • reducing sexual tension
  • improving your mood
  • helping you relax or reduce anxiety
  • getting more satisfying sleep
  • learning 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.

Masturbation can cause psychological effects that affect your T levels. 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 can affect T levels, and cause ED or lowered sex drive.

You may also feel uncomfortable masturbating if you masturbate more often than engaging in sexual activity with your partner. This can cause difficulties within your relationship that affect your T levels because of depression or anxiety.

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

In some cases, talking about masturbation and developing healthy sexual habits, such as masturbating during sex, 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 orgasm won’t cause any long-term effects on your sexual health or overall well-being.

Personal issues can affect T levels. If you notice signs of low testosterone while also experiencing difficulties in your relationships, consider therapy for yourself or both you and your partner. Communicating openly about your personal or sex life can help you resolve issues that may be causing a drop in your T levels.