Impact of 3 Weeks of Abstinence on T Levels
20% T Increase From 3 weeks of Abstinence
Two weeks ago, we looked at the 7-Day Semen Retention Schedule for Maximizing Testosterone.
After talking to a few clinical researchers and semen retention guys, I’ve become very skeptical about the study.
For one, it took place in China 20 years ago, and I can’t find anything about the original authors, unlike any other study I’ve written about so far.
Second, no one’s tried to replicate it, academically or informally. I couldn’t find a single fitness influencer who simply did a blood test between day 1 and day 7 of abstinence, or any other period of time.
Third, one of the main conclusions of the study — that T levels go back down on day 8 — were somewhat contradicted by the only other study I could find that (indirectly) looked at the effect of abstinence on testosterone.
Thus, we’ll look at this study today: Endocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm in healthy men following a 3-week sexual abstinence.
Table of Contents
How this Study Contradicts the Other One
3 High T Links
Because I have far less belief in T levels peaking in 7 day cycles, I’ve decided to hold off on a group replication of the study. Instead, I will first do my own trial where I test my T over X days of ejaculation to see how my T levels fluctuate.
I also need to figure out which self-prick tests are accurate, as only one of the 20+ tests I’ve ever done was self-prick, SiPhox. The brands I’m planning to try: Everlywell, LetsGetChecked, mylabbox, and Spot. Let me know if there are other test providers you want me to try out.
This is also another reminder that the SF T Party is coming up in 2 Saturdays. I will be back in SF for at least another month, so let’s meetup if you’re there.
Endocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm in healthy men following a 3-week sexual abstinence
How this Study Contradicts the Other One
In white boxes are the T levels on day 0 of abstinence over a 60-minute period of sexual arousal (elaborated in the Study Design section below).
In black boxes are the T levels after 21 days of abstinence throughout 60 minutes of sexual arousal. You can see that, besides the first 10-minute measurement, every other 10-minute interval had higher T levels by about 70 ng/dL, which is significant in my opinion.
In this study, T levels were about 70 ng/dL higher after 3 weeks of abstinence, which is about a 20% increase.
This would contradict the 2003 study, because in that study, T levels increased by ~50% by day 7, but went back down to baseline on days 8-15.
This assumes T levels wouldn’t have gone back up through days 15-21, which wasn’t tested.
That said, the study suggest that T levels may have simply been increased due to the anticipation of ejaculation, which is well-documented in both men and women (future post).
Therefore, to replicate this study, one should try to control for participant anticipation. This could be done by doing trials where an ejaculation schedule is known and one where the schedule is unknown.
Furthermore, talking to semen retention guys, and based on some of the papers I’ve skimmed so far, it’s possible there might also be massive differences on how T levels increase or rebound if one:
has sex with a partner,
masturbates with porn,
or even does “mindful masturbation” without porn, which I only recently learned about.
Finally, I’d like to note the difference between “X increases Testosterone” acutely vs chronically. Lots of things increase Free T acutely, like looking at erotic or aggressive videos, seeing your sports team win or lose, seeing your political party win or lose, handling guns, etc.
While those are great headlines (future posts that I will probably cover soon enough), I am far more interested in increasing T chronically as a long-term strategy for T optimization, since this is far more actionable and applicable to lifestyle improvement.
Prolactin is another sex hormone. Prolactin levels were pretty much the same before (white boxes) and after abstinence (black boxes). Both trials followed the same pattern of increasing during the minutes 20-40, where sexual stimuli happened, and decreasing after minute 50, where ejaculation happened.
The other interesting hormonal response during sexual arousal was with prolactin.
Pro stands for for and lactin stands for lactate, so this hormone rises when women are pregnant and lactating.
Normal prolactin levels via UCSF:
Men: less than 20 ng/mL (425 µg/L)
Nonpregnant women: less than 25 ng/mL (25 µg/L)
Pregnant women: 80 to 400 ng/mL (80 to 400 µg/L)
I do not know much about prolactin yet, but some theorize that it has an effect on the “refractory period” — the period where after ejaculating a guy is not able to easily go again.
I’ve been talking to guys who are very into semen retention and sex magic. They claim that they can have multiple non-ejaculatory orgasms. If managing prolactin levels is really a driving force behind this, this is definitely something to explore in the future so that we can make claims that are more substantiated by evidence.
Not surprisingly, heart rate increased, systolic and diastolic blood pressure increased, adrenaline and noradrenaline increased, and subjective reports of sexual arousal all increased throughout the sexual arousal period.
Cortisol levels did not change in the arousal period or between the 3-week abstinence period.
Ten healthy male volunteers (mean age of 25.8 ± 0.8 years, range of 22-29 years) participated.
All participants reported that they had an exclusively heterosexual orientation and a relaxed attitude toward pornography.
Further, all subjects were currently in a stable relationship and reported having sexual intercourse approximately 2-3 times per week.
The actual study is pretty interesting because they test two sets of things:
They test biomarkers before and after 3 weeks of abstinence.
They test how those biomarkers fluctuate acutely over a 60-minute period of sexual stimulation.
You might ask, how did they measure the acute change of blood biomarkers while the guys were watching erotic content and ejaculating? They basically had a blood pump glory hole.
The testing design, verbatim from the study:
Experiments were conducted in a separate sound-attenuated room equipped with a clinical bed, a color television, and a video cassette player.
All leads, including the bloodline, passed through the wall into the adjacent room where the cardiovascular data and blood samples were collected, allowing the subject to be completely isolated throughout the experiment.
At the beginning of each session, participants were placed on the bed in front of the video screen.
The cardiovascular monitor was then engaged 30 min prior to the film, and a steady baseline reading was obtained before the cannula was inserted >20 min before the beginning of the film).
The session was composed of three sequences, each lasting 20 min.
The first and last sections of the video tape were composed of sections of an emotionally neutral documentary film. However, the middle section consisted of a 20 min pornographic film that showed different couples engaged in foreplay and sexual intercourse.
Blood sampling was initiated at the beginning of the film.
After 10 min of the pornographic video had been watched (>anticipatory phase), subjects in the experimental session were required to masturbate until orgasm.
Blood was drawn continuously, with the samples divided into six 10 min intervals [15±17, 24].
Specifically, the first two samples represented basal values (>10, 20 min), the third sample represented the response to film-induced sexual arousal (>30 min), the fourth demonstrated the response to orgasm (>40 min), and the final two samples showed the recovery phase (>50, 60 min).
T levels were tested at the same time, 430pm, on both day 0 and day 21.
Why am I writing so much about ejaculation, you might ask? The reasons are simple.
I. I think most guys are addicted to porn today, in the same way most people are addicted to phones and social media, or food and coffee. We live in a baseline addicted society. No man is like, “Man, my life is great, I just regret not watching more porn and masturbating more.” Me included. 🙋♂️
I understand this is a loose way to use “addiction”. If you believe your life is significantly worse because of extensive porn and masturbation usage, I know a men’s coach who specializes in helping guys get over their porn addiction. He’s also someone I’ve talking to about sex magic and non-ejaculatory orgasms. Let me know and I can intro.
II. To the original point of this newsletter, there is SO MUCH CONTENT about men’s health but SO LITTLE discussion grounded in evidence.
I’m so confused that not a single researcher or doctor, let alone a single fitness influencer, has tried to replicate any of these studies with actual blood tests even with an N=1. So many click bait headlines and thumbnails, zero data.
III. Finally, the more I learn about men’s health, the more I do believe testosterone and sexual drive are very powerful forces, if not the most powerful ones.
We’ll start and end this post with an Oscar Wilde quote:
The optimal ejaculation intervals, according to some semen retention practitioners.
3 High T Links
Male Multiple Orgasms without Ejaculating: Exactly How to Have Them.
Nat Eliason actually made a kegel exercise app in 2015 to help guys achieve multiple orgasms. (blog)
The Strange World of Semen Retention: Esoteric Powers and Success (video)
the most common reason straight men fail at dating is they dont actually like women (tweet, eigenrobot)
Retain your vital energy kings,
Jeff “Big T” Tang
How was today's newsletter?