NoFap and Testosterone: Debunking the Myth
30 November 2023 / 8 minutes read /
NoFap.com, the epicentre of the nofap-community, is a community-based sexual health platform created to assist people in overcoming sexual addiction and compulsive behaviour.
To overcome their addiction, men can partake in the nofap challenge. A challenge in which men are summoned to turn their back on masturbation and porn for about 90 days. Claiming that it will improve not only your focus and concentration but also the quality of your sperm.
Now, none of these claims can be backed up with solid scientific evidence and to be honest, we don't care either. We leave most of their claims for what they are. However, in terms of improved sperm quality, they got it dead wrong. Partaking in the nofap challenge will reduce the quality of your sperm, and we got the numbers to prove it.
"Nofap" is an online movement that aims to give up sex and masturbation for an extended period of time - usually about three months. According to online sources, NoFap started on Reddit in 2011 due to a casual discussion between men who decided to turn their back on masturbation, sex and porn. The term fapping is internet slang for jerking off. The term NoFap refers to its opposite: not jerking off.
According to the no-fap community, sperm quality will increase after abstaining from sex and masturbation for 90 days—an incorrect claim. However, the no-fap community isn't the only one who gets it wrong. They are joined by "prestigious" institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), which still recommends a 2-7 day abstinence period for improving sperm quality. An outdated recommendation that was proven wrong more than ten years ago.
To prove why the WHO and nofap-community are wrong, we need to show you some data. We extracted data from studies that evaluated sperm quality with various periods of abstinence.
This paragraph will discuss the influence of abstinence on the following sperm parameters: semen volume, sperm concentration, percentage of motile sperm, sperm with normal morphology (= normal structure, size, and shape), and finally, DNA fragmentation.
Semen is that white-yellowish fluid released during ejaculation. Normal semen volume ranges from 2 to 5 ml per ejaculate and decreases with time. Peak semen volume is reached between ages 30-35, and volume is lowest in men 55 years and older.
During periods of abstinence, semen volume has been shown to increase. From an average of 2,2 ml per ejaculate on day 0 to an average of 3,6 ml on day 7.
It's important to point out that semen and sperm aren't the same things. Semen is the white-greyish fluid that includes sperm. Sperm itself refers to the male reproductive cells. You know, those swimming things that fertilise an egg. To put it all into perspective, less than 5% of semen is made up of sperm.
It has been shown that sperm concentration increases during periods of abstinence. From an average of 60,6 million/ml sperm cells on day 0 to an average of 74,7 million/ml sperm cells on day 7.
Sperm motility refers to the sperm's ability to move forward rapidly and progressively. Sperm that have motility problems have a lower chance of fertilising an egg. Some swim in circles, while others might not move at all. Men are considered less fertile when the percentage of progressively motile sperm is less than 32%.
According to our study results, peak sperm motility is reached between 1 and 6 days of abstinence - from 37,5% on day 0 to 42,1% between days 1 and 6. An abstention period of more than 7 days rapidly decreased sperm motility. From 42,3% on day 6 to 38,0% on day 10 and 33,1% on day 14.
Abstaining from sex and masturbation has a different effect in men with a low sperm count (fewer than 15 million/ml). In these men, peak sperm motility was seen on day 1 - from 24,5% on day 0 to 30,3% on day 1. After this period, sperm motility decreased to "only" 17,8% on day 14.
Sperm with normal morphology refers to sperm cells that are normal in structure, shape and size. A sperm cell with a weirdly-shaped head for example, is considered a sperm cell with abnormal morphology. The more sperm cells you have with normal morphology, the higher the chance of fertilising an egg. Having between 4% and 14% sperm cells with normal morphology is considered "normal".
The highest amount of sperm cells with normal morphology was seen on day 0 (9.3%). After that, it gradually dropped to 8,4% on day 10. On day 14, however, only 7,0% of sperm cells were of normal morphology.
DNA fragmentation refers to DNA strands that are damaged. A high degree of sperm DNA fragmentation can translate into fertilisation problems, as well as early embryonic development failure and an increased likelihood of having a miscarriage.
Based on the results of our studies, longer abstention times lead to higher DNA fragmentation rates. From 14,5% when the abstention period is less than 2 days to 17,1% on day 6. In other words, sperm cells with fragmented DNA increase by 17,93% after 6 days of abstention.
Regarding male fertility, the parameters that matter are percentage of motile sperm, normal morphology and DNA fragmentation. The fact that semen volume increases after abstention doesn't matter if it means that you end up with more immobile sperm cells, which are weirdly shaped and fragmented DNA.
Based on what has been discussed previously, it is clear that longer abstention times results in an increase in sperm cells with DNA fragmentation and abnormal morphology. Altogether, this translates into a higher risk of miscarriage and fertilisation problems.
Long-term abstinence leads to the buildup of sperm in the epididymis. It increases their exposure to the harmful effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS) during maturation and storage in the epididymis. Human sperm are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and are susceptible to damage induced ROS.
This increased exposure to ROS, caused by sperm buildup in the epididymis, leads to decreased sperm motility and increased DNA damage and abnormal morphology.