FAP OR NO FAP?
Today, I’m going to change things up quite a bit. I’m going to discuss masturbation and working out.
More specifically, I’m going to discuss whether fapping is killing your gains.
This is a topic that many people – male and female – are interested in, especially because of how popular the NoFap movement has become in the news.
A lot of athletic people are worried that masturbation is robbing them of their hard-earned muscle and strength gains.
But is this true?
Let’s explore where this idea comes from, the arguments for and against fapping and working out, and the potential benefits of masturbation for your workouts. You might be surprised by my answer.
HISTORY OF ABSTINENCE AND THE NOFAP MOVEMENT
This idea of abstaining from sex and masturbation before training or a fight goes way back.
You might even remember that classic scene from Rocky where Mick tells Rocky that “women weaken legs.”
For years, guys were told by their coaches not to have sex or masturbate before a game because it’s going to negatively impact their performance.
And most people believed it.
Then this idea lost popularity. You didn’t hear many people talking about it for a while, but it’s recently made a big comeback thanks in no small part to the NoFap movement.
This movement focuses on abstaining from ejaculation because of the supposed benefits that come from abstinence.
According to anecdotal evidence, when you abstain from masturbation, you’ll experience a dramatic increase in testosterone.
And it’s through this boost in your t-levels that you’ll apparently notice the following benefits:
- Increased muscle mass
- Better performance during exercise
- Increased endurance during cardiovascular exercise
- Crazy amount of raw energy
- Reduced muscle soreness
- More manliness
- Decreased levels of pain
- More attractiveness to the opposite sex
- Crazy sex drive
- Ability to become more aggressive
- Ability to pursue the things that you want in life
Sounds great, right? Well, a lot of these guys will tell you that it isn’t easy and there are periods of time when you aren’t feeling that great.
For example, there are plenty of stories talking about how men and women will experience low energy levels, brain fog, unpredictable arousal levels, and a frustrating sex drive.
But overall, most people do report a positive impact.
Now, with ALL this said, I don’t know if I believe these claims.
THE “SCIENCE” BEHIND THE NOFAP MOVEMENT
People who swear by the NoFap movement tend to cite studies, so what they say must be legit, right?
Not so fast.
These reported benefits are usually tied back to just two small peer-reviewed studies, which isn’t a lot of sources.
In the first study, there were only 10 subjects. That’s not a lot of people to study. These guys were told to abstain from masturbation for a three-week period. The result was a significant increase in testosterone. 
In the second study, there were more subjects but still not that many – only 28 male subjects. For reference, the best clinical evidence and medical studies usually involve hundreds or thousands of subjects. Experts in this second study apparently demonstrated that after just seven days, subjects experienced an increase in their serum testosterone levels in response to masturbation abstinence. 
While that sounds great, there’s a catch: There have been just as many studies that have shown the direct opposite is true.
That is, more masturbation will lead to higher levels of testosterone.
So, this begs a chicken-or-the-egg question: Do these people already have high testosterone levels, and this made them want to masturbate more? Or was it the masturbation that was raising those levels of testosterone?
THE PROBLEM WITH THE SCIENCE
The larger problem with the supposed benefits of abstaining from masturbation is that there’s a lot of reductionist thinking happening.
It’s not helping us to get to the bottom of this because the reductionists say that an increase in testosterone by itself is going to lead to all these benefits of confidence, muscle mass, etc.
But there’s a big problem with this: Your body constantly strives for homeostasis or a state of balance.
There’s an important interplay between hormones in your body that creates a situation in which when one hormone increases, oftentimes another will increase as well to counteract that. Again, this happens to keep the body in the state of homeostasis.
A perfect example of this happening involves a compound called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin or SHBG.
The role of SHBG is to bind to excessive testosterone, making it less bioavailable. This means the additional testosterone is not able to do anything, even though the levels have increased.
In other words, if SHBG is increasing at the same time as testosterone (as the studies claim) then that extra testosterone is getting cancelled out and you’re not getting any real benefits from it.
BENEFIT OF THE NOFAP MOVEMENT
Yeah, I know it sounds like I’m trashing the idea of abstaining from masturbation, but I actually think the NoFap movement can be a good thing.
We live in an internet age. Men and women alike have become addicted to online porn to the point where it’s a problem.
Porn directly taps into the dopamine response, which means people can easily become addicted to it. This means that an occasional healthy habit can quickly become a bad habit, resulting in porn addiction.
Now, if this whole NoFap movement is based around trying to get people to abstain from what could become addictive tendencies, then, by all means, it’s a good habit.
But from an ability to increase testosterone, build more muscle, and become Superman… I highly doubt it can provide those benefits.
HOW FAPPING CAN HELP YOUR WORKOUTS
Now with all that said, I think you can utilize masturbation to support your goals of muscle building.
If you partake in this sexual activity, you know that you get a feeling of relaxation after orgasms.
Essentially, after a masturbation-induced orgasm there is a huge increase in serotonin levels and that’s going to make you feel more relaxed and give you a lower state of bodily and mental arousal.
And that’s extremely important, especially if you tend to exercise closer to bedtime because you don’t want your brain in high-energy mode.
Since masturbation allows you to become more relaxed, it can help you get some sleep. And that’s where fapping ties into training.
Studies show that people who train at a high intensity level will have a lower state of arousal. What I mean by that is their energy levels go down but in a good way. They aren’t feeling wiped or fatigued, but they also don’t have pent up amounts of energy.
This is likely due to the fact that these people push it really hard in the gym and they just don’t have that much energy afterwards.
Now, someone who trains at a low-to-medium-intensity level is going to have a much higher state of arousal after the workout.
This means their alertness is going to be very high, and this will make it difficult for someone who trains later at night to actually get restful sleep.
One way to combat these higher arousal levels later at night after a workout is to use masturbation.
By masturbating after a low-to-moderate-intensity workout, you can decrease your level of arousal, bringing yourself down to a more relaxed state so that you get a better night’s sleep.
Instead of taking a bunch of sleep supplements like melatonin, you can naturally help yourself get to sleep.
And when you have a more consistent, restful eight-to-nine hours of sleep, I promise you that is going to lead to an increase in muscle mass over time. Why?
Better recovery, especially if you’re a natural lifter, is going to equal better muscle gains because it’s during sleep that important growth hormone is released.
These surges in growth hormone support muscle recovery and promote muscle protein synthesis, an all-too important component of muscle building.
SIDE EFFECTS OF MASTURBATION
While masturbation is a completely safe and healthy thing to do, excessive masturbation could cause some issues.
Fapping too much and too frequently can cause tender and swollen skin around the top of your penis. It can also cause a crazy amount of soreness, which can result in painful erections.
Over time, masturbating too much can actually decrease the sensitivity. Not a good thing.
Again, these are all short-term side effects that will go away once you cut down on the number of times you do it.
And hey, if you’ve got a partner, excessive masturbation could hurt your sex life.
I’m not sure if there’s a “correct” number of times, but don’t do it 4-5 times within a 24-hour period of time.
I’d venture to say that a normal person probably does it once every day or every other day.
So, is masturbation killing your gains?
No! You don’t have to worry about poor exercise performance or losing out on your gains. In fact, it might be something that you actually want to explore as it could be beneficial for helping you sleep better post-workout.
Speaking of workouts, are you happy with your current workout?
For science-based workouts that will help you reach your goals, whatever they are, check out our ATHLEAN-X programs.
- Many athletes were advised by their coaches to not engage in masturbation or sex prior to a game or athletic event. The thought was that it made you “weak in the knees” and less aggressive in your sport.
- This idea has made a big comeback with a movement called “NoFap.” It encourages people to abstain in order to build up testosterone and become more manly.
- These ideas are backed by two studies, but these studies are flawed because the sample sizes are too low.
- It is not advised to look at the actions of any one hormone in isolation given the fact that there is a huge interplay between hormones in our bodies. When one hormone is elevated, often times another one rises in response. So, it’s difficult to rely on the results of these studies.
- What we can rely on in this case is anecdotal reports backed by science. Many say that they feel more relaxed after climaxing. The science supports this notion as it has been shown that serotonin levels rise after sex or masturbation.
- This makes masturbation ideal as a pre-sleep ritual to help those who are often restless at night to get a better night’s sleep. In the process, there’s a good chance you’ll experience better muscle recovery and ultimately more muscle gains.
- To fap or no fap, that is the question. The answer as always is going to be an individual one. You have to decide whether it is something you feel is necessary or even something you want to engage in if you’re looking to build more muscle or simply just feel better about life.
- Exton MS, Krüger TH, Bursch N, Haake P, Knapp W, Schedlowski M, Hartmann U. Endocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm in healthy men following a 3-week sexual abstinence. World J Urol. 2001 Nov;19(5):377-82. doi: 10.1007/s003450100222. PMID: 11760788.
- Jiang, M., Jiang, X., Zou, Q. et al.RETRACTED ARTICLE: A research on the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone level in men. J. Zhejiang Univ. Sci. A4, 236–240 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1631/jzus.2003.0236.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.