Testosterone - much ado about nothing.

Submitted by gary on
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Below are abstracts with my comments. I've studied and searched, and found all the abstracts (I think) on testosterone (T) levels and orgasm/ejaculation.
A lot of questions arise concerning T levels and ejaculation, and non-ejaculation, and the "hangover", or abstinence, or excessive porn use.
The results of studies are all over the map on T levels and ejaculation. My opinion is that T levels has little to do with any of the above. Look elsewhere - as in the brain - for answers to your questions.
Note the very last study - how men with severe impotence (years for many) have same levels of T as "normal" sexually active men.
Also, note this first study - yes T spikes at day 7, but thats not significant to behavior, or mood. It is a marker of a cycle, but in of itself it is not THE cycle.

Jiang M, Xin J, Zou Q, Shen JW. J Zhejiang Univ Sci. 2003 Mar-Apr;4(2):236-40.
The purpose of this study is to gain understanding of the relationship between ejaculation and serum testosterone level in men. The serum testosterone concentrations of 28 volunteers were investigated daily during abstinence periods after ejaculation for two phases.
The authors found that the fluctuations of testosterone levels from the 2nd to 5th day of abstinence were minimal. On the 7th day of abstinence, however, a clear peak of serum testosterone appeared, reaching 145.7% of the baseline ( P < 0.01). No regular fluctuation was observed following continuous abstinence after the peak.
Ejaculation is the precondition and beginning of the special periodic serum testosterone level variations, which would not occur without ejaculation. The results showed that ejaculation-caused variations were characterized by a peak on the 7th day of abstinence; and that the effective time of an ejaculation is 7 days minimum. These data are the first to document the phenomenon of the periodic change in serum testosterone level; the correlation between ejaculation and periodic change in the serum testosterone level, and the pattern and characteristics of the periodic change.
COMMENT: This one day peak indicates a cycle initiated by orgasm. It does not slowly rise to this level, or slowly decline, it’s a spike. At all other times the levels of testosterone are in normal ranges. Really get that this is a single spike. This single spike occurs due to signals from the brain. Spikes of hormones are often used to kick in other hormones or events. Sometimes a spike in hormone parallels events elsewhere in the body. This spike is not the hangover, but is a marker for an event

JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior April 23, 2005
Twenty males participated in a 2-month study examining the relationship between 8 a.m. plasma testosterone levels and orgasmic frequency. Within subjects, higher levels of testosterone are associated with periods of sexual activity. Over subjects, however, the direction of the relationship is reversed. Mean testosterone levels were higher for sexually less active individuals.
COMMENT: Average testosterone levels where higher in less sexually active men. But –sexual activity increased testosterone levels in individuals – on average.

Exton MS, Krüger TH, Bursch N, Haake P, Knapp W, Schedlowski M, Hartmann U.
World J Urol. 2001 Nov;19(5):377-82.
This current study examined the effect of a 3-week period of sexual abstinence on the neuroendocrine response to masturbation-induced orgasm. Hormonal and cardiovascular parameters were examined in ten healthy adult men during sexual arousal and masturbation-induced orgasm. Blood was drawn continuously and cardiovascular parameters were constantly monitored. This procedure was conducted for each participant twice, both before and after a 3-week period of sexual abstinence. Plasma was subsequently analysed for concentrations of adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, prolactin, luteinizing hormone and testosterone concentrations. Orgasm increased blood pressure, heart rate, plasma catecholamines and prolactin. These effects were observed both before and after sexual abstinence. In contrast, although plasma testosterone was unaltered by orgasm, higher testosterone concentrations were observed following the period of abstinence. These data demonstrate that acute abstinence does not change the neuroendocrine response to orgasm but does produce elevated levels of testosterone in males.
COMMENT: Elevated testosterone levels following abstinence. BUT, orgasm did not alter testosterone in the short-term

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1998 May;23(4):401-11.
Data regarding the neuroendocrine response pattern to sexual arousal and orgasm in man are inconsistent. In this study, ten healthy male volunteers were continuously monitored for their cardiovascular and neuroendocrine response to sexual arousal and orgasm. Blood was continuously drawn before, during and after masturbation-induced orgasm and analyzed for plasma concentrations of adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin, growth hormone (GH), beta-endorphin and testosterone. Orgasm induced transient increases in heart rate, blood pressure and noradrenaline plasma levels. Prolactin plasma levels increased during orgasm and remained elevated 30 min after orgasm. In contrast, none of the other endocrine variables were significantly affected by sexual arousal and orgasm.
COMMENT: short-term testosterone levels not affected by orgasm. Which opposes the following study

K Purvis, BM Landgren, Z Cekan, and E Diczfalusy
Journal of Endocrinology, Vol 70, Issue 3, 439-444 1976 by Society for Endocrinology
The levels of pregnenolone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHA), androstenedione, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), oestrone, oestradiol, cortisol and luteinizing hormone (LH) were measured in the peripheral plasma of a group of young, apparently healthy males before and after masturbation. The same steroids were also determined in a control study, in which the psychological anticipation of masturbation was encouraged, but the physical act was not carried out. The plasma levels of all steroids were significantly increased after masturbation, whereas steroid levels remained unchanged in the control study. The most marked changes after masturbation were observed in pregnenolone and DHA levels. No alterations were observed in the plasma levels of LH. Both before and after masturbation plasma levels of testosterone were significantly correlated to those of DHT and oestradiol, but not to those of the other steroids studied. On the other hand, cortisol levels were significantly correlated to those of pregnenolone, DHA, androstenedione and oestrone. In the same subjects, the levels of pregnenolone, DHA, androstenedione, testosterone and DHT, androstenedione and oestrone. In the same subjects, the levels of pregnenolone, DHA, androstenedione, testosterone and DHT in seminal plasma were also estimated; they were all significantly correlated to the levels of the corresponding steroid in the systemic blood withdrawn both before and after masturbation. As a practical consequence, the results indicate that whenever both blood and semen are analysed, blood sampling must precede semen collection.
COMMENT: short-term testosterone levels were elevated by orgasm, which is countered by several other studies

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1975 Mar;40(3):492-500.
The object of the study was to assess the lability of testosterone levels in plasma of normal human males over a long period of time and to search for periodicities in changing levels. Blood samples obtained from 20 healthy young men every second day for 2 months were assayed for total testosterone concentration by radioligand saturation analysis with late-pregnancy plasma. The flucturations of plasma testosterone levels over the total time span were substantial for most individuals; the coefficients of variation ranged from 14 to 42% (median 21%). The presence of periodic functions in these fluctuations was tested by 4 different, relatively independent methods. Close agreement among at least 3 analytic methods was found for 12 out of the 20 subjects. These 12 subjects had cycles of plasma testosterone levels with periods ranging between 8-30 days, with a cluster of periods around 20-22 days. The majority of such cycles were significant at least at the 5% level. The mean amplitudes of these cycles ranged from 9 to 28% of the subjects' mean testosterone levels (average 17%).
COMMENTS: Men have natural fluctuations of testosterone – averaging 17%. Not only that but many other things affects T levels, including exercise, mood, social rank, drugs, alcohol, etc.

Schwartz MF, Kolodny RC, Masters WH.
Arch Sex Behav. 1980 Oct;9(5):355-66.
Plasma testosterone levels in a group of 341 men with sexual dysfunction were compared to those in 199 men with normal sexual function. All subjects were participants in a 2-week intensive conjoint sex therapy program at the Masters & Johnson Institute. Testosterone determinations were made using radioimmunoassay methods after column chromatography; all blood samples were obtained on the second day of therapy between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. after an overnight fast. Circulating levels of testosterone in men with normal sexual function (mean 635 ng/dl) were not significantly different from testosterone values in sexually dysfunctional men (mean 629 ng/dl). However, men with primary impotence (N = 13) had significantly higher testosterone levels than men with secondary impotence (N = 180), with mean levels of 710 and 574 ng/dl, respectively (p < 0.001). The mean testosterone level for men with ejaculatory imcompetence was 660 ng/dl (N = 15), while for men with premature ejaculation the mean was 622 ng/dl (N = 91). Plasma testosterone concentrations were not related to therapy outcome but were correlated negatively with age of patients.
COMMENTS: As it says – not much difference in T levels between impotent and normal guys. Conclusion should be that many of the impotent men are not having orgasms. Further conclusion is that testosterone levels are not significant players in post-ejaculatory experience – including a hangover – since long term differences ejaculators and non-ejaculators does not occur.


more on mood and behavior

Shalender Bhasin, M.D., Thomas W. Storer, Ph.D., Nancy Berman, Ph.D., Carlos Callegari, M.D., Brenda Clevenger, B.A., Jeffrey Phillips, M.D., Thomas J. Bunnell, B.A., Ray Tricker, Ph.D., Aida Shirazi, R.Ph., and Richard Casaburi, Ph.D., M.D.
Background Athletes often take androgenic steroids in an attempt to increase their strength. The efficacy of these substances for this purpose is unsubstantiated, however.
Methods We randomly assigned 43 normal men to one of four groups: placebo with no exercise, testosterone with no exercise, placebo plus exercise, and testosterone plus exercise. The men received injections of 600 mg of testosterone enanthate or placebo weekly for 10 weeks. The men in the exercise groups performed standardized weight-lifting exercises three times weekly. Before and after the treatment period, fat-free mass was determined by underwater weighing, muscle size was measured by magnetic resonance imaging, and the strength of the arms and legs was assessed by bench-press and squatting exercises, respectively.
Results Among the men in the no-exercise groups, those given testosterone had greater increases than those given placebo in muscle size in their arms (mean [±SE] change in triceps area, 424±104 vs. -81±109 mm2; P<0.05) and legs (change in quadriceps area, 607±123 vs. -131±111 mm2; P<0.05) and greater increases in strength in the bench-press (9±4 vs. -1±1 kg, P<0.05) and squatting exercises (16±4 vs. 3±1 kg, P<0.05). The men assigned to testosterone and exercise had greater increases in fat-free mass (6.1±0.6 kg) and muscle size (triceps area, 501±104 mm2; quadriceps area, 1174±91 mm2) than those assigned to either no-exercise group, and greater increases in muscle strength (bench-press strength, 22±2 kg; squatting-exercise capacity, 38±4 kg) than either no-exercise group. Neither mood nor behavior was altered in any group.
COMMENTS: Even when with testosterone levels increased with anabolic steroids, there was no behavioral or mood changes. This doesn't mean that older guys wouldn't feel better with T supplementation.

Thanks for the compilation.

Thanks for the compilation. I was under the impression that some of my behavior/mood was related to an increase in testosterone a week following ejaculation. From this, it seems more likely that my feelings of increase in testosterone would be from exercise or something. Since my dopamine is bouncing up and down, Im sure my perception is all over the place too.

However, I have felt a lot better in being more assertive when I need to be in the past year. Im not sure if its from exercise or just being more in control of my sexuality and less of a worm, but it doesnt really matter to me because I am feeling better.


Thanks Gary,

It's quite difficult to collect scientific information from the net. My own take-away from this is that both men and women have orgasm effects--because it starts in the brain.

I also appreciate how the proverbial smell test supports what you say: Why don't priests all have breasts from lack of testosterone? Why don't steroid-taking bodybuilders have huge penises and ejaculate twelve times a day? etc. etc.

Like Marnia says, it's in our BRAINS.



What is testosterone if not for the raising?

All life is sorrowful and the world is an ever burning fire, so enjoy the stately dance of the mystic bliss beyond pain, for that is at the heart of every mythic rite.

Thanks for the info, Gary!

So, it appears that the spike of T around the 7th day is pure coincidence to what I've experienced and others reported, of a greater sensitivity around that same time?

If so, any idea what causes the sensitivity in orgasmic feeling around the 7th day, if T isn't the culprit?

Is it a change in receptors somewhere? A different hormone/chemical?

Not a coincidence

First, I don't know if the spike in T causes greater sensitivity, it certainly could cause increased horniness. I'm not really sure what your definition of greater sensitivity is.
The spike is important in that it demonstrates a consistent hormonal event that occurs to all men who have an orgasm. It indicates a cycle of at least 7 days.

Keep in mind that the T spike is an effect, not a cause.

Levels of T are controlled by the hypothalamus within the brain. The hypothalamus controls or affects most other hormone levels, along with being the center of sexual desire, sexual behavior, bonding, and the place that initiates sexual differentiation (turning a person into male or female), and initiates puberty. The hypothalamus is part of the reward circuitry.

I interpret the spike as a marker of the hypothalamus reacting to orgasm. It is clear to any guy that one has an immediate drop-off after orgasm. Yet, there is no significant change in T levels immediately after, or for 6 days. Therefore, T levels play no part in any subjective experience one feels at, or after, orgasm - at least until 7 days.

I see

we need to define terms, we may be talking about the same thing, or maybe not.

Sensitivity: the physical sensation of sexual feeling upon stimulation being increased.

Let me put it more graphically. Last time I went a whole week without orgasm, on day 5 I could barely feel anything, when attempting sex on our anniversary trip (knowing what I know now, I would have started abstaining two days earlier than I did). I was able to get stiff for a while, but it died off rather quickly, and no amount of stimulation could induce any significant orgasmic feeling in it or my body, and it wouldn't get hard. The next day, day 6, sometime after mid-day, I stimulated myself and I had waves of orgasmic feelings sweep over my body from initial touch an on into continued stimulation. Earlier that morning I still felt "dead" with little orgasmic feeling even in my groin, much less my whole body. But later that day, just brushing up against the penis would shoot waves of pleasure over me. That's what I mean by sensitivity. I don't know if that is what you were referring to as "horniness" or if you were referring more to a state of mind.

I know mental plays into it, don't get me wrong. But there is an obvious physical difference that happens in the ability to feel orgasmic feelings, for me, sometime on day six. Today, which is day 5 again, I did some more stimulation. And while i could keep it hard, I felt very little orgasmic feeling until I began to approach ejaculation, and even then it was muted (but no, I didn't ejaculate, didn't even have to squeeze PC muscles or anything like that, just edged into that point where I can tell it was headed that way quickly, and stopped, so I'm still orgasm/ejaculation free on this month of abstaining). If what has happened the last two times happens again, sometime tomorrow I'll be feeling great sensitivity physically with orgasmic feelings.

So my initial assumption is that the jump in T everyone talked about was the cause of that increased sensation of orgasmic feeling.

If T isn't responsible for that physical difference, then I was trying to find out what was.

Today is day 6

So I should be able to see what happens as it goes. I don't know how long the physical feelings of orgasm increase last. The last couple of times I started having regular orgasms on day six or seven. All I can say, is with the resumption of orgasmic feeling, days seven and eight felt super great, but the feeling diminished rapidly from there, usually going to a very low-level good feeling on day nine or ten. What happens with no orgasm, I don't know.

It could be the receptors, it could also be T triggering other hormones like dopamine. And from my experience of how long really good feelings last, it seems to me that continued flooding of a hormone reduces receptors at a steady rate until some sort of equilibrium is achieved in the system. So while the spike in T would decrease receptors, it may not decrease them all in one day, thus the lingering effect.

But, there has to be more to it than that, because usually it is frequent masturbation that the sensitivity goes down, only occasionally surfacing to make a comeback despite constant orgasms. And sometimes, even though not up to the level of feeling on day 7 after abstaining, the orgasmic feelings can still be pretty strong and good despite constant orgasms.

And I remember one time when my family was going to visit relatives and leave me in the house all week by myself. And I kid you not, I had really great orgasms for six days, three days a week, all week long. I was surprised, because usually if it felt that great, it would last two or three days, especially coming three times a day. But that one week, it kept feeling great, and didn't let up until it was almost time for the family to return. So obviously there are things going on here that we aren't aware of. But will I totally understand and agree that T has nothing to do with the post-orgasmic cycle itself, it's appearance on day 6 or 7, and the resulting spike in great physical orgasmic feelings probably has some link, even if the T spike is causitive rather than a direct cause of it.

So much we don't know, I guess. Thanks!


The following is a summary/review of sexual satiation in rats. After each main finding (numbered 1 -5) are my comments.

Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Volume 44 Issue 3 Page 257 - July 2003
Alonso Fernández-Guasti and Gabriela Rodríguez-Manzo

The present article reviews the current findings on the interesting phenomenon of sexual satiety. Knut Larsson in 1956 reported on the development of sexual exhaustion in the male rat after repeated copulation. We have studied the process and found the following results:

(1) One day after 4 hours of ad libitum copulation, two-thirds of the population showed complete inhibition of sexual behavior, while the other third displayed a single ejaculatory series from which they did not recover.
MY COMMENTS: the rats were worn out, they wanted no more. Only took one ejaculation for some of them.

(2) Several pharmacological treatments, including 8-OH-DPAT, yohimbine, naloxone and naltrexone, reverse this sexual satiety, indicating that the noradrenergic, serotonergic and opiate systems are involved in this process. Indeed, direct neurochemical determinations showed changes in various neurotransmitters during sexual exhaustion.
MY COMMENTS:Drug treatments that either increase dopamine, or decrease serotonin and opioids may reverse sexual satiation. This is all happening in the reward circuitry

(3) Given enough stimulation, by changing the stimulus female, sexual satiety was prevented, suggesting that there are motivational components of the sexual inhibition that characterizes sexual exhaustion.
MY COMMENTS: The Coolidge effect may get the rat going again - at least for awhile. How? The new female rat stimulates dopamine in the reward circuitry. Using porn is stimulating dopamine release through new and novel pictures and videos.

(4) The GABA antagonist bicuculline, or the electrical stimulation of the medial preoptic area, did not reverse sexual exhaustion. These data suggest, on the one hand, that sexual exhaustion and the postejaculatory interval (which is shortened by bicuculline administration) are not mediated by similar mechanisms and, on the other, that the medial preoptic area does not regulate sexual satiety.

(5) The androgen receptor density in brain areas closely related to the expression of masculine sexual behavior, such as the medial preoptic nucleus, was drastically reduced in sexually exhausted animals. Such reduction was specific to certain brain areas and was not related to changes in the levels of androgens. These results suggest that changes in brain androgen receptors account for the inhibition of sexual behavior present during sexual exhaustion.
MY COMMENTS:Androgen (testosterone) receptor decline plays a big part in loss of sexual interest. When activated, Androgen receptors in turn cause elevation of reward circuit dopamine. That is why men are generally more focused on sex than women - but its not the whole story. One can have elevated testosterone, but if the receptors are missing, it has little affect on your sexual desire.

Diablo The recovery process of sexual satiety after 4 hours of ad libitum copulation reveals that, after 4 days, only 63% of the males are able to show sexual behavior while after 7 days all animals display copulatory activity.
MY COMMENTS: It took 7 days for all the rats to fully recover their sexual desire. Remember they don't have porn, or fertile imaginations to stimulate dopamine. They believe its related to androgen receptor returning to normal levels.

T and receptors.

[quote=gary](5)...MY COMMENTS:Androgen (testosterone) receptor decline plays a big part in loss of sexual interest. When activated, Androgen receptors in turn cause elevation of reward circuit dopamine. That is why men are generally more focused on sex than women - but its not the whole story. One can have elevated testosterone, but if the receptors are missing, it has little affect on your sexual desire.

(6)...MY COMMENTS: It took 7 days for all the rats to fully recover their sexual desire. Remember they don't have porn, or fertile imaginations to stimulate dopamine. They believe its related to androgen receptor returning to normal levels.[/quote]

Based on those two comments to those studies, would I be correct then in saying that around 7 days, the receptors that T triggers return to a "normal" state as well as a spike in T happening on the 7th, so that could account for the difference in physical orgasmic feeling? Or is this resulting in something different, only mental, or whatever traits you might attribute to horniness. It might help if you define what specific traits make up horniness in your understanding.

And it sounds like the increase in T also results in some increase in dopamine too, contributing to the mental desire for it. That coupled with the increased physical sensations (wherever they are coming from) would be why the end of week one and into week two become more difficult for many of us, and when many of us fall off the wagon, so to speak.

good questions

From this and other studies on rats, hamsters, etc., the suggestion is a gradual restoration of testosterone receptors, not a sudden restoration on day 7. In the study you will see that 63% of the rats were finally able to show some sexual activity on day 4. That means something was slowly returning to normal. It may or may not have been T receptors.

I doubt that a spike in T levels signals the brain to increase the density of androgen receptors. For almost all hormones - an increase in a hormone signals results in decrease in its receptors. That's a major physiological principal of hormone function. It's a negative feed back system.

I'm not saying the spike on day 7 doesn't make one feel horny. I'm saying it's not central to the mood or perception changes associated with the post-orgasmic hangover we described.

A very simple, but extremely important concept must be understood: Orgasm is the original addiction. The reward circuit is designed to have us addicted to orgasm. Since it is an addiction, the mechanisms of addiction apply. Testosterone is not considered a part of the addictive process, therefore its influence on any post-orgasmic cycle is probably insignificant.

Orgasm as addiction:
Dopamine and the reward circuitry exist in all animals, and even fruit flies. Its 2 main jobs are to urge you to eat and have sex. In males of the species, the reward circuitry is so strong as to get you to do almost anything to get the girl - fight to the death, kill another, put yourself in danger. That's your reward circuit saying this - having intercourse - is the more important than life itself. Dopamine is driving that urge. That's an addiction.

All addictive drugs hijack nature's circuit for reproduction - the reward circuit. Drugs usually hijack some aspect of the circuit, but all increase dopamine. Yet, drugs are a very poor substitute for getting it on with the female of the species, or the female getting it on with the male of the species.
(Another concept - all pharmaceuticals and all herbs simply increase or decrease a normal physiological mechanism - they don't create anything new or different in the body.)

In essence, porn users (addicts or not) are perfectly in line with their evolutionary purpose. Masturbating is in line with your genes' purpose. It's drug users who have taken the wrong evolutionary path. And it's today's super-stimuli that are making it easier to fall into a binge pattern.

Very Good Info. I would

Very Good Info. I would rather reduce testosterone to avoid risky behavior but after read all this it seems nothing can really affect it

You would have to orgasm every 6 days to avoid the spike. But this is annoying because now it's off the weekly schedule

Do not worry about

a spike at day 7, or anything else to do with your testosterone. Unless, of course, you have a medical condition, or are an aging baby-boomer who wants to play around with testosterone supplementation.

The take away message is: You have the levels of testosterone you have, and sexual activity -one way or the other - doesn't have a significant effect.

Let go of trying to manipulate T levels and focus on behaviors that have a positive effect on your mood.

Here's a good article:
Testosterone: Not Always an Aggression Booster

Not that I know of

You mean hair getting thicker as guys slow or stop masturbating?
It would be interesting to have the blood work on men who masturbate a LOT to porn every day, and compare it to later on, when they have stopped.
Maybe there are changes in cortisol, or other unknown stress hormones.

For me, there seems to be

For me, there seems to be thickening, darkening, and new growth. It is as though the puberty process somehow got partially highjacked. Obviously this is person dependent to some extent. A more hairy person might not notice anything even if the changes are the same.

You posit that it is the opposite of the stress leads to hair loss theories? That somehow stress hormones limited hair growth in the first place?

Bloodwork would only be useful if one knew what to test for.