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Does Pre-workout Affect Male Fertility? According to Science

Donald Christman
Published by Donald Christman
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Men who are experiencing low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and a reduced sense of well-being can benefit from taking pre-workout supplements that help boost testosterone.

However, a few athletes I've worked with reported abnormal semen analysis results after taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Having been asked if pre-workouts can have adverse effects like PEDs, I spent six weeks researching whether they affect male fertility.

I've compiled all of my findings into this article, so read on to find out if taking pre-workouts can affect your sperm count.

Quick Summary

  • Pre-workouts can affect fertility in men, which mostly depends on the ingredients they contain.
  • While some pre-workout ingredients can improve sperm quality and production, others can have the opposite effect.
  • You must carefully choose the ingredients that are included in your pre-workout of choice to avoid unwanted side effects on your fertility.

Can Workout Supplements Affect Sperm Production?

A person holding a sperm sample

Workout supplements can affect sperm cell production because they may contain illegal substances that interrupt brain signals that stimulate the release of hormones responsible for producing sperm cells.

Furthermore, research has shown that exercise supplements with a high sugar content may lower the quality of sperm in men, leading to lower counts [1].

However, not all exercise supplements are harmful to fertility, as some ingredients found in natural sports supplements, like certain antioxidants, have been shown to improve not only sperm concentration but also motility and morphology.

More on this in the next section.

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7 Ingredients That Affect Sperm Quality

Pre-workout ingredients affect sperm quality by increasing energy production, protecting DNA from oxidation, and promoting healthy testosterone levels in the blood.

1. Caffeine

Top view close up image of coffee beans

Caffeine is a popular ingredient known to fuel performance, but research has found that it may have a negative impact on men's reproductive function.

Research shows that caffeine can damage sperm cells by breaking up their DNA and causing them to have an abnormal number of chromosomes, both of which are linked to an increased risk of pregnancy loss [2].

On a positive note, moderate caffeine intake of less than 200 mg per day does not appear to reduce the quality of sperm cells that cause miscarriage or premature birth [3].

2. Creatine

Creatine in pre-workout may not only help men gain muscle but may also improve their fertility.

Research suggests that creatine supplementation can increase adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels in sperm cells, thus enhancing motility [4].

This improvement in physiological changes or sperm capacity can make it easier for sperm cells to reach the egg and cause it to fertilize [5].

3. Branched Chain Amino Acids

Amino acid branch concept

The right amounts of BCAAs in whey protein powders have been shown to have a synergistic effect on sperm function and testosterone production, which results in increased fertility [6].

Furthermore, research suggests that the combination of these three amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—can help speed up protein synthesis [7].

When tissue fibers grow faster, men gain bigger lean body mass and get more androgen receptors in their muscles.

4. L-arginine

It has been shown that L-arginine, a building block of nitric oxide, can potentially increase blood flow through the body [8].

According to one study, Nitric Oxide (NO) can help increase a sperm cell's energy production, motility, and the ability to fertilize an egg.

Furthermore, NO may aid in the inactivation of spermicidal activities, which protect sperm membranes from lipid peroxidation damage [9].

5. L-Carnitine

A scoop of L-Carnitine

Both L-carnitine (LC) and acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) have been shown to boost energy production by improving mitochondrial function [10].

This effect of carnitine in cells promotes better lipid metabolism, which enhances the normal progressive movement of sperm cells.

Furthermore, ALC is high in antioxidants, which can aid sperm maturation by protecting them from oxidative damage, increasing the number of normal-shaped, motile sperms [11].

6. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has been shown in studies to help with male infertility by increasing sperm count, motility, and morphology.

In studies, vitamin B12 has been shown to reduce inflammation and sperm DNA damage, thus improving sperm morphology [12].

By stimulating the testes to produce normal and motile mature sperm cells, men with infertility concerns can restore their fertility.

7. Zinc

Zinc supplement pills

Getting enough zinc in pre-workouts can help increase testosterone levels, sperm count, and semen quality, thus enhancing fertility in men [13].

A meta-analysis of 20 different studies published in 2016 found that getting enough zinc can improve the motility, shape, and number of sperm.

Also, taking zinc through natural performance-enhancers has been shown to protect sperm from the damaging effects of toxins [14].

Other Supplements That Impact Fertility

Pouring protein shake

Aside from pre-workouts, some exercise supplements contain substances that have been shown to influence sperm count, motility, and maturation, potentially affecting fertility.

Protein Shakes

Some protein shakes effectively provide the body with essential amino acids that have been shown to promote fertility in men. However, not all sources of protein powder can increase the number or quality of your sperm, as some may even decrease it.

"If these protein supplements don't just contain protein but contain sex steroid metabolites that suppress the pituitary gland, they will act like any other steroid injection or tablet. It will suppress the pituitary's drive to the testicle and turn down sperm production."

- Robert McLachlan, Andrologist & Medical Director of Healthy Male

Protein shakes are sports drinks that are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They can contain illegal substances like anabolic steroids, which have been linked to a lower sperm count [15].

Anabolic Steroids

A syringe above a weight

Anabolic steroids, also called anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), have been linked to male fertility issues because they disrupt brain signals that stimulate the testes to produce normal sperm count.

According to research, anabolic steroids mimic testosterone in the body, giving the brain the impression that there are high levels of testosterone in the blood.

The brain then sends signals to the body to stop the release of luteinizing hormones (LH) and follicular stimulating hormones (FSH), which stimulate T-production, resulting in a decrease in testosterone and sperm cell creation [16].

FAQs

Can Building Muscle Mass Help Male Fertility?

Building lean muscle mass through strength training can help with male fertility because it indirectly causes higher levels of testosterone in the blood. Also, weight lifting creates conditions for insulin to transport glucose and amino acids from the blood into the working muscles.

Raising T levels and improving insulin sensitivity both appear to be linked to increased sperm counts.

Can Creatine Cause Male Infertility?

Creatine can’t cause male infertility because it actually aids in the acceleration of lean muscle gains, leading to higher levels of testosterone required for normal sperm cell production.

Also, creatine supplementation has been shown to help boost the energy production in sperm cells, resulting in increased sperm motility.

Can You Take Pre-workout While Trying to Conceive?

You can take a pre-workout while trying to conceive, but the common suggestion is to try and avoid those that contain high caffeine doses because they might impair male reproductive function.

Therefore, the best option would be to choose one without stimulants and avoid those containing questionable ingredients without enough solid research to back their safety.

Does Taking Pre-workout Help Increase Sperm Count?

Pre-workouts might help increase sperm because these natural sports supplements contain ingredients such as amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that help promote sperm motility and normal morphology, ultimately improving semen quality.

You should, however, avoid exercise supplements that contain illegal substances that can interfere with sperm maturation and production.

Check out our guide on the best organic pre-workout supplements that we tried and tested ourselves to reach your optimal level of performance and muscle growth without risking your fertility.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4168308/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28646871/
  3. https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2010/08/moderate-caffeine-consumption-during-pregnancy
  4. https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/33/6/1117/4964858
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8839819/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30411393/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3322509/
  8. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-875/l-arginine
  9. https://academic.oup.com/biolreprod/article/74/5/954/2667057
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15591009/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3455151/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5485731/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19285597/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26932683/
  15. https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20170901/protein-powder-can-provide-boost-but-at-what-cost
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544259/
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