Most dudes don’t think about sperm count on the regular, but that changes when you’re trying to put a bun in the oven.
It’s a daunting journey from come to conception. Each sperm faces Powerball-level odds of getting an eggo preggo. A low sperm count (aka oligospermia) can seriously dent your chances of sprouting a tiny new human. In fact, studies show that 40 to 50 percent of infertility stems from sperm.
Here’s how to pump out the good stuff and increase your sperm count to keep the odds in your favor.
A “normal” sperm count is anywhere from 15 million to 200 million sperm per milliliter of semen, according to the Mayo Clinic.
And, according to the World Health Organization‘s 2010 guidelines, a sperm count of 15 million sperm per milliliter is considered low.
A semen analysis can give you an accurate headcount of your little soldiers so you know where you’re at.
What else is your fertility up against?
A sperm’s speed is called sperm motility, and sluggish swimmers can lead to difficulty conceiving. Other causes of male infertility include:
- low libido
- hormonal issues
- thyroid problems
- erectile dysfunction
- chromosome defects
- low testosterone levels
- injuries to the testicles
Some research has linked biking to erectile dysfunction. But a large 2018 study concluded that cycling has no negative impact on men’s sexual and urinary function.
Swimmers need a boost? Here are some methods to help improve your sperm count.
1. Work out to get it in
Working out is one of the most effective ways to increase your sperm count. Regular exercise can increase your testosterone levels and semen quality.
“Research has shown men who exercise at least three times a week for about 1 hour have shown an increase in their sperm count,” says David Samadi, MD, director of men’s health and urologic oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, New York.
Strength training is particularly effective at boosting testosterone. But don’t go from 0 to Schwarzenegger just yet. Too much exercise may actually lower your testosterone levels. It’s all about balance.
Avoid the ’roids
Testosterone or anabolic steroids (used in bodybuilding) can lower sperm count dramatically, says Barry Witt, MD, medical director of WINFertility and Greenwich Fertility.
2. Frankie says relax
Stress is bad for your sex drive. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol can decrease testosterone, which is necessary for sperm production. Meditation, exercise, and other stress-reducing techniques can help improve your sperm’s performance.
Get some shut-eye
Catching the right amount of Zzz’s can improve semen quality. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. Too much or too little sleep can make for sluggish sperm.
3. Kick the habit
Cigarette smoking can reduce semen quality and interfere with in vitro fertilization (IVF). It can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. So, if you haven’t quit for your heart and lungs, do it for the peen.
What about weed?
Blazing could blunt your sperm count. The THC in cannabis may disrupt your body’s cannabinoid system, which could potentially lower your sperm count.
4. Drink less alcohol
Too much booze can lead to “whiskey dick,” a big flop for everyone involved. Heavy drinking also can decrease testosterone and sperm quality.
If you’re gonna drink, do it in moderation — and don’t forget to drink water! Staying hydrated can help you get it up and keep it up.
5. Ditch the tighty-whities
Boxers or briefs? Boxers are the answer when it comes to baby-making.
Clothing that’s tight in the crotch can make your scrotum too warm, which can limit sperm production. (Sorry, skinny jeans.) A 2018 study found that #TeamBoxers had higher sperm counts than those who wore briefs.
6. Seek fenugreek
It sounds like some weird yogurt brand. But fenugreek, an herb similar to clover, has been shown to increase testosterone level and sperm count.
7. Drop a D-aspartic acid supplement
This amino acid is found naturally in your body and helps regulate the male sex hormones that can boost testosterone production. In supplement form, D-aspartic acid has been found to increase testosterone levels as well as sperm count and motility in infertile men. Good news!
8. Take ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an ancient Indian herb, and its name literally means “smell of the horse.” Despite that stinky moniker, research has shown ashwagandha can boost testosterone, sperm motility, and sperm count. It can also relieve stress and reduce cortisol. Bonus!
9. Try tribulus terrestris
Tribulus terrestris (aka goat’s head) is another ancient botanical that might perk up your peen. Some peeps believe it increases testosterone, but there’s no science to back that up. However, there’s evidence that it can boost libido.
10. Munch maca root
Known as “Peruvian ginseng,” maca root is packed with vital vitamins and nutrients that may help your numbers.
In a 2015 study, participants who took 1.75 grams of maca root powder every day for 3 months had increased sperm count and motility (but there were no changes to testosterone levels).
A 2002 study suggested maca could also increase libido. But more research is needed to figure out exactly how it affects sperm count.
11. Get enough vitamin C
Vitamin C isn’t just awesome for your immune system — it’s also great for your boner. It can improve blood flow and your ability to maintain an erection.
Natural sources of vitamin C:
- citrus fruits
- brussels sprouts
- red and green peppers
12. Can I cure your vitamin D deficiency?
That’s not just a terrible pickup line: Vitamin D may help improve erectile dysfunction. Sun is a natural source of vitamin D, but if you want to avoid a nasty sunburn, add it to your diet.
13. Factor folate and zinc into your diet
Some older studies suggest that low levels of folate may impair semen quality. Zinc is also essential for sperm production, and a 2009 study suggests that low zinc levels are associated with low testosterone and subpar sperm quality.
Recent research, however, has found that folate and zinc supplements have little effect on fertility. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take a supplement or get these nutrients naturally from your food.
Good news, millennials
Avocado is one of the best sources of folate. So start slaying that avo toast at your next brunch. 🥑
Other great sources of folate:
14. Say buh-bye to high BMI
You can rock any BMI, but a higher number might lower your risk of conceiving. Fat can eat up testosterone and decrease sex drive.
“Men with a body mass index of 30 or higher have been found to have reduced sperm count and sperm movement,” says Samadi.
Optimize your “dad bod” by eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.
15. Add antioxidants to your diet
Antioxidants might improve your sperm count because they reduce oxidative stress — an imbalance of free radicals in your body that can lead to tissue and cell damage.
“Men who choose more fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants tend to have healthier sperm,” says Samadi.
High antioxidant foods
Incorporate these noms for a boost of antioxidants:
- dark chocolate
Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your sperm count. They can recommend the right specialist for you.
“Seek out a specialist who can assess your risk factors and check a semen analysis to advise you on treatment options,” says Jane Frederick, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist.
What to ask your doc
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you’ve had any health conditions that could cause low sperm count, such as:
- cystic fibrosis
- STIs (e.g. chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV)
Also let your them know if you’re taking medications that can lower sperm count, including:
- anabolic steroids
- testosterone replacement therapy
- cancer medications (chemotherapy)
- certain antifungal, antibiotic, and ulcer medications
Male infertility is very common. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. There are loads of ways to improve your loads. Talk to your doctor if at-home methods aren’t working. They can help you find the best solutions based on your unique needs.
There are many medical options that can help. Certain meds can address erectile dysfunction and hormone imbalances. Surgery can also correct anatomical issues such as:
- vascular swelling in the testicles (aka varicocele)
- blockages preventing sperm transport
- damage caused by injuries
For couples having a hard time conceiving, a fertility specialist might also suggest additional fertility meds, intrauterine insemination, or in vitro fertilization.