Three of the top ten websites in the United States are porn sites. Pornhub, for example, ranks higher in traffic than Twitter, Instagram, Wikipedia, and eBay.
That makes it seem like there are two types of people in the world: people who watch porn and people who lie about watching porn. Or maybe there's just a small number of internet porn watchers, but those folks watch A LOT.
The question for our little weight-lifting demographic is, does watching porn affect testosterone levels? Let's dig into some research.
Researchers love to show people nudie pics and naughty videos. Really, it's a popular study method used in several fields. Most of the studies are set up like this: Scientists get a bunch of volunteers and test them for various things like hormone levels. Sometimes they're even given physical performance tests.
Then researchers show the participants a variety of stimuli – everything from photos of food and happy couples to action videos, funny videos, sad videos, and of course, adult videos. Some of this stimuli is meant to be "neutral" while some of it is meant to be arousing in one way or another. Participants are then retested after watching the videos.
In one study, twelve athletes went through a test similar to this. The results? Sure enough, watching porn boosted T levels. (1) But the sad video clip decreases T and the "aggressive" video increased cortisol levels. Crazy part about this test is that they also tested three-rep squat maxes after viewing the videos. Those who had watched porn saw an improvement.
In another study, 44 men were invited to a swinger's club, where apparently a lot of real-life sex occurs. (2) After viewing the, um, activities, the men's testosterone levels jumped 11 percent.
Finally, when 20 younger men were shown full-length erotic movies, their test levels jumped a whopping 35 percent. (3) The increase began around 15 minutes into the "film" and peaked 60-90 minutes later. They also saw increased motivation, increased competitiveness, and decreased exhaustion.
While not every test like those above showed a significant boost in testosterone, 80 percent of related tests have shown at least a slight uptick.
How to Use This Info
Nope, I'm not going there. What happens between a man and his laptop is nobody's business but his and the spies at the CIA.
But it is important to note that all of these performance increases occurred when the men did not "finish" their porn session, if you get my meaning. As one journalist put it, "Watch it, but don't whack it."
Remember, if you do the latter, your gym performance might decrease the first two hours or so after you AMRAP your willy.
Now, will any of this extra T lead to real gains in the gym? Difficult to say. There are, after all, many factors contributing to muscle growth besides your natural T levels, though that's obviously a player.
But let's do some math for the fun of it. Let's say you got a big 35 percent bump in testosterone and it remained elevated throughout your workout. And let's say your normal T level is a lowish 500 nh/dL.
That 35 percent boost would leave you at 675 nh/dL which is about average for men. So it's not exactly testosterone replacement therapy, but over time you'd probably see improvements. The high quality workouts (heavier weights, more energy, and increased aggressiveness) certainly wouldn't hurt, but don't expect magic.
But who are we kidding? You're going to try it anyway.
Related: Sex in the Gym
Related: Sex, Lifting, and Sports Performance
- Cook, CJ et al. Changes in salivary testosterone concentrations and subsequent voluntary squat performance following the presentation of short video clips. Horm Behav. 2012; 6(1): 17-22
- Escasa, MJ et al. Salivary Testosterone Levels in Men at a U.S. Sex Club. Arch Sex Behav. 2011; 40: 921-92
- Hellhammer, DH et al. Changes in saliva testosterone after psychological stimulation in men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1985; 10(1): 77-81