Turn Up Your Semen Volume With Lifestyle Changes
Getting older changes everyone.
For men, aging may mean growing a paunch and experiencing prostate trouble, plus some issues with erectile function.
Another, perhaps lesser known way men's sexual function can change with age is in how they ejaculate. The strength of the ejaculatory response, the frequency with which they're able to ejaculate and how much semen they produce all naturally decline with age.
Given all the products, programs and supplements out there claiming to help men remain virile well into their senescence, are there any lifestyle choices that can affect overall semen quality?
What's typical? What's PEVR?
Changes due to age, such as declining semen volume, can be distressing for some guys; so much so that men's health experts have identified a condition called perceived ejaculate volume reduction (PEVR), which can cause some men dissatisfaction with their sex lives.
The typical volume for a man's ejaculate is between 1.5 and 5.0 milliliters, and averages about 3.7 ml, according to the National Library of Medicine. If you're producing less than 1.5 ml regularly—about one-third of a teaspoon—you might have an issue.
Even if a man's semen volume falls within the normal range, he may nevertheless be unhappy to find his mighty firehose of youth has been dialed down to a dribble.
For one thing, it's a change many men didn't know was, er, coming.
"Part of it is nobody is told that it's going to happen, but it happens," said Amy Pearlman, M.D., the director of men's health at the Carver College of Medicine at University of Iowa Health Care. "Semen volume goes down as people get older. No man likes to hear that information."
As they get older, men generally produce less semen. Some age-specific considerations can exacerbate the issue, too.
As men age, their muscles naturally tend to grow weaker. The strong pelvic floor muscles of the younger years are a big factor in expelling healthy doses of semen.
While a weaker bulbocavernosus muscle, among others in the region, doesn't directly affect your semen volume, it may not force semen out of the urethra as well as it used to do. You may see less ejaculate at the moment of truth, but you may also find that semen continues to dribble out for some time afterward.
Some men with an enlarged prostate gland need medication to open up a group of muscles called the bladder neck so they can urinate more easily. The bladder neck is normally closed when a man ejaculates, closing off the bladder and forcing semen out through the penis. But given medication such as Flomax and a relaxed bladder neck, semen takes the path of least resistance and backflows into the bladder, causing retrograde ejaculation.
It's harmless; you simply piss out the semen later, but it might be alarming to come and not come at the same time, if you're not told in advance that it might happen.
"Urologists are common offenders on that," Pearlman said. "We put patients on medications that open up that bladder neck. It should close when someone ejaculates so the semen doesn't go back into the bladder, but the medications we put people on to help them pee better will open it up."
Younger guys can also encounter medication-related semen issues, for example, if they treat male pattern hair loss.
"They'll take Propecia, and that can affect ejaculate volume. And we put people on higher doses when they're older for their [enlarged] prostate," Pearlman said. "And then medications that treat anxiety and depression, like SSRIs [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors], can affect not only orgasm but also ejaculation and what the ejaculate looks like."
What can you do about it?
Sadly, there's no secret horny-goat-weed formula that can ensure five gushing ejaculations per day until you turn 80. Semen volume generally declines—it's as simple as that.
However, it's not all bad news. You can at least mitigate these effects.
Anything that benefits your general health will generally help your sexual health, including semen quality. Diet, exercise and toxins all play a role.
"To have healthy semen—really, sperm—in general, it is best not to have exposures to things that can cause what are known as epigenetic changes," said William Brant, M.D., the chief of urology at the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "This includes avoiding smoking, bad pollution and toxic chemicals."
You can also increase semen volume by drinking less alcohol. Studies show semen volume and overall quality are negatively affected by excessive alcohol intake.
Water, that is. Semen is mostly water, so staying hydrated can make a big difference in how much you produce.
Studies show that getting more aerobic exercise and reducing body fat can improve testosterone levels, which can increase semen volume.
What's more, by walking, running or playing sports, you help strengthen those ejaculation-critical pelvic floor muscles.
Save it up
If the amount of semen you produce is critical to a positive sexual experience for you, numerous studies show that laying off ejaculation for a few days before the big night can help. One study even showed that semen volume increased by 11.9 percent per day of abstinence during the first four days.
We have very little control over many changes that aging brings, and semen volume happens to be one.
However, working from the list of tweaks outlined here, you may be able to exert some influence over semen quality by identifying what works best for you. You may never match the volume from your youth, but you'll be healthier overall and possibly pump up the semen volume in some limited capacity.
"I would encourage men to pay attention to their bodies—depending on how often they're masturbating, what they're eating, what they're drinking, what they're doing for exercise, any drug use, any medications—and to figure out for themselves, 'When do I optimize my ejaculate volume? When is it less?'" Pearlman said. "Because when people come in to see someone like me, I don't hang out with them on a daily basis to really understand what they're doing on different days.
"The only person who can really understand what's making it better or worse is that person himself," she added.