No comprehensive discussion of male health can be complete without the mention of the hormone testosterone.
However, the socially-conferred connotations that this hormone conjures up extends significantly beyond health. In popular media, testosterone (T) is masqueraded as the source of all things macho. Here, this hormone is associated with everything aggressive, violent, and impatient.
Nevertheless, the scientific interpretation of what the hormone represents is a lot less tame.
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males that plays a series of important roles, including influencing the male reproductive system’s development, regulating the male sex drive, and influencing hair growth and voice deepening in adolescent males during puberty.
T also affects other indirectly sexual characteristics like bone growth, muscle size, and strength.
Testosterone also contributes to the overall feeling of well-being in men.
This extensive impact of testosterone on sexual systems in males often raises questions on its influence on fertility. One such question is whether testosterone produces sperm or affects the sperm production process.
Does Testosterone Produce Sperm?
With the far-reaching effects that testosterone has on sexual development and regulation, it is relatively easy to infer that the hormone must have some role in sperm production, and you will be right.
Spermatogenesis—the complicated process that produces spermatozoa—is a process that occurs in the testes and regulates the production and quality of a man’s sperm. This process occurs using two inputs: testosterone and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH,) a hormone produced by the pituitary gland.
Consequently, testosterone is essential for sperm generation.
However, testosterone abundance is not directly proportional to sperm output, and introducing extra testosterone into your system (via a supplement or other forms of TRT) does not help sperm production. In reality, it can have the opposite effect.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy and Infertility
As men age, their testosterone levels begin to drop, leading to problems like fatigue and low libido levels.
An effective form of treatment for this condition is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) that involves administering exogenous testosterone via patches, gels, injections, and implants.
However, while this treatment can revitalize low T men, it can have the opposite effect on fertility.
Testosterone levels in the blood are the key marker with which the pituitary gland determines how much FSH (the other critical element in sperm production) to produce. Hence, when this gland detects the extra exogenous testosterone’s presence, it suppresses FSH secretion, which directly impacts sperm production negatively.
This second-order effect ramps up as TRT continues, and in most cases, testosterone supplements will cause azoospermia (the complete absence of sperm in the ejaculate) after prolonged usage.
In most cases, fertility levels will improve after quitting TRT, with the recovery time being proportional to the testosterone treatments’ duration.
Does Low T Cause Infertility?
If testosterone supplements cause infertility, what happens when you have low T? Nothing really, fertility-wise.
Testosterone is produced in the testes, where sperm generation also occurs. Consequently, the testosterone levels in the testes are significantly higher than elsewhere in the body. Hence, the testes almost always have enough testosterone to complete its spermatogenic processes.
There is almost no chance of low testosterone causing infertility. Even males with an official diagnosis of low T often have sufficient testosterone levels in the testes for sperm production.
How to Boost Testosterone Levels Without TRT
Low T levels (also known as hypogonadism) is no joke.
Testosterone sits at the center of many male characteristics, and as a result, a drop in the hormone levels can cause significant changes in male physiology and behavior. Common symptoms of low T include decreased hair growth, low libido, and erectile dysfunction.
As men age, it is natural for their testosterone levels to begin to fall. When this happens, testosterone replacement therapy can provide an effective way to revitalize the body, boost the sex drive, and improve overall mood.
However, these benefits come with the drawback of lower fertility levels. This won’t be a problem for most older men, as they aren’t trying to conceive.
However, if you find yourself needing a testosterone boost while still trying for a child, all hope is not lost. Some ways to improve testosterone levels without undergoing replacement therapy include:
- Exercise regularly
- Get enough vitamin C
- Get enough vitamin D
- Take D-aspartic acid supplements.
Can your body produce sperm while you are on TRT?
Sperm production decreases with testosterone supplement intake and can seize completely after prolonged use.
Can your body produce sperm while you have low T?
Yes. Low T does not often directly cause infertility, as even at low T levels, the testes typically have enough of the hormone to produce healthy sperm. However, lower T levels could decrease sperm production and sex drive, two effects that can hamper conception.
What type of exercise boosts testosterone?
All types of exercises affect testosterone positively. Whether you are doing endurance training or resistance training, you can expect a marked rise in your T levels. However, researchers have found that lifting weights and other forms of strength training can have the most significant effect on testosterone.
In one study, the researcher found that one 30-minute weight lifting session can increase the T levels in men by as much as 21.6%.