When Ted*, 41, was diagnosed with low testosterone, his doctor to put him on testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). “It was a godsend for me,” he told Men’s Health. But TRT has been linked to lower sperm count, and Ted and his wife were trying to get pregnant.
So Ted started doing some research on the internet for supplements that could help raise his sperm count, which in turn led him down the path of trying to increase the actual volume of his semen—or, as he put it, “I started looking at ways to increase my loads,” he says.
After stumbling on a few Reddit threads devoted to the topic, Ted started taking supplements to increase his semen volume, including zinc, vitamin D3, and folic acid. At one point, he says, he was taking more than a dozen pills per day, spending hundreds of dollars on supplements per month. He swears that not only did his semen volume increase while taking the pills, he also “discovered the ability to be able to go for a second round” of sex with his wife after years of struggling with ED.
The costs started piling up, but at the time, he thought it was worth it.
“My wife once told me she’d had a lover who produced large amounts of semen, which she enjoyed,” he told Men’s Health. “So I felt [enhancing production] was an added bonus.”
When it comes to sex, we men are an insecure bunch: we’re always comparing ourselves to others and asking ourselves how we can do it better. That’s true when it comes to penis size, and it’s true when it comes to our, well, come.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify the difference between semen and sperm. “Semen is the entire fluid that is expressed from the urethra at the time of orgasm and ejaculation,” explains Michael Ingber, MD, a urologist and urogynecologist at Garden State Urology. Semen is comprised mostly of fluid from the seminal vesicles, which are located behind the prostate gland. About 60% of the fluid comes from here, while the prostate gland contributes 30-40% of the fluid in semen, Ingber explains.
“Sperm, on the other hand, refers to the component of semen which provides fertility in men,” Ingber notes. The sperm are produced in the testicles and the vas deferens transports the sperm all the way up the scrotum (spermatic cord) through the abdomen and exits at the ejaculatory duct in the male urethra.
The typical semen ejaculate volume is between 2 and 5mL, Ingber says. For reference, 3.5 ml of ejaculate is roughly three-quarters of a teaspoonful.
Higher semen volume doesn’t necessarily indicate a higher sperm count.
“When evaluating couples for fertility issues, what’s more important to us are things like sperm concentration, and the percentage of normal sperm we see, not to mention the number of sperm which have normal motility,” says Ingber. So a man with a high semen volume (of 5mL) with a low concentration of sperm may have a lower fertility than a man with a 2mL semen volume, with a high concentration of normal, motile sperm, he says.
So then, why are guys like Ted still willing to spend hundreds of dollars a month on semen-enhancing supplements?
Like everything else that has to do with sex in the 21st century, a large part of the answer comes down to one word: porn, says Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., co-director at The PUR Clinic, which specializes in urology and men’s health. “A lot of the pressure to produce large amounts of semen probably stems from [that],” he says. Indeed, on subreddits like r/Sex, the influence of porn is clear: “All my life, I feel I’ve never been able to produce anything like the cum shots they do in the porn vids,” one redditor muses enviously.
But as Brahmbhatt points out, male porn stars aren’t exactly a good standard to measure against: “These films do not represent reality—they are produced and edited over hours and days,” he says.
There’s also probably a healthy dose of male ego involved: “some men do identify with their sexual function and perceive their ejaculatory function as sort of a marker of their virility, or a mark of their manliness,” Daniel Williams, M.D., an associate professor in the department of urology and director of male reproductive medicine and microsurgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, previously told Men’s Health.
Ingber says point-blank: “It’s a personal desire to feel more ‘manly.’”
Do these supplements actually work?
Well, it depends what you’re using them for. There is some evidence, says Brahmbhatt, that a combination of supplements like zinc, folic acid, selenium, and Vitamin C can improve sperm count specifically: “Individual studies have shown small percentage benefits [to fertility] from each, so the theory is combining them in some form will help maximize the health of your sperm,” he told MensHealth.com.
But if you’re just looking to up your semen volume for the hell of it, there’s not much evidence that the supplements recommended on Reddit will do the trick.
“There are so many reasons why your volume could be up or down on a daily basis,” says Dr. Brahmbhatt. “Some of these supplements may increase your sperm counts, but that generally does not lead to a significant change in your semen volume.”
We know that drinking lots of fluids helps. In fact, porn star Peter North, who is notorious for producing large amounts of ejaculate, told MensHealth.com back in January that “being hydrated with coconut water helps.” But even he says he has no idea why he just produces more semen than others: “Everyone thinks the reason is because I have an extra prostate gland or something, but it’s just genetic.”
Should you be concerned about low semen volume?
If you notice you’re ejaculating smaller amounts than usual, you should see a urologist, as it could be a sign of a health issue like low testosterone or diabetes. But for the most part, there’s no reason to try to increase the volume of your semen.
To maintain your overall sperm health, Brambhatt’s answer is simple: eat well and exercise. “33% of obese men have low sperm count,” he says. “Eat more antioxidants and increase your fruits and veggies.” He also urges men to drink moderately, quit smoking, and avoid hot tubs, which have been linked to decreased male fertility.
Eventually, Ted’s wife did get pregnant, but he stopped taking his supplements because they ended up costing too much money. Occasionally, he’ll pop a few Horny Goat Weed pills to amp up his libido, but for the most part, his days of self-experimentation are behind him.
Still, he does think there’s an intangible psychological reason that drove him to pursue mythologically giant loads: “I would speculate that if given the choice, most guys would like to produce a reasonably to hilariously large load of semen,” he says.
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