How true is it for a pre workout supplements (or any of its ingredients) to be the culprit behind your low sperm count?
Crazy isn’t it?
Inasmuch as I’d like to doubt this – it could be true. 🙁
In this article, I’ll discuss whether or not pre-workouts have any detrimental effect on sperm quality and quantity.
Exercise might be beneficial for sperm parameters, but if you are topping your gym sessions with pre-workouts, the ingredients in them are what will make or break the effect of your workout regime on your fertility.
Your skepticism about the potential of pre-workouts to influence your sperms is completely valid because the ingredient lists vary in different pre-workouts and their concentrations are not standardized in all batches either.
For this article, I have researched how the individual ingredients in pre-workouts may affect your sperm.
Moreover, you will also learn whether the most common ingredients in pre-workouts are good or bad for your reproductive health.
Keep reading to find out the details.
Can pre-workout cause infertility?
‘Yes,’ pre-workouts have the potential to cause infertility in men’s sperm – if they are constituted with certain ingredients that may damage reproductive health. But if such ingredients are not present in the supplements, then ‘No.’
Manufacturers do not carry out safety studies for pre-workout supplements and are not transparent with the ingredient list at times.
And there is not enough sound research available on the safety of all ingredients used in pre-workouts. Thus, it is hard to give a full and final verdict on the effect of pre-workouts on sperm and male fertility.
Nonetheless, Pre-workouts might still be based on ingredients that may do more good than harm to your sperms.
For example, Branched Chain Amino acids, vitamins, minerals, or Nitric Oxide (NO) enhancers are some ingredients that enhance fertility. But, on the flip side, some ingredients may be detrimental to your sperms.
For instance, testosterone is the hormone responsible for adding muscle to your frame and helping you get those biceps, so androgenic steroids are added to pre-workout because they are synthetically produced to mimic testosterone’s function.
Therefore, gym enthusiasts, especially bodybuilders, add steroids in their pre-workout regime to build muscle and boost strength for their workouts.
But these anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) may interfere with the hormonal signals that trigger sperm production.
According to this article in The Sunday Times, an Irish fertility doctor has remarked that certain supplements are damaging male fertility due to anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) in them, which may make the sperm count drop to zero.
And discontinuing their use may also help regain the sperm count within three to six months.
DHAA and ephedra were once the most exploited ingredients in pre-workouts before their ban, and supplements may still be tainted with their presence hidden behind the propriety blend tag. But these ingredients may decrease the sperm count and consequently the male fertility.
Moreover, manufacturers are rigorously looking for similar alternatives. They have come up with ‘synephrine,’ a compound similar to ephedra that is present in bitter orange (Citrus Aurantium) and is added to pre-workouts. You will find the details of its effect on sperm parameters in the next section.
I have also sorted out the black, white, and grey ingredients in pre-workouts in the coming sections, so swipe down to know more about the effect of pre-workouts on fertility.
Pre-workouts ingredients that are bad for fertility
Since the ingredients are the real determiners of the safety of pre-workouts for male reproductive health, here is some stuff that you need to look out for because they may harm sperm parameters and fertility.
The Yohimbe extract is used in pre-workouts for its potential to modulate blood circulation in the body and its role in causing weight loss.
Yohimbe is an ancient herb that has roots in the folk use of treating infertility due to its aphrodisiac property.
But the impact of Yohimbe on male fertility remains controversial. Because the results of the research I found vary.
In short-term studies, Yohimbe seemed beneficial for sperms, but the results seemed to be the opposite when evaluated in long-term trials.
According to this 2020 murine research, Yohimbe increased spermatogenesis and consequently the quantity of viable sperm. It also increases libido and sexual orientation, which positively impacts fertility.
But at the same time, this 2017 research examined the effect of prolonged use of Yohimbe in rats and found that it damaged the male accessory organs and the testis, thereby reducing the sperm concentration and motility, which affects reproductive function in males.
Bitter orange or Citrus Aurantium is used in pre-workouts to help promote weight loss and enhance workout performance.
According to this study, a negative effect of C. Aurantium on sperm parameters is suspected, and its long-term supplementation is not recommended.
The results of this research paper state that C. Aurantium decreases sperm motility and testosterone but causes an increase in sperm count.
Pre-workouts ingredients that are good for fertility
It is not like people who consume pre-workouts stop conceiving, and not all the ingredients in the supplements will damage your reproductive health.
So, to take the edge off your scare, here are some ingredients that may enhance your sperm quality.
Branched Chain Amino acids
Branched Chain Amino acids are taken before workouts to increase lean muscle mass, promote muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
This 2018 clinical trial evaluated the effect of whey protein, which is abundant in branched-chain amino acids, on male gym goers’ fertility, and the results reported that branched-chain amino acids are beneficial in increasing motile sperms.
Pre-workouts contain approximately 3g to 5g of creatine monohydrate as a fuel source for muscles to help you with muscle gains.
Creatine supplementation may affect sperm as creatine metabolism in spermatozoa shuttles energy (ATP) from the mitochondria to the sperm’s contractile machinery and fuels the sperm movement.
The authors of this review assessed the link between creatine in paternal diet and improved sperm quality and found that creatine supplementation may increase sperm count and motility, thus, helping to attenuate sub-fertility.
Pre-workout formulations include zinc in their supplements because it plays a role in preventing the onset of fatigue and promotes the production of lean muscle mass.
This 2016 meta-analysis of 20 different studies reports that zinc supplementation improves sperm volume, sperm motility, and the ratio of normal-shaped sperms in semen.
To sum it up, in a one-liner, zinc supplementation improves the quality of sperms in infertile men.
L-arginine acts as a precursor of nitric oxide. And it is added to pre-workouts by keeping in mind the role of nitric oxide in mediating vasodilation that increases blood flow in the body, specifically the muscles. This muscle pump increases energy and endurance for workouts.
According to this paper, Nitric Oxide (NO) enhances the sperm’s fertilization potential and increases sperm motility. It does so by increasing energy production in the mitochondria of spermatozoa and by influencing sperm capacitation and the acrosome reaction.
This research paper also reports the benefit of L-arginine in promoting Nitric Oxide (NO) biosynthesis, which inactivates the spermicidal activity of superoxides on the structure and function of sperms and protects them against the damage to sperm membranes that is caused by lipid peroxidation.
L-carnitine is added to pre-workouts to promote muscle growth, fat burning, and boost energy.
According to this review paper, carnitine is a natural anti-oxidant that attenuates the damage to sperms caused by the accumulation of reactive oxygen species.
It also increases the number of normal-shaped sperms and promotes better sperm swimming.
Vitamin B12 in pre-workouts improves energy metabolism, recovery, and endurance during workouts.
According to this 2017 paper, vitamin B12 reduces oxidative damage and inflammation to sperms and improves the semen quality by increasing sperm count sperm motility and reducing sperm DNA damage.
Caffeine is one of the main stimulants added to pre-workouts due to its potential to increase mental alertness and boost energy.
Caffeine has been associated with miscarriages, congenital disabilities, and a reduced fertility outcome for a long time.
But, this recent 2020 review is a break in the case as it analyzed the existing research thoroughly and concluded that caffeine, regardless of its dose, has not been the sole cause of infertility observed in the study cohorts and case reports of the previous research.
Hence, no direct association can be derived between the two.
FAQs on pre-workout and sperm count
Does creatine affect sperm quality?
Yes, but in a positive way. It increases the energy production in spermatozoa, and thus, it may increase sperm motility.
Does CLA affect sperm count?
Yes, Conjugated Linolic Acid (CLA) may increase the sperm count in semen.
Do bodybuilding supplements affect male fertility?
Yes, bodybuilding supplements may negatively impact male fertility by affecting semen quality. Such supplements may contain steroids or other ingredients that impair sperm production and lower sperm count.
Does BCAA affect sperm?
Yes, Branched Chain Amino acids may increase the quality of semen by enhancing the production of motile sperms.
Does creatine reduce sperm count?
No, but rather creatine helps to increase the sperm count.
Does pre-workout affect sperm count?
Pre-workouts do seem safe for the sperm count, but this is an under-researched side of pre-workouts, and thus, nothing can be said for sure. So, you may look at them with a tad bit of doubt.
Does pre-workout kill sperm?
Pre-workouts might not kill sperms directly, but the presence of steroids or a high sugar content might be some reasons which may cause a decline in sperm count.
To wrap it up, pre-workouts, for the most part, seem to be safe for sperms and male reproductive health, but some ingredients may be harmful, especially when consumed for a long time.
The ingredients that harm sperms might be testosterone supplements, steroids, and banned stimulants like DMAA or other components.
Pre-workouts may contain traces of them as their production is not strictly regulated.
Moreover, most of the ingredients that seem safe have insufficient evidence, and the impact of some of them has only been evaluated in animal trials as of yet.
In addition to this, there is no research on the combined effect of the ingredients used in pre-workout formulations, so it is wise to have a cautious approach towards them.
To be on the safe side, it is better that you discontinue using pre-workouts when you are trying to conceive to root out any doubts.