The average man drinks 2.4 cups of coffee a day and over half of us say we struggle to function without a cup of joe in the morning. But does coffee – and other drinks containing caffeine – have an impact on our fertility?
What exactly is caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant which derives from various plants including coffee bean plants, tea leaves and cacao (the most raw form of chocolate). When we consume caffeine, it stimulates our nervous system, making us feel awake and alert – and sometimes kind of buzzed. Whilst natural, caffeine is classed as a drug – as it alters us both physically and mentally. Whilst caffeine is absorbed by the body really quickly (almost all of it within 45 minutes of consumption) it stays in our body for hours. Like any drug, caffeine can be addictive – which is why many of us struggle to get through the morning without a cup of coffee. The average person consumes 135mg per day (54% of this is from coffee, 43% from tea and 3% from other forms). Whilst coffee might be the most obvious source of caffeine you can think of, it can be found in many other sources – from energy drinks to supplement powders.
Is caffeine bad for male fertility?
When it comes to the impact of caffeine on sperm health, research is still ongoing and the outlook is pretty mixed. It also seems to depend on that source you are getting your caffeine from.
For example, a 2016 study indicated that drinking caffeinated energy drinks had a negative impact on male fertility. A similar 2010 study found that drinking Coke (which is full of caffeine!) could decrease almost all sperm health parameters, including count, volume and concentration. This study also shed some light on how the amount of caffeine we consumed could impact fertility – with participants who consumed more than 800 mg a day having poorer sperm health than guys who consumed less than that.
Ok, so it seems like energy drinks and sodas definitely aren’t great for your swimmers – but what about your favourite oat milk latte? Well, another study looked at coffee consumption specifically and found that there was a marked tendency towards lower sperm quality in men that drank more than 3 coffees a day.
Are there any benefits of caffeine on male fertility?
Whilst the above might make you think that caffeine is the enemy of sperm performance, some studies actually indicate the opposite – but not how you may think.
Back in 1976 a study looked at the impact of caffeine when directly introduced to sperm in a lab and found that the naturally occurring drug actually stimulated motility in sperm cells. But does this work when caffeine is consumed by men rather than introduced directly to their sperm cells? The results of one small study seems to indicate so. Researchers in Brazil found that guys who drank coffee had a higher sperm motility rate than those who consumed no coffee – but before you crack out the Nespresso machine, this is one of the only studies on humans to prove this connection.
Other ways caffeine rich drinks can impact fertility
So, the research is fairly mixed when it comes to the impact of caffeine on male fertility, but are there other factors we should be considering here?
The vast majority of caffeine rich foods and drinks are also rich in other ingredients that could impact the health of your sperm – namely sugar. Whether it’s a can of coke or an energy drink, seriously high sugar levels are present in many of the products we associate with caffeine and this could be why studies involving these beverages show a negative impact on male fertility. As well as reducing sperm health parameters such as count and motility, men with high blood sugar levels have been shown to have an increased risk of DNA fragmentation, which can contribute to problems conceiving and even miscarriage.
It’s really hard to avoid sugar when consuming caffeine – and even sugar-free alternatives will contain artificial sweeteners which also aren’t great for your fertility or overall health.
So how much caffeine can I drink if trying to conceive?
The study we mentioned before indicates that consuming less than 800mg of caffeine a day shouldn’t have a massive impact on your fertility – but it does depend on where that caffeine is coming from. The average cup of coffee contains less than 100mg of caffeine, so a couple of lattes a day probably isn’t going to affect your swimmers (if you skip the sugar that is).
However, a can of coke has around 34 mg of caffeine, and whilst that’s less than coffee, if you drank 2 cans of coke a day, the sugar intake would start to impact your sperm health, even if the caffeine didn’t.
So, the good news is, you don’t have to give up your morning coffee altogether if you’re trying to conceive If you’re keen to make healthy lifestyle changes that support your fertility, it’s a good idea to keep your caffeine consumption to a moderate level, but most importantly, be aware of where that caffeine is coming from.
Unsure what your current sperm status is? Check out our at-home fertility test for men to understand your total motile sperm count and receive tailored advice on how you can best improve your fertility health.