Let’s talk steroids, protein shakes and fertility. In the pursuit of a beefed-up physique, many men incorporate protein shakes into their routine and some guys take it one step further with steroids. Whilst steroids are illegal in the UK, their presence in male fitness regimes is more common than you may think, with up to 1 million people (mainly men) admitting to using them. But could both steroids and protein shakes affect your chances of conceiving? Let’s get a pump on and find out.
Steroids and fertility
As you might imagine, there’s a good reason that anabolic steroids are illegal. The headline is they are bad for your health – but more specifically they are bad news for your fertility.
Steroids work by increasing the production of testosterone in the body – which is why men taking them find it easier to build muscle fast. You might assume that increased testosterone is good for fertility – low T can be a contributing factor to infertility – but you can have too much of a good thing.
When you use steroids, you are having an unnatural amount of testosterone pumped into your system. When this happens, your body will respond by stopping the production of testosterone, to help balance things out. This will have a knock-on effect on your sperm production – as testosterone is essential in this process. Studies have found that men who regularly use steroids are more likely to have a low sperm count and issues conceiving, so if you hope to become a father one day it’s important to avoid steroids completely – or stop immediately if you are currently taking them.
If you have taken steroids in the past, try not to panic. Effects from occasional use can be reversed, although it can often take a few months or even years before sperm production is back to normal. However, there are cases when steroid abuse results in completely fertility loss. If you are embarking on a fertility journey and know that this could be an issue, it’s best to be upfront with your doctor so they can give you the best advice to move forward.
Can protein shakes impact your fertility?
It’s probably no surprise that steroids can have a detrimental impact on your health, but what about protein shakes? Surely something that you can buy in health food shops couldn’t be bad for you? Well, that might not be strictly true.
Firstly, there have been reports of protein shakes actually containing anabolic steroids. Whilst this isn’t commonplace in the UK, in the US various studies have found illegal steroids within legal protein shakes.
If you are going to buy protein shakes, make sure you are purchasing from a reputable supplier and not from some social media ad promising you a buff body in 2 weeks – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But could even the most natural and trustworthy protein shake impact your fertility?
Whey protein and fertility
Whey is a protein found in dairy products and a popular foundation for many protein shakes – as it contains substantial levels of amino acids.
Whilst whey protein is generally safe, some studies have indicated that when men struggling with fertility stopped taking protein supplements, they had a significant increase in sperm concentration. Whilst further research needs to be done to ascertain exactly what in these protein shakes could have impacted sperm concentration – it’s worth considering what else could be in the shakes.
Even if they don’t contain anabolic steroids, they often do have other ingredients that aren’t great for your health (or fertility) like added sugars and artificial sweeteners – and excessive consumption of these has been linked to low sperm motility. Stevia is another natural sweetener that can often be found in protein shakes, and some animal studies have indicated that it could be linked to low male fertility.
Reduce the risk as you get fit
So, it’s clear that if you are trying to conceive, you should limit your use of protein shakes – and definitely stay clear of steroids. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t work towards your fitness goals.
There are plenty of ways you can bulk up or slim down healthily – and they also support your fertility. Firstly, swap protein shakes for lean, healthy, high-protein foods such as chicken, white meat, natural yoghurt and beans. Not only will they be way better for you than shakes, but they are also packed full of sperm-friendly vitamins. Secondly, if you are after both muscles and great sperm health, make sure weight training is part of your fitness regime. They can help naturally trigger an increase of testosterone to help you increase muscle mass and keep you lean whilst also supporting sperm production!