If you’re having trouble getting your partner pregnant, your sperm might be to blame.
Healthy sperm depends on total count, how well they swim, and their size and shape. And your lifestyle can play an important role in boosting—or sinking—their pregnancy potential. Read on to find out how.
1. LOSE WEIGHT
If you’re overweight or obese, shedding pounds will reinvigorate your reproductive mojo.
“Excess fat can decrease testosterone levels, which affects your ability to produce sperm,” says Darius Paduch, M.D., Ph.D., director of s*xual health and medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Fat in your belly and thighs also increases your body temperature. And too much fire in your loins can decrease total sperm count and motility, and cause DNA damage.
“Men who lose weight improve their sperm quality naturally,” he adds.
2. LAY OFF THE SOY
Soy products—such as edamame, soy sauce, tofu, and soy protein—can affect sperm production. That’s because it contains phytoestrogens, naturally occurring compounds in plants that mimic the female hormone estrogen.
Your body may respond to higher levels of estrogen by churning out less testosterone, which is essential for sperm production. In a study of mice, rodents fed a soy-rich diet had 25 percent lower sperm counts and fathered 21 percent fewer pups than those that ate a soy-free diet.
3. POUND THE PAVEMENT
Men who exercise about 7 hours a week have a 48 percent higher sperm count than guys who break a sweat for less than an hour a week, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.
And exercising outdoors has an especially beneficial boost, possibly due to the increased levels of vitamin D you receive from the sun, which may play a role in sperm production.
4. UPGRADE YOUR EATS
A major factor that determines whether your sperm sink or swim is the health of your mitochondria—or your cells’ batteries.
“Motility depends on the energy level of the sperm, which is determined by the mitochondria,” Dr. Paduch says.
Eating a diet high in fat and light in produce can increase the risk of free radical damage, which negatively impacts the mitochondria.
In fact, a study in the journal Human Reproduction found that men who downed the most fat had 43 percent lower total sperm count compared to those with the lowest fat intake.
Eating plenty of antioxidant-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can combat free radicals and improve the quality and quantity of your sperm, he says.
5. SKIP THE HOT TUB
Hot temperatures can mean bad news below the belt. “An increase of just 2 degrees negatively affects sperm production in humans,” Dr. Paduch says.
His advice: A quick 10-minute soak is fine, but if you’re trying to have kids in the next 3 to 6 months, you’re better off keeping your dips infrequent and brief—or avoiding them altogether until there’s a bun in the oven.