News from Below the Belt: It’s All about Sperm

Sperm is making headlines again. Some of the news is good, some not so much. On the good side, recent studies have found that drinking coffee and alcohol (within reason, of course) doesn’t hurt a man’s fertility. Also on the good side is that exercise may boost your sperm count, as will a diet that includes regular portions of fish. On the bad news side, it looks like eating lots of bacon or other processed meats can reduce your sperm count and your fertility.

We realize that what’s “good” and “bad” might be different for different people. If you don’t like exercising or eating fish, you may find the fact that they increase fertility bad news. And if you’re a bacon and hot-dog kind of guy, their sperm-reduction effects may come as bad news. However, we encourage you to use our definitions of good and bad—you’ll be a lot healthier if you do. Either way, if you want to make babies, read about the latest discoveries below.

  • Exercise. “Men engaging in exercise for seven hours or more per week, essentially one hour a day, had 48 percent higher concentrations [of sperm in their semen] than men who were engaging in less than one hour per week,” says Adurey Gaskins, one of the researchers whose study was presented at the recent joint meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the International Federation of Fertility Societies. This was especially true for men who did their exercising outside or spent time pumping iron in the gym. Guys who put in more than 90 minutes of outdoors exercise had a 42% higher sperm concentration than those who never go outside. And guys who lifted weights for at least two hours per had a 25 higher concentration than non-weightlifters. There was one exception to the exercise-is-good rule: biking. Men who spent more than 90 minutes per week on a bicycle had 35% lower sperm concentration than non-bikers.
  • Coffee and booze. “Even though caffeine and alcohol are generally considered a risk factor for decreased fertility, we saw no evidence of that,” said Dr. Jorge Chavarro, who coauthored the study with Gaskins. Both are affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health. While Chavarro and Gaskins were looking at sperm quantity, a team of French researcher looked at whether caffeine or alcohol affected sperm quality and whether they might actually damage the sperm’s DNA. They found that caffeine had no negative effects at all, either in terms of DNA damage or overall quality.
  • Bacon, processed meats, and fish. Men who eat as little as one slice of bacon or one sausage link every day have 32% fewer normal sperm than men who don’t indulge in those delicious dishes. The more normal sperm you produce, the higher the chance that you’ll become a dad. Speaking of normal sperm, this study (also conducted by Chavarro and Gaskins) found that eating white fish like cod and halibut had a positive effect on sperm shape, while eating dark meat fish like salmon and tuna raised sperm count.

Armin Brott

View posts by Armin Brott
Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.
Scroll to top