Health

Does Masturbation Cause Weight Loss?

Solo sex burns calories, but it might not be enough to move the number on the scale.

When it comes to weight loss, Ozempic is the decade’s “Big O,” but can the original “O” do some favors for your waistline too? 

“The idea that masturbation can cause significant weight loss is a bit of a stretch,” says urologist Justin Houman, M.D. However, it can be one part of a more robust weight management plan, he adds. 

Solo sex, similar to any form of physical activity, burns some calories, he explains—which is a widely acknowledged essential step in slimming down. It may also support healthy stress levels and sound sleep, he says, which also supports your weight loss goals as stress blocks weight loss

Ahead, a team of urologists and sex experts answer all your questions about the weight loss masturbation connection, including whether masturbating burns calories and if having an orgasm helps you lose weight. 


About the Experts

Justin Houman, M.D., is a board-certified urologist who specializes in sexual health, infertility, and erectile dysfunction. He’s also the senior medical advisor at Cake, a sexual wellness platform.

Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, research fellow at The Kinsey Institute, and author of Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life.

Nicole Prause, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and psychophysiologist specializing in sexual function and behavior. She is also the founder of Liberos, an online platform that uses science to teach individuals about pleasure and sexual function. 

Carly S. is a fat activist, pleasure expert, and sex educator who helps people of all sizes, genders, and sexualities embrace their bodies for more pleasurable lives. She is also the founder of Dildo or Dildon’t, an online pleasure product review platform.

Rebecca Blanton, Ph.D., more commonly known as Auntie Vice, is a kink educator and psychologist who has been working in the kink community for more than 35 years. She is also the co-host of the Fat Chicks On Top, a sex- and fat-positive podcast.


SEXUAL HEALTH

Does Masturbating Burn Calories?

In a nutshell: Yes, masturbating burns calories. But not enough to result in any noticeable shifts in weight. 

Broadly speaking, sexuality studies are severely underfunded and masturbation continues to be stigmatized in many circles. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there isn’t many large-scale studies on how many calories masturbation burns. 

However, one small study—featuring just 20 heterosexual couples in their early twenties—found that people burn anywhere from 3.1 to 4.2 calories per minute during partnered sex (1). The average duration of sex for couples in the study was 24 minutes, which led to an average total calorie burn of 69 calories for women and 101 calories for men. 

According to Houman, it’s safe to assume that people burn more or less the same number of calories when rolling around in the hay on their own as they do with someone(s) else. “Though, the exact number of calories a person burns while self-pleasuring will depend on the duration and intensity of that masturbation session,” he says. 

Seventy to 100 calories is the same amount burned on a low-intensity short walk, Houman suggests. However, it’s far fewer calories than you’d burn if you got off the couch (or bed) and got your sweat on at the gym. 


For comparison, performing moderate to high-intensity exercise burns a minimum of 6 to 8 calories per minute, he says.  That’s at least twice the number of calories burned per minute of sex.

One study found that people burned an average of 13 to 20 calories per minute doing CrossFit, while another study found people burned at least 11 calories per minute running (2, 3).  

There’s also research, albeit limited, that suggests levels of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) could lower when engaging in sexual activity—masturbation included—than when you’re not, says neuroscientist and licensed psychologist Nicole Prause, Ph.D. (4, 5). When ghrelin levels are high, the body knows it’s time to eat, whereas when levels are low you don’t crave as much food. This finding suggests having sex of any kind may slightly lower your likelihood of overeating, she says. But the effect likely only lasts minutes, not hours, she says. 

Does having an orgasm help lose weight?

The answer to that question is the same as “are vibrators competition”? In other words,  no, orgasms can’t help you lose weight. 

Orgasm is considered the peak of sexual arousal marked by a series of physiologic changes such as increased heart rate, muscle contractions, blood rush, and more (6). While the feel-good sensation may feel like it lasts for a while, research shows it only lasts an average of 10 to 35 seconds for men, and 20 to 35 seconds for women (7, 8). 

As high as your heart rate may spike and as fast as your muscles may contract and relax in succession, orgasm itself doesn’t last long enough to lead to significant caloric burn or weight loss, says social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D.

LOSE WEIGHT SUSTAINABLY

Does Masturbation Cause Weight Gain?

Weight gain often occurs when you consume more calories than you burn. So, unless you follow your solo sex with a Double Whopper (or three), your weight won’t be affected, says Lehmiller (9). 

Masturbating could lead to weight gain if you do it so much that it interferes with your gym time or overall activity level, he adds. But, assuming that you masturbate, as well as maintain a regular movement practice, eat nutrient-dense foods, prioritize stress reduction protocols, and hone in on your sleep hygiene, you won’t gain weight from masturbating, Lehmiller says. 

If you have recently gained weight, sex educator Carly S. encourages making time to masturbate—especially if you’ve developed negative feelings about your body. 

“When you masturbate, you’re able to associate pleasure with your body, which can help develop greater satisfaction with your body,” she says. “It can also help you realize how amazing your body is and what it’s capable of, which can boost self-image and help you find things you love about your body.”

Health Benefits of Masturbation

Yep, pleasuring yourself offers several physical and mental health benefits.  

Promotes relaxation

Masturbating—whether it leads to orgasm or not—leads to the release of feel-good endorphins chemicals and hormones (like oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine) into the brain and body, which have been linked to increased happiness, feelings of relaxation, and mood regulation, says sex educator and psychologist, Rebecca Blanton, Ph.D (10). 

May increase pain tolerance

Given the pain-alleviating power of endorphins, “people who experience certain types of chronic pain may also notice temporary pain relief after masturbating,” she says. One widely cited study suggests it may increase someone’s pain tolerance threshold by over 40 percent during and immediately following their solo sex session (11).

Better Zs

A little between-the-sheets solo action may also help you sleep better, Blanton says. Thanks to the release of norepinephrine and serotonin, research has found that more than half of people who masturbate before bed report better sleep quality (12).

Lower risk of prostate cancer

If you have a prostate, regularly masturbating to the point of ejaculation may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer, says Prause. Research found that men who ejaculated 21 or more times a month, had a 31 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those men who jerked it just four to seven times a month across their lifetimes (13). 

While there are health benefits of masturbating, it’s important to understand that it would be A-OK to masturbate even if these benefits didn’t exist. “Sometimes, when people are interested in learning about the benefits of masturbation, it’s because they are looking for an excuse to masturbate,” says Carly S. 

“It’s great if we can give someone permission to have fun with themselves, but if you’re someone who just enjoys masturbation because it feels good and doesn’t ever think about any benefits, that’s cool too,” she says.  

The Bottom Line

Unless you disrupt your healthy lifestyle to do so, masturbating isn’t going to result in notable weight loss or gain. Masturbating, however, does offer several other health benefits, including improved mental well-being, better sleep, and better prostate health. 

If you have questions, concerns, or goals around your weight, the best thing you can do is consult with a healthcare team. 

References