If you and your partner are experiencing fertility issues, know that you’re not alone. Infertility is more common than you might think.
It affects about one in every six couples, and researchers estimate about one in every three cases is due to fertility problems in the male partner alone (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
While infertility is not always treatable, there are some things you can do to boost your chances of conceiving. Fertility can sometimes be improved with a healthy diet, supplements, and other lifestyle strategies.
How To Make Your Sperm Strong
This article lists some of the main lifestyle factors, foods, nutrients, and supplements that have been associated with improved fertility in men.
Fertility refers to people’s ability to reproduce without medical assistance.
Male infertility is when a man has a poor chance of making his female partner pregnant. It usually depends on the quality of his sperm cells.
Sometimes infertility is linked to sexual function, and other times it could be linked to semen quality. Here are some examples of each:
- Libido. Otherwise known as sex drive, libido describes a person’s desire to have sex. Foods or supplements that claim to increase libido are called aphrodisiacs.
- Erectile dysfunction. Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is when a man is unable to develop or maintain an erection.
- Sperm count. An important aspect of semen quality is the number or concentration of sperm cells in a given amount of semen.
- Sperm motility. An essential function of healthy sperm cells is their ability to swim. Sperm motility is measured as the percentage of moving sperm cells in a sample of semen.
- Testosterone levels. Low levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, may be responsible for infertility in some men.
Infertility can have multiple causes and may depend on genetics, general health, fitness, diseases, and dietary contaminants.
Additionally, a healthy lifestyle and diet are important. Some foods and nutrients are associated with greater fertility benefits than others.
Here are 10 science-backed ways to boost sperm count and increase fertility in men.
D-aspartic acid (D-AA) is a form of aspartic acid, a type of amino acid that’s sold as a dietary supplement.
It should not be confused with L-aspartic acid, which makes up the structure of many proteins and is far more common than D-AA.
D-AA is mainly present in certain glands, such as the testicles, as well as in semen and sperm cells.
Researchers believe that D-AA is implicated in male fertility. In fact, D-AA levels are significantly lower in infertile men than fertile men (3Trusted Source).
This is supported by studies showing that D-AA supplements may increase levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone that plays an essential role in male fertility.
For example, a study in infertile men suggested that taking 2.7 grams of D-AA for 3 months increased their testosterone levels by 30–60% and sperm count and motility by 60–100%.
The number of pregnancies also increased among their partners (4).
Another controlled study in healthy men showed that taking 3 grams of D-AA supplements daily for 2 weeks increased testosterone levels by 42% (5Trusted Source).
However, the evidence is not consistent. Studies in athletes or strength-trained men with normal to high testosterone levels found that D-AA didn’t increase its levels further and even reduced them at high doses (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
The current evidence indicates that D-AA supplements may improve fertility in men with low testosterone levels, while they don’t consistently provide additional benefits in men with normal to high levels.
More research is needed to investigate the potential long-term risks and benefits of D-AA supplements in humans.
Shop for D-aspartic acid supplements online.
Besides being good for your general health, exercising regularly can boost testosterone levels and improve fertility.
Studies show that men who exercise regularly have higher testosterone levels and better semen quality than inactive men (8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
However, you should avoid too much exercise, as it may have the opposite effect and potentially reduce testosterone levels. Getting the right amount of zinc can minimize this risk (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
If you rarely exercise but want to improve your fertility, make becoming physically active one of your top priorities.
You’re probably familiar with vitamin C’s ability to boost the immune system.
Some evidence indicates that taking antioxidant supplements, such as vitamin C, may improve fertility.
Oxidative stress is when levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) reach harmful levels in the body.
It happens when the body’s own antioxidant defenses are overwhelmed because of disease, old age, an unhealthy lifestyle, or environmental pollutants (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
ROS are constantly being produced in the body, but their levels are kept in check in healthy people. High levels of ROS may promote tissue injury and inflammation, increasing the risk of chronic disease (17Trusted Source).
There’s also some evidence that oxidative stress and excessively high levels of ROS may lead to infertility in men (18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Taking in enough antioxidants, such as vitamin C, may help counteract some of these harmful effects. There’s also some evidence that vitamin C supplements may improve semen quality.
A study in infertile men showed that taking 1,000-mg vitamin C supplements twice a day for up to 2 months increased sperm motility by 92% and sperm count by more than 100%. It also reduced the proportion of deformed sperm cells by 55% (20Trusted Source).
Another observational study in Indian industrial workers suggested that taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C five times a week for 3 months may protect against DNA damage caused by ROS in sperm cells.
Vitamin C supplements also significantly improved sperm count and motility, while reducing the numbers of deformed sperm cells (21Trusted Source).
Taken together, these findings suggest that vitamin C may help improve fertility in infertile men with oxidative stress.
However, controlled studies are needed before any definite claims can be made.
It’s hard to get in the mood when you’re feeling stressed, but there might be more to it than not feeling up for sex. Stress may reduce your sexual satisfaction and impair your fertility (22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
Researchers believe the hormone cortisol may partly explain these adverse effects of stress.
Prolonged stress raises levels of cortisol, which has strong negative effects on testosterone. When cortisol goes up, testosterone levels tend to go down (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
While severe, unexplained anxiety is typically treated with medication, milder forms of stress can be reduced with relaxation techniques.
Stress management can be as simple as taking a walk in nature, meditating, exercising, or spending time with friends.
Vitamin D can be important for male and female fertility. It’s another nutrient that may boost testosterone levels.
One observational study showed that vitamin-D-deficient men were more likely to have low testosterone levels (27Trusted Source).
A controlled study in 65 men with low testosterone levels and vitamin D deficiency supported these findings. Taking 3,000 IU of vitamin D3 every day for 1 year increased their testosterone levels by around 25% (28Trusted Source).
High vitamin D levels are linked to greater sperm motility, but the evidence is inconsistent (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source).
Tribulus terrestris, also known as puncture vine, is a medicinal herb frequently used to enhance male fertility.
One study in men with low sperm counts showed that taking 6 grams of tribulus root twice daily for 2 months improved erectile function and libido (31Trusted Source).
While Tribulus terrestris does not raise testosterone levels, research indicates that it may enhance the libido-promoting effects of testosterone (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
However, further studies are needed to confirm its aphrodisiac properties and evaluate the long-term risks and benefits of supplementing with it.
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a popular culinary and medicinal herb.
One study in 30 men who strength-trained four times a week analyzed the effects of taking 500 mg of fenugreek extract daily.
The men experienced significantly increased testosterone levels, strength, and fat loss, compared with a placebo (35Trusted Source).
Another study in 60 healthy men showed that taking 600 mg of Testofen, a supplement made from fenugreek seed extract and minerals, daily for 6 weeks improved libido, sexual performance, and strength (36Trusted Source).
These findings were confirmed by another, larger study in 120 healthy men. Taking 600 mg of Testofen every day for 3 months improved self-reported erectile function and the frequency of sexual activity.
Also, the supplement significantly increased testosterone levels (37Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that all of these studies examined fenugreek extracts. It’s unlikely that whole fenugreek, which is used in cooking and herbal tea, is as effective.
Zinc is an essential mineral found in high amounts in animal foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and shellfish.
Getting enough zinc is one of the cornerstones of male fertility.
Observational studies show that low zinc status or deficiency is associated with low testosterone levels, poor sperm quality, and an increased risk of male infertility (38Trusted Source).
Also, taking zinc supplements increases testosterone levels and sperm count in those who are low in zinc (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).
Furthermore, zinc supplements may reduce the decreased testosterone levels that are associated with excessive amounts of high-intensity exercise (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
Controlled trials need to confirm these observational findings.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a medicinal herb that’s been used in India since ancient times.
Studies suggest that ashwagandha may improve male fertility by boosting testosterone levels.
One study in men with low sperm cell counts showed that taking 675 mg of ashwagandha root extract per day for 3 months significantly improved fertility.
Specifically, it increased sperm counts by 167%, semen volume by 53%, and sperm motility by 57%, compared with levels at the start of the study. In comparison, minimal improvements were detected among those who got a placebo treatment (42Trusted Source).
Increased testosterone levels may be partly responsible for these benefits.
A study in 57 young men following a strength-training program showed that consuming 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily significantly increased testosterone levels, muscle mass, and strength, compared with a placebo (43Trusted Source).
These findings are supported by observational evidence indicating that ashwagandha supplements may improve sperm counts, sperm motility, antioxidant status, and testosterone levels (44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source).
Taking maca root supplements may improve libido, as well as fertility and sexual performance.
Maca root is a popular plant food that originated in central Peru. Traditionally, it has been used for its ability to enhance libido and fertility.
Several studies in men showed that taking 1.5–3 grams of dried maca root for periods of up to 3 months improved self-reported sexual desire or libido (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source).
Studies also suggest that maca root may improve sexual performance. In men with mild erectile dysfunction, taking 2.4 grams of dried maca root for 12 weeks slightly improved self-reported erectile function and sexual well-being (49Trusted Source).
Taking 1.75 grams of maca root powder every day for 3 months also increased sperm count and motility in healthy men (50Trusted Source).
These findings have been partly confirmed by reviews, but the researchers noted that the evidence is weak and more research is needed before definite claims can be made (51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).
Additionally, maca root doesn’t seem to affect hormone levels. Taking 1.5–3 grams of maca root per day for 3 months had no effects on testosterone or other reproductive hormones in healthy, fertile men (53Trusted Source).
For several decades, researchers have known that sperm quality and fertility rates have been declining in most Western nations.
According to one 2017 study, the average sperm count in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand dropped by 59.3% between 1973 and 2011.
Despite studies having identified this, scientists still do not fully understand the reasons for this decline. Research into reliable methods for reversing a low sperm count is ongoing.
Practitioners of ancient, herbal, and traditional medicine have used several nonpharmacologic remedies to increase sperm count and improve sperm health for thousands of years. What is more, researchers have suggested that most of these remedies can actually influence sperm count in some way.
The following are some natural ways to increase sperm count.
1. Get enough exercise and sleep
Several studies have suggested that weight loss and exercise among people with overweight or obesity can lead to an improved or increased sperm count. However, the science linking a healthy body mass index (BMI) to a healthy sperm count is still weak.
One 2017 studyTrusted Source examined the benefits of performing a 16 week aerobic exercise program of at least three 50-minute sessions per week. The participants reached 50–65% of their peak heart rate.
In the study, regular exercise increased sperm count and motility in 45 men with obesity and sedentary lifestyles.
2. Quit smoking
A 2016 meta-analysis that reviewed the results of over 20 studies with a total of nearly 6,000 participants found that smoking consistently reduced sperm count.
The researchers found that people who smoked moderate or heavy amounts of tobacco had a lower sperm quality than people who smoked tobacco less heavily.
3. Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use
The number of controlled studies to have explored the link between sperm health and drugs is limited. This is because testing illicit substances can lead to ethical problems.
However, one 2018 reviewTrusted Source has linked the worldwide use of drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine to decreased sperm production. Some evidence is conflicting, so further research is necessary to confirm this link.
4. Avoid certain prescription medications
Some prescription medications can potentially decrease healthy sperm production. Once the male stops taking the medication, however, their sperm count should return to normal or increase.
Medications that may temporarily reduce the production and development of sperm include:
- some antibiotics
- anabolic steroids, which may continue to affect sperm count for up to 1 year after stopping the medication
- exogenous or supplementary testosterone
Males should seek consultation with a healthcare provider if they believe that a medication they are currently taking may be reducing their sperm count or affecting their fertility.
5. Take a fenugreek supplement
Fenugreek has long been in use as a natural remedy for poor sperm health, and advocates suggest that it may help improve sperm count.
In fact, one 2017 study found that the patent-pending compound Furosap, which manufacturers developed from fenugreek seeds, significantly improved overall semen quality and sperm count.
Various fenugreek products, including supplements, are available to purchase online.
6. Get enough vitamin D
Researchers are not entirely sure why, but blood levels of vitamin D and calcium appear to impact sperm health.
In a 2019 literature reviewTrusted Source of 18 studies, researchers found a significant association between improved fertility in male participants and a higher level of vitamin D in the blood.
However, the study authors do advise caution when interpreting these results, and they recommend further clinical trials to confirm their findings.
Research shows that a deficiency in calcium may also adversely impact sperm count.
Vitamin D supplements are available to purchase in health food stores and online.
7. Take ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, or Indian ginseng, has long played a role in traditional medicines as a remedy for several forms of sexual dysfunction.
A 2013 study found that 46 males with low sperm counts who took 675 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 90 days saw a 167% increase in their sperm count.
Ashwagandha is available to purchase online or in health food stores.
8. Eat more antioxidant-rich foods
Antioxidants are molecules that help deactivate compounds called free radicals, which damage cells.
Several vitamins and minerals act as antioxidants, and some studies have linked antioxidant consumption with increased sperm count.
According to a 2019 review, antioxidants that may contributeTrusted Source to a healthy sperm count include:
- vitamin C
9. Increase healthful fat intake
Polyunsaturated fats are crucial for the healthy development of the sperm membrane. Such fats include omega-3 and omega-6.
A 2019 reviewTrusted Source of three studies found that males with infertility who supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids experienced a significant improvement in sperm motility and concentration, compared with males who did not take omega-3 supplements.
10. Reduce unhealthful fat intake
A 2014 study surveyed 209 healthy Spanish males aged 18–23 years. The researchers found that as they increased their consumption of trans fatty acids, their sperm count decreased proportionately.
Many things can help boost fertility, but what works for you depends on the cause of your fertility issues.
Also, keep in mind that fertility and libido usually go hand in hand with your general health.
For this reason, anything that improves your overall health is likely to boost your fertility.
Here are 8 additional tips to boost fertility and sperm count/quality:
- Lead a healthy lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle practices impair your overall health, including fertility (54Trusted Source).
- Lose excess weight. Carrying extra weight is associated with infertility. If your doctor suspects that weight may be linked to your infertility, discuss weight loss as one of your health goals (55Trusted Source, 56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source).
- Limit your alcohol intake. Avoid heavy alcohol consumption, as it may reduce testosterone levels and impair semen quality (58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).
- Get enough folate. A few studies indicate that a low intake of folate may impair semen quality (60Trusted Source, 61Trusted Source).
- Get adequate sleep. Getting adequate sleep is vital to maintaining your health. Restricted or excessive sleep has also been linked to poor semen quality (62Trusted Source).
- Snack on walnuts. Eating a lot of antioxidant-rich foods, such as walnuts, seems to benefit fertility (63Trusted Source).
- Consider supplements. Antioxidant supplements also seem to work. Some evidence suggests that coenzyme Q10 improves semen quality (64Trusted Source, 65Trusted Source).
- Avoid eating too much soy. Soy is rich in isoflavones, which are associated with lower semen quality (66Trusted Source).
Infertility is fairly common and affects many men worldwide.
If you’re having fertility issues, one thing you can do is focus on improving your general health. Many of the tips mentioned above are key components of a healthy lifestyle.
There’s no guaranteed fix, but if nutrient deficiencies or low testosterone levels are contributing factors, chances are that these lifestyle tips may help.