Having trouble conceiving?
If you and your partner have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for several months a fertility specialist may recommend a semen analysis. This is one of the common assessments used to measure a range of parameters that contribute to healthy male fertility.
The following video explain in more detail how a semen analysis helps to determine current male fertility
Often low sperm count and poor sperm motility account for sub-fertility problems in men. A normal sperm count should be above 40 million per millilitre of semen. At least half these sperm should exhibit forward motility.
The good news is that if the results of a semen analysis reveal a low sperm count and/or poor motility there are plenty of ways to improve sperm health.
Use amino acids to help to improve sperm count
For men struggling to conceive certain lifestyle adjustments can improve fertility. Paying close attention to diet is important. Foods rich in certain amino acids can help to improve sperm parameters. Three key amino acids for healthy sperm include:
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)
These amino acids have a range of positive influences on the development and function of sperm. They can also benefit overall reproductive health and vitality. By following the four steps outlined below, it’s possible to enhance male fertility
Step 1 – Increase L-arginine intake
The semi-essential amino acid L-arginine is important for a wide range of physiological functions. In addition to boosting the immune system it also helps with reproductive health.
Required for the production of nitric oxide, this amino acid assists in the dilation of blood vessels and circulation. This makes it easier to get an erection. Better blood flow also helps to deliver vital nutrients needed to support developing sperm.
To boost your daily intake of L-arginine eat foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. These proteins can form part of your evening meal. If you want a break from meat and dairy, there are also other non-animal sources of L-arginine. Good plant sources of this amino acid include walnuts, peanuts, sesame seeds, soybeans, and pumpkin seeds. Grains such as oats, wheat germ, and quinoa are also high in L-arginine.
Step 2 – Increase L- carnitine intake
Another semi-essential amino acid, L-carnitine has many roles in supporting the male reproductive system. It is involved in:
- Sperm development
- Sperm maturation
- Sperm maintenance
L-carnitine is needed to help in the formation and growth of sperm within the testes. It has a significant part in the development of the protective sperm membrane. This amino acid is also vital for forward motility. It is required as an energy source.
Without sufficient levels of L-carnitine, sperm health declines. Many studies have shown that supplementation with this key amino acid can help to enhance sperm count, motility, and morphology6, 7’8’9.
Similar to L-arginine, some of the best sources of L-carnitine include fish, red meat, poultry, and dairy products. Wheat, tempeh, avocados, peanuts, and asparagus also contain a reasonable amount of this amino acid.
Step 3 – Increase N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) intake
NAC is a modified form of the amino acid L-cysteine. It has powerful antioxidant effects. Not only does it help to protect sperm, it also boosts overall semen quality. Studies show that NAC supplementation can decrease oxidative stress in semen. This helps to enhance sperm motility, count, and quality10,11,12.
L-cysteine is a semi essential amino acid. Foods rich in L-cysteine include soy, eggs, poultry and nuts. However, in its modified form, NAC is more potent. NAC has a stronger positive influence on semen parameters than L-cysteine. This is why many nutritionists and fertility specialists recommend taking a NAC dietary supplement.
This leads into step 4 of enhancing sperm count using amino acids.
Step 4 – Supporting healthy sperm with supplements
Changing your diet to include key amino acids that support healthy sperm is one step closer to boosting fertility. However, amino acids also need the support of other nutrients. There are also important vitamins, minerals, and trace elements required to improve semen parameters.
Selecting a quality fertility supplement can help to ensure that the body has everything it needs to produce healthy, viable sperm. It’s always important to discuss your supplement options with a fertility specialist first. This helps to rule out any underlying health risks. It can also help to make sure you get the ingredient combination for your needs.
We have reviewed the top male fertility supplements to give you an idea of what to look for.
Don’t stop there
Following the four steps above is a great start to enhancing reproductive health. Utilising amino acids to improve sperm count and other semen parameters can increase the chances of conceiving a baby. However, to optimise your reproductive health you need to take into consideration other factors.
Remember to exercise regularly, don’t smoke, cut back on your alcohol consumption, and limit stress.
Read our top 10 Tips to Produce More Sperm!
Improve your fertility with micronutrients
Several micronutrients such as vitamins, vitaminoids, amino acids and trace elements have proven themselves effective in improving sperm quantity, mobility and shape. This directly translates into better overall sperm quality and therefore a higher chance of pregnancy.
- relatively inexpensive
- effective after three to six months
- able to increase sperm motility by up to 23%, ejaculate volume by up to 33% and sperm count by up to 215%13
- without side effects
For those reasons, male fertility food supplements are most definitely recommended as the first step in the treatment of oligospermia and asthenospermia.
Also men who have not yet taken a semen analysis test will benefit from supplementing micronutrients to ensure they are able to deliver high-quality semen.
There are no contraindications or side effects to this form of natural ‘sperm boosting’.
An excellent and detailed overview of many studies can be found in Steven Sinclair’s Male Infertility: Nutritional and Environmental Considerations.
A considerable range of male fertility supplements available on the UK market.
However, the products differ widely in price and composition. Menfertility.org has compared 10 of them in terms of value for money and the nutrients they provide.
The most effective male fertility nutrients
A multitude of studies has shown that highly dosed nutrients have potentially significant impact on overall sperm quality.
Vitamin D has been shown to improve sperm count, motility and morphology18.
Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid has been shown to increase count, motility and morphology19.
Zinc improves the immune system and significantly improves sperm count in combination with folic acid20.
Sperm cells take 11 weeks to mature in the testicles. Only then they are ready for ejaculation.
If you adjust your diet today it will thus take three months for the better sperm to be ready for fertilisation.
You must therefore keep the diet or supplement on an ongoing basis – ideally until your partner is pregnant or you decide for a different treatment.
All of the male fertility supplements in our great test include several of these nutrients at once, albeit at a lower dose. This is a cost-effective and convenient way making this type of fertility therapy affordable and requiring taking only one all-in-one supplement instead of many.
To find out more about the effects of the individual nutrients and how the various supplements compare, please read menfertility.org’s male fertility supplement review.
The top male fertility supplements
- “Aydin, S. et.al. (1995). The role of arginine, NSAID and kallikrein in the treatment of oligoasthenospermia. International Urology and Nephrology. Volume 27, Issue 2 (pp. 199-202).” ↩
- “Schachter, A., et al. (1973). Treatment of Oligospermia with the amino acid L-Arginine; Journal of Urology. Volume 110, Issue 3, (pp. 310-13).” ↩
- “Scibona, M. et.al. (1994). L-arginine and male infertility. The Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. Volume 46, Issue 4, (pp. 251-3).” ↩
- “Morgante, G. et. al. (2010). Treatment with carnitine, acetyl carnitine, L-arginine, and ginseng improves sperm motility and sexual health in men with asthenospermia. The Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. Volume 62, Issue 3, (pp. 213-8).” ↩
- “Stanislavov, R. and Rohdewald, P. (2014). Sperm quality in men is improved by supplementation with a combination of L-arginine, L-citrullin, roburines and Pycnogenal. The Italian Journal of Urology and Nephrology. Volume 66, Issue 4, (pp. 217-23).” ↩
- “Wang, Y, et al. (2010). L-carnitine: safe and effective for asthenozoospermia. National Journal of Andrology. Volume 16, Issue 5, (pp. 420-2).” ↩
- “Costa, M, et al. (1994). L-carnitine in the idiopathic asthenozoospermia: a multicenter study. Andrologia. Volume 26, Issue 3, (pp.155-9).” ↩
- “Lenzi, A. et al., 2003. Use of carnitine therapy in selected cases of male factor infertility: a double-blind crossover trial. Fertility and Sterility. Volume 79, Issue 2, (pp. 292-300).” ↩
- “Garolla, A. et al. (2005). Oral carnitine supplementation increases sperm motility in asthenozoospermic men with normal sperm phospholipid hydroperoxide glutathione peroxidase levels. Fertility and Sterility. Volume 83, Issue 2, (pp. 355-61.)”. ↩
- “Oeda, T. et. al. (1997). Scavenging effect of N-acetyl-L-cysteine against reactive oxygen species in human semen: a possible therapeutic modality for male factor infertility? Andrologia. Volume 29, Issue 3, (pp. 125-31).” ↩
- “Ciftci, H. et.al. (2009). Effects of N-acetylcysteine on semen parameters and oxidative/antioxidant status. Urology. Volume 74, Issue 1, (pp. 73-6).” ↩
- “Safarinejad, M and Safarinejad, S. (2009). Efficacy of selenium and/or N-acetyl-cysteine for improving semen parameters in infertile men: a double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study. The Journal of Urology. Volume 18, Issue 2, (pp. 741-51).” ↩
- “Imhof, Martin et al., “Improvement of sperm quality after micronutritient supplementation”, e-SPEN, the European e-Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism, Epub published ahead of print.” ↩
- “http://www.altmedrev.com/publications/5/1/28.pdf” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7701414” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12568837” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8085668” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21427118” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20978181” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11872201” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21403799” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12623744” ↩
- “http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8862739” ↩