The sperm development process in a healthy male individual produces 200-300 million sperm cells every single day. If it only takes a single sperm cell to fertilise an egg cell it is therefore not unreasonable to assume that a man is highly fertile at any point in time.
- 1 Male Fertility Implications
- 2 The Sperm Development Process
- 3 Fluctuating Sperm Quality
- 4 Why Arginine Is Important For Male Fertility
- 5 Increasing Arginine levels
- 6 The Most Effective Male Fertility Nutrients
- 7 The Top Male Fertility Supplements
Male Fertility Implications
Most men are unaware that their fertility is not that stratight forward:
- Sperm cells take 11 weeks to fully mature before they’re ready for ejaculation.
- Sperm quality is the mathematical product of semen volume, sperm count, %-normal forms (morphology) and %-progressive sperm cells (motility). If any of these parameters is affected, overall male fertility can fluctuate significantly.
- Male fertility is a holistic reflection of overall bodily health.
Armed with this knowledge, a man can make informed choices to benefit his sperm development process.
The Sperm Development Process
The sperm development process follows a series of steps involving phases of cell divisions and differentiations. Inside the testes millions of tubules simultaneously produce sperm at different maturation stages. This assembly line architecture ensures that mature sperm is available at all times.
Nevertheless, overall sperm quality (male fertility) can fluctuate significantly. Throughout this development, sperm needs access to certain nutrients such amino acids, vitamins, trace elements, hormones, enzymes etc to ensure healthy development.
At the same time, sperm needs to be safeguarded from oxidative stress which can significantly disrupt development and maturation.
How long does it take?
While most of this development takes place within located in the testicles, sperm must migrate into the epididymis before it can fully mature.
The maturation process inside the testicles’ tubules takes a total of 64 days. While still in the tubules, sperm is immobile and unfertile. Only in the finally maturation stages within the epididymis does the sperm gain fertility and mobility.
After this, transportation and final maturation phase into the epididymis takes another 2 weeks. The sperm cells are stored here for ejaculation and gain their full motility.
The entire process therefore takes 78 days or 11 weeks to complete.
VIDEO: Spermatogenesis Explained
The below high-quality training video explains the physiology if the sperm development process in great medical detail.
This particular video was selected, because it had the best view / rating ratio of all spermatogenesis videos on youtube at the time of writing. The video had by far the most likes for a relatively high number of views.
Fluctuating Sperm Quality
During the sperm development process the maturing sperm cells are subjected to the same conditions as the rest of the body. Thus, fertility can be compromised by external / environmental influences such as
- physical trauma such as a kicks or accidents,
- excessive heat from tight trousers, laptops or saunas,
- insufficient nutrition from a poor diet,
- drug or stimulants use,
- illness, among other factors.
Calculating Male Fertility
There are two methods to calculate male fertility
The WHO System
Overall male fertility is the product of
- semen volume, or the amount of semen ejaculated during orgasm. The minimum threshold by the World Health organisation is 2 ml.
- sperm count, or the number of sperm cells inside 1 ml of semen. The minimum threshold by the World Health organisation is 20 million / ml.
- sperm movement or motility. The minimum threshold by the World Health organisation is Motility A + B = 32%. This means that 32% or more of all sperm cells should be progressively moving forward, rather than in a circle or not at all.
- sperm shapes or %-normal forms. The minimum threshold by the World Health organisation for normally shaped sperm cells is 4%.
The TMS System
Total motile spermatozoa (TMS) or total motile sperm count (TMSC) is thought to be a better a better indicator of Spontaneous Ongoing pregnancy (SOP) than the WHO system above1. This is a calculation of the number of moving sperm in the entire ejaculate. It is calculated by multiplying the volume by the concentration (million sperm/ml) by the motility (% moving). There should be more than 20 million motile sperm in the ejaculate.
Example: 3 ml volume x 25 million sperm per millilitre x 35% A+B progressive sperm cells = 26.25 million motile sperm2
Overall sperm quality can vary by up to 50% within weeks. Any male trying to conceive should therefore do at last two semen analyses (SAs).
In cases if “suboptimal” fertility, (less than 20 million TMS or if any of the above WHO parameters are not met) a couple may not be able to conceive naturally within 12 months. At this point, couple are classified as infertile.
Infertility in men affects up to 60% of all infertile couples and can have a number of different causes. 25% of infertile men have idiopathic, or unexplained infertility.
In this case both partners should investigate and discuss possible reasons with out respective doctors.
Why Arginine Is Important For Male Fertility
Men wanting to improve their fertility are encouraged to boost their intake of arginine. This is a vital amino acid for many processes within the body, including the production and maturation of healthy sperm.
Arginine is critical for the production of spermin, an essential compound that stabilises and protects sperm DNA. Sperm cell division and motility also rely on the presence of spermin. Thus, boosting the availability of arginine can significantly improve sperm health via higher spermin activity.
In addition to producing spermin, arginine is also essential for producing nitric oxide (NO).
This gas regulates vascularity and is therefore fundamental for blood circulation. In addition to improving the delivery of nutrients and oxygen through optimising NO availability, this improved circulation also supports stronger erections. Arginine is therefore indirectly cures erectile dysfunction and improve male fertility simultaneously
Increasing Arginine levels
Although the body can produce its own supply of arginine there are instances where demand can exceed supply. In these situations, arginine becomes a conditionally essential amino acid.
Poor nutrition, illness, prolonged stress, drug use; all these factors will diminish arginine reserves and negatively impact fertility. By consuming more foods rich in this amino acid, it’s possible to boost availability and better support sperm health.
Some rich food sources of arginine include red meat, nuts, leafy greens, legumes, soy products, whole grains, seafood, pulses and eggs. There are also many supplements available that are formulated to enhance arginine supply.
Improve Your Sperm Development Process 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 a better sperm development process, 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%5
- 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 is 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.
- The amino acid L-arginine has been proven to increase sperm count and motility 6 7.
- Another amino acid L-carnitine has been found to significantly improve sperm concentration (count) and motility over a relatively short period of only 8 weeks8 9.
- Vitamin D has been shown to improve sperm count, motility and morphology10.
- Vitamin B9, better known as folic acid has been shown to increase count, motility and morphology11.
- Zinc improves the immune system and significantly improves sperm count in combination with folic acid12.
- Selenium in combination with vitamin E has been found to improve motility13 14 15.
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 to optimise your sperm development process – 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
- “https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25788568” ↩
- “http://www.mcancer.org/fertility-preservation/for-male-patients/sperm-banking-procedures/semen-analysis” ↩
- “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).” ↩
- “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” ↩