Crushing the refractory period: Part 1

We as men like to have sex. Some more than others.

If your libido isn’t where it used to be or you take forever to recover after a session, then this article is for you.

Before I get into the diet, neurotransmitters, hormones, etc., I’m first going to cover a few essential concepts.

Libido vs arousal

Libido is when we have the desire to have sex at a given time when in isolation. Arousal is when we are aroused/excited by someone.

You can:

  • Have libido, but not be aroused.
  • Have libido and be aroused (this one is the best ofc).
  • Be aroused, but not have libido.

There are a couple of kinds of arousal, such as visual arousal, physical arousal (touching someone or being in close proximity to your partner), and mental (fantasy) arousal.

You can have 1 or more of those at the same time. Often times guys complain that they have no libido, but once they have the opportunity to do something with their partner, their libido is there. If this is you, stop complaining.

You have baseline libido and circumstantial libido.

Libido can be induced by expectation, learned behavior, and your partner’s menstrual cycle.

Men’s (and women’s) libidos peak when their partner ovulates. Then her testosterone and estrogen are the highest and she’s creating the most pheromones that attract you to her. Her body language and behavior will also attract you to her.

This is a critical concept because some days you might feel like you’re losing your mind and you’re obsessing like a crazy person and other days you might feel dead. That’s likely nothing to do with you but likely with the couple dynamic. Don’t sweat it.

When she’s in her luteal phase, she can still have libido and attract you with pheromones and body language, but it’s often less than the ovulation phase. This heavily depends on her health of course.

If you’re wife/partner isn’t as healthy, you might feel like you never have libido, except when you might see other women at work or wherever you might be. Couple dynamic.

I’ve definitely noticed that myself in my relationship with my wife. I’m always attracted to my wife, but sometimes it feels like I’m losing my mind for no reason at all. No supplement is ever that strong.

Sexual reward and satiety

Everyone’s reward barrier is different. Let me explain.

Let’s use hot chocolate as an example. Two guys love hot chocolate. 1 guy can drink 1 hot chocolate and he’s good for the day. He has gotten his reward and is satiated. Another guy needs to drink 5 in order to be satiated.

Same thing with sex. One guy can be satiated by having sex once a week, whereas another guy feels like he needs it every day.

Another example is skydiving. My friend (who was a novice skydiver at the time) told me that skydiving is extremely exciting and after the jump, you feel exhausted and oftentimes you feel like you need to take a nap. You’re exhausted from the excitement.

Same thing with sex. The more you do it, the more you’ll get used to it and it won’t give you that same rush anymore. This is called alliesthesia. It won’t be that satisfying. But if the experience is great every time, even with lower levels of arousal or excitement, you’ll still want to do it frequently.

Alliesthesia refers to the frequently observed fact that exposure to a reward momentarily reduces the value of that reward. Some humans may require more prolonged sexual activity before the negative alliesthesia has built up to the level required for ceasing sexual activity, and therefore continue having sex beyond the first ejaculation. 

Some people need a lot of arousal in order to be motivated to do it, while others need very little, because they’re already motivated.

Negative alliesthesia should not be confounded with habituation. Habituation requires repeated exposure to the stimulus, whereas negative alliesthesia may occur after a single orgasm. Furthermore, habituation is a case of non-associative learning, whereas alliesthesia refers to a change in the reward value of a stimulus (reduced perception of reward).

Another reason for loss of libido is reduced penile sensitivity (depressed activity in the amygdala and penile dorsal nerve (R)) after sex. The penis is usually more sensitive the first time around compared to subsequent rounds. If you don’t enjoy drinking a second hot chocolate, how motivated would you be to drink it? Maybe if it was sweeter and had a special spice in it, then maybe yes.

Sexual exhaustion

There is a refractory period and then there is sexual exhaustion.

In certain animals, this is easily observable. In rats, for example, certain species can mate many times for a few days until sexual exhaustion. Once exhausted, it then takes many days, usually 6-14, to recover.

Humans are more or less the same. Each experience is more intense than animals, but we often can do a few sessions per day or per week and then the next week we might be exhausted and only have sex once.

Also, ovulation places a role here. During your wife’s ovulation phase, you might have sex twice a day for a week. After that, it might be twice a week.

Back to the main topic. There are main 2 things that can override the refractory period, which are a new stimulus, or a bigger stimulus.

New stimulus

There is what they call the Coolidge effect.

It was said that when President Calvin Coolidge and his wife were visiting a poultry farm in the late 1920s. Mrs Coolidge asked her guide how often the roosters could be expected to perform their duty. “Dozens of times” was the guide’s reply. “Please tell that to the President” was her answer. When the President was told about the rooster’s performance he asked if it was the same hen, when told it was a different hen each time “Please tell that to Mrs. Coolidge” was his comment.

Ref

This apocryphal phrase is based on the observation that after mating there was an immediate period when they (male rats) were not aroused by the presence of the accessible receptive female rat and that a finite time had to pass before they were able to become sexually active again. This period or time was named the “refractory period.” If, however, a new receptive female was admitted the male rat would become sexually active with her. Hence explaining the new stimulus.

There is indirect evidence for its possible human existence, which includes:

  • The significant reduction in sexual activity between spouses after some 2 years of marriage.
  • The greater interest of males for variety in sexual partners compared with that of women)
  • The claimed “commonly reported reduction in the refractory period together with an increase in arousability that older men may experience with a new partner”.
  • When judging faces both males and females preferred familiarity in male faces but in the case of female faces males preferred less familiar free shapes than did women, suggesting males go for novelty in their sexual partners (R)

For men who get bored easily, it’s more important to try new things to keep it spicy. A new position is also something new. It doesn’t have to be someone new, but can be something (position, location, duration, etc.) new.

This is also a big reason why people watch porn (separately or together). It’s a new stimulus that keeps them motivated.

Bigger stimulus

A bigger stimulus is straightforward. You get used to what you’re seeing/experiencing, so you need more extreme stimulus. That’s why guys often watch more and more extreme porn. Another example is when you had sex in a position you enjoy, but there are better positions you like, then you’re more likely to be ready sooner to do the more exciting position than to be ready to do the same “boring” position.

You pursue what motivates you regardless of the circumstances. If you feel like you’re a failure if you’re not a millionaire, have abs, have a trophy wife, own 10 cars, have sex 3 times a day, etc, then you’re going to make that happen regardless of your energy or libido or refractory period.

Sexual conditioning and preference

When you were a virgin, were your motivation different compared to having been married for 5+ years? Yes, ofc. Initially, it’s about experiencing it. Later on, your motivation is different, since your experience has increased.

There is an interesting observation when it comes to sexually experienced and inexperienced animals. When scientists castrate sexually inexperienced animals, they lose all sex drive. However, when they castrate a sexually experienced animal, they frequently continue to have sex even with no testosterone.

There is also human evidence for this.

For example, a substantial proportion of men remain sexually active post-castration, with 37% having sex several times per week, and only 8% reported to becoming non-sexual post-castration (R).

Different libido stages in life

It’s generally believed that things change over time, especially age.

The refractory period in males of different ages is not exactly known but estimates vary from 30 minutes to 24 hours. Young men can have a refractory period of even less than 30 minutes, whereas older guys can have a refractory period of 1+ days.

We all have different libido stages we go through in life, which is completely normal. Just as you’re going through different growth stages, you go through different libido stages. It would unreasonable to think that you want the energy of a 6-year-old. It’s close to unreasonable to think you want the libido of a teen going through puberty in your 60s.

Example 1. When you’re growing as a professional. In your 20s, you learn new skills and implement them. In your 30s and 40s, you are very good at what you do and often make a lot of money and are financially stable. 50 and over you become the mentor. Your motivation to do things at 50 is completely different compared to your 20s.

Example 2: Perhaps in your 20s you wanted to lift to impress people. In your 30s you were just doing it as personal accomplishments. In your 40s you just want to be functional. Motivation changes.

Example 3: For most men, in their 20s, they’re attracted and aroused by nearly every girl they see. In their 30s, you still think other women look good, but you want a deeper more meaningful relationship. In their 40s, they still care about sex, but to a lesser extent, and not with young immature women.

These are just examples and there is a lot of variation where men in their 60s still start businesses, win powerlifting and bodybuilding competition or want to bang as many girls as possible.

But the point is that as you age, motivations change.

Glutamate, dopamine, noradrenaline, histamine and serotonin

I’d like to preface this section by saying that anything that promotes libido should shorten the refractory period. In my previous article, I talked about hypersexual individuals and what makes them that way. Many things will overlap in this article.

Glutamate

Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter involved in focus, motivation, drive, learning, etc. Some say that glutamate is the king of libido. Glutamate stimulates many other things that also promote libido, such as nitric oxide, dopamine, oxytocin, GnRH, etc (R).

Testosterone is thought to be one of the main things that promote libido, but that’s not true. Sexually experienced male rodents retain components of male sexual behavior longer than sexually naive male rodents after castration, suggesting gonadal steroid-independent mechanisms at work (R).

Here is some human evidence (R):

  • A substantial proportion of men remaining sexually active post-castration, with 37% having sex several times per week, and only 8% reported to becoming non-sexual post-castration (R).
  • In elderly men with hypoandrogenism that received either testosterone gel or placebo topically applied to the skin, both groups improved sexual desire and erectile function at 12 months (R).
  • Young male cancer survivors low in sex steroid hormones recuperated their self-reported sexual functioning in both placebo and testosterone groups (R).

Whether its glutamate that’s responsible remains to be determined.

Dopamine and norepinephrine

Both dopamine and norepinephrine promote motivation, focus, drive, desire, etc. Dopamine promotes steroidogenesis and oxytocin release, which promotes sexual function.

Dopaminergic and adrenergic drugs promote libido and shorten the refractory period (R). Yohimbine enhances sexual desire by increasing norepinephrine. Alpha-2-adrenergic agonists (which lower noradrenaline, e.g. clonidine) can cause sedation and perhaps reduce desire (R).

Serotonin

Serotonin in excess is the opposite of dopamine. Raising the brain serotonin levels in men using SSRIs helps reduce early or premature ejaculation, but lengthens the refractory period (R). A very common complaint of SSRIs is sexual dysfunction (loss of libido, erections, morning wood, penile sensitivity, etc.) and even hypogonadism.

If you’re not on SSRIs, then IMO it’s better to focus on increasing dopamine, and testosterone and managing stress, than trying to modulate or manipulate the serotonin system.

Histamine

Individuals with high histamine also tend to have higher libidos and shorter refractory periods. Check my “how to become hypersexual healthily” article on how to increase histamine if desired.

Stress (cortisol and opioids)

Acute stress (or at least after it passed) can increase testosterone and dopamine as well as other libido-boosting compounds, such as oxytocins and α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH). Ever had a really stressful thing happen to you and then started laughing afterward when it’s over? Once that stress is over, you usually feel better than what you did before the stress.

However, chronic stress can desensitize glutamate, dopamine, and endocannabinoids, and increase endogenous opioids which kills libido and lengthens the refractory period.

Most adaptogens are good at helping you manage stress better. A few that can also enhance sexual function include Cistanche, Tribulus Terrestris, Ashwagandha and Chai Hu (R).

Nitric oxide and vascular inflammation

Nitric oxide isn’t only important for vasodilation and getting rock-hard bonies, but also libido.

As a side note, just being able to get/have an erection can automatically boost your libido.

As mentioned above, glutamate promotes the release of nitric oxide in the brain which promotes the release of dopamine.

  • L-arginine is able to induce penile erection when injected into the PVN (area of the brain rich in dopaminergic neurons) in more than 70% of the treated rats (R). So it’s the spot-specific increase in NO that promotes libido.
  • Isoamyl nitrite, a NO donor clinically used for the therapy of angina is well known for its aphrodisiac effect
  • Sildenafil has been shown to reduce the post-orgasmic refractory period (R).

Point being, NO is necessary for libido. Low NO can cause low libido.

What causes low NO you might ask?

  1. Low B vitamins, especially folate (and BH4)
  2. Inflammation and oxidative stress
  3. Gut issues
  4. Low androgens

Folate, BH4 and NO

Look at this graph. Study it. Learn it. Become it (no, just joking).

Top left you’ll see NO production. It requires not only arginine but also B2, B3 and BH4. BH4 is produced in the Tetrahydrobiopterin salvage pathway. Connected to that cycle is the Folate cycle (which is also connected to the methionine (methylation) cycle).

To keep everything spinning like Salsa, you need almost all the B vitamins, namely B2, B3, B6, B9 and B12.

As you can see, BH4 is also required for dopamine synthesis. Now you can see how important BH4 is.

BH4 is also an antioxidant, so if you have oxidative stress, BH4 will most likely be low, which will lead to low NO and dopamine.

This study found that 8-Isoprostane (a free radical reaction product) content in endothelium and smooth muscle was significantly higher in ED peeps compared to non-ED peeps. Oxidative stress depletes BH4, which then uncouples eNOS to create free radicals, instead of NO.

Relative to the placebo, a single dose of 200 mg BH4 increased the duration of (> 60%) penile rigidity to 33.5 min at the base and 29.4 min at the tip.

A 500 mg dose increased the duration of > 60% penile rigidity to 36.1 min at the base and 33.7 min at the tip (R).

BH4 is pretty expensive so I’d rather focus on lowering oxidative stress and eating a nutrient-dense diet. Other anti-oxidants, such as vit C can increase BH4 through a sparing mechanism.

Bringing it back, NO not only enhances the quality and duration of erections but also libido and sexual activity (R).

Back to folate. Low folate can leads to higher homocysteine, which is elevated in people with ED and CVD. There is a significant association between ED, folate deficiency and hyperhomocysteinemia, however, there is a lack of correlation between folate and homocysteine (R).

This means that folate deficit may directly impair erectile function. You can have normal homocysteine, but low folate, which leads to low NO and dopamine. The ability of folate to augment NO generation is independent of its capacity to lower plasma homocysteine levels (R).

Interestingly, 5MTHF (check enzyme in the folate cycle above) is:

  • Not only required to recycle BH2 into BH4, but
  • May act as a direct scavenger of reactive oxygen species (ROS): in particular, 5-MTHF seems to prevent BH4 destruction by ONOO (peroxynitrite (created when NO reacts with superoxide free radical)). Last but not least,
  • The chemical structure of 5-MTHF seems to be very similar to that of BH4 and it may be able to bind directly to the pterin site in eNOS stimulating NO production.

What lowers NO

Low B vitamins and oxidative stress will lower NO.

It’s your job (or mine if you want to work with me) to figure out where the oxidative stress is coming from that is lowering BH4 and NO.

It can come from gut inflammation, heavy metals, a nutrient deficiency, toxin accumulation (pesticides, herbicides, plastics, etc.), sleep apnea, etc. More on that below.

Prolactin & oxytocin

After ejaculation, prolactin and oxytocin go up. This varies a lot between individuals.

Prolactin

The increase in prolactin has been the main hypothesis that influences the refractory period.

Evidence for this is that dopamine agonists (e.g. apomorphine, bromocriptine, cabergoline, Wellbutrin, etc.) can lower prolactin and cause hypersexuality and reduce the refractory period.

Anti-psychotics, which antagonize dopamine receptors increase prolactin and cause sexual dysfunction.

Prolactin causes vasoconstriction by inhibiting B-adrenergic receptors (R) and eNOS (R), thus reducing blood flow and libido.

After an orgasm (and ejaculation), prolactin and oxytocin levels increase; however, the reason for this is not entirely clear (R).

The magnitude of prolactin increase following intercourse is 400% greater than that following masturbation (R), which indicates that sex is much more satisfying than masturbation (100% true in my experience).

As you can see from this graph, the prolactin increase is back to baseline in about 2 hours, but the refractory period is about 30min in most health peeps.

Ref

The increase in prolactin varies a lot between individuals. This study found that a guy could masturbate and orgasm 3 times with no increase in prolactin (R). There are 2 other case studies where 2 guys were able to get 6 orgasms in 30 min (prolactin was not tested).

Some authors/scientists don’t agree that acute increases in prolactin influence sexual function or refractory period.

While in humans it is well established that chronically high levels of PRL reduces libido24, some authors suggest that those results were erroneously extended to the acute release of PRL around ejaculation2,3,38,39,40.” (R)

In this study, they blunted the increase in prolactin after ejaculation in mice with bromocriptine and it didn’t seem to influence (shorten) the refractory period (R). This is the title of their paper: “No evidence for prolactin’s involvement in the post-ejaculatory refractory period:”

The following study was done in humans.

Here is what they did:

Ten healthy males participated in a single-blind, placebo-controlled, balanced cross-over design. Prolactin levels were pharmacologically increased to high levels (protirelin (aka TRH; which promotes the release of TSH and prolactin), 50 micro g i.v.) or reduced to low physiological concentrations (cabergoline, 0.5 mg p.o.). Sexual arousal and orgasm were then induced by an erotic film and masturbation. In addition to continuous neuroendocrine and cardiovascular recordings, the quality and intensity of the acute sexual drive, arousal, orgasm and refractory period were assessed by extensive psychometric measures.

Here is what they found:

Administration of cabergoline decreased prolactin levels and significantly enhanced all parameters of sexual drive (P<0.05), function (P<0.01) and positive perception of the refractory period (P<0.01). Administration of protirelin (TRH; which promotes the release of TSH and prolactin) increased prolactin concentrations and produced small, but not significant reductions of sexual parameters” (R).

Dopamine significantly boosted sexual function. Prolactin has a non-significant effect. I’d rather say that either dopamine drops after ejaculation or the dopamine receptor become desensitized, which increases prolactin. The loss in libido is rather due to a drop in dopamine signaling than an increase in prolactin.

It makes sense. You became very aroused, had sex and then orgasmed, which is the peak of arousal. You’d expect that your motivation would go below baseline after a reward (if it was a big reward), else it likely wasn’t even that big of a reward and you likely weren’t that aroused.

As a last side note, I’ve talked to a guy (and seen his labs) who had high prolactin and still had sex daily. He then used Cabergoline IIRC, but his sex drive didn’t really change. Many other things are at play.

Oxytocin

After ejaculation, oxytocin serum level increases to levels ranging from 20%–360% of normal levels before reaching baseline 10 minutes after ejaculation (R). If oxytocin was involved in the refractory period, it would have to stay elevated for longer. Plus, hypersexual individuals have higher levels of oxytocin than non-hypersexual men.

Testosterone, estrogen and DHT

Sexual hormones maintain the physical (genitalia) and functional (arousal) sexual tonus and,
in turn, contribute to increasing the level of sexual desire (R).

The whole steroidogenic cascade starts with kisspeptin (increased by glutamate, dopamine, nitric oxide, etc.). Kisspeptin itself enhances limbic brain activity specifically in response to sexual and couple-bonding stimuli. Furthermore, kisspeptin’s enhancement of limbic brain structures correlated with psychometric measures of reward, drive, mood, and sexual aversion, providing functional significance (R).

Low testosterone can cause sexual dysfunction, low libido and long refractory period. DHT is the only hormone associated with sexual frequency. An increase in the concentration of 1.36 nmol/l (range 0.38 to 3.27 nmol/L) corresponded to an average increase of one orgasm a week (R). Guys at the top of the range had on average 5.5 orgasms per week, with the top guy around 11 per week.

Some studies have indicated that sexual satiation causes a drastic reduction in the androgen receptors in the medial preoptic area of the hypothalamus but the plasma androgen levels are maintained suggesting that the fall in the receptors is a component of the cause of the satiation (R).

There is some evidence that estrogen might also be involved in libido. Estrogen promotes the release of glutamate, however, too much estrogen can lower testosterone and contribute to ED. This study shows that (in quails) the estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) plays a key role in sexual behavior regulation by cooperating with glutamate receptors (R). DHT derivates (3 alpha and 3 beta diol) are good ERβ agonists, which makes having high DHT even more important.

GABA

GABA is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter that lowers dopamine for example. The administration of bicuculline, a gamma-amino butyric acid antagonist, to non-satiated rats shortens the refractory period but does not have this effect in satiated rats (R).

Taking anything GABA-ergic can make you too chill and reduce libido. Something that is both pro-GABA and pro-dopamine, like phenibut, will likely increase libido while also reducing sexual anxiety.

Endocannabinoid system

Everyone knows that marijuana activates the cannabinoid system in the body to exert its effects.

We also have natural endogenous (produced inside our bodies) cannabinoids, with anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) being the 2 most abundant ones.

2-AG, similarly to anandamide, reverses sexual satiety through the activation of CB1 receptors and both endocannabinoids interact with the dopaminergic system to reverse the sexual inhibitory state. 2-AG effects are mediated by the modulation of the D2-like dopamine receptor family, whereas anandamide’s effects are clearly mediated by the modulation of the D1-like dopamine receptor family and the activation of D2-like dopamine receptors (R).

Inhibiting the enzyme, fatty acid amide hydrolase, that breaks endocannabinoids down is an easy way to increase them. Maca inhibits FAAH and has aphrodisiac effects.

Pheromones

As mentioned above and in my previous article, being aroused by someone depends a lot on the pheromones they give off. You have your baseline pheromones and then you have pheromones released when you’re aroused. Pheromones are created from androgens, so it’s important to keep your hormones optimized.

While sexual hormones have a critical role in modulating baseline libido, sexual desire for someone seems to be initiated by the reception/perception of sexual pheromones (R).

There is no better way to optimize your pheromones than to optimize your testosterone (via diet and lifestyle) and get lots of sunlight.

Sperm

The last thing I’m going to talk about that can play somewhat of a role is sperm. The primary goal of sex is reproduction. Although someone can have multiple orgasms and not ejaculate on the last ones, it doesn’t seem to inhibit desire. However, it’s possible that excessive ejaculation can lead to sexual exhaustion and perhaps even micronutrient deficiencies.

Many fighters and leaders (such as Ghekhis Khan) knew that ejaculation reduced a man’s drive. Ghekhis Khan outlawed raping women during war because it would make his men weak. Mike Tyson didn’t ejaculate for many years during his fighting career. There are many other examples as well.

Nutrients that are lost in the ejaculate include acid phosphatase, citric acid, inositol, copper, calcium, zinc and magnesium, fructose, seminogelin, vitamins C and E, prostaglandins, carnitine, glycerophosphato-choline, and neutral alpha-glucosidase. Additionally, sperm also consists of protein, carotenoids, electrolytes-sodium, and potassium, or glucose, selenium, urea, lactic acid, and cholesterol (R).

Summary

As with any athlete, a sex athlete likely also has enhanced nutrient requirements.

Nutrients to optimize testosterone, DHT, NO, dopamine, noradrenaline, acetylcholine, ATP, glutamate, etc., production as well as replenish nutrients lost in ejaculation and used for the production of sperm.

The worse things for a sex athlete are (R):

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Being overweight or obese. (elevated estrogen, oxidative stress, inflammation, insulin resistance, higher testicular temperature, etc.) 
  • Excessive vaping and smoking of cigarettes and cannabis (which can cause vascular inflammation and lower dopamine)
  • Excessive anabolic steroid use
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Emotional stress
  • Excessive exposure to high temperatures
  • Tight clothing (except when your wife or partner is wearing them)
  • Environmental pollution
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Exposure to pesticides and toxins
  • EMF radiation
  • Cytotoxic drugs (most drugs)
  • Heavy metals
  • Poor sleep, insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Junk food diet. Both polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), as well as trans-fatty acids, accumulate in the testes and damage them (R).
  • Digestive and gut issues (leaky gut, SIBO, dysbiosis, etc.).
  • Periodontitis (tooth infection). The prevalence of periodontitis in patients with severe vasculogenic ED is estimated to be 81.8% (R).

To get the best results, make sure to optimize your diet based on the testosterone food pyramid and become a sunlight samurai!

If you need help getting your hormones and libido back on track, reach out below or book a free call with me.

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