Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, RN
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/05/2021
A healthy sex drive can have a tremendous positive impact on your life, improving everything from your self-confidence to your relationships.
While popular media and porn may promote the idea that anyone should be ready to go at a moment’s notice, the reality is that everyone’s sex drive is a little different.
As a man, a variety of factors all play a role in your sex drive. There’s the physical side, which is made up of your general physical wellbeing, your age and your production of certain sex-related hormones, such as testosterone.
There’s also the psychological side. This is where aspects like your mental health, the quality of your relationship and your level of attraction for your sexual partner come into the equation.
Below, we’ve dug into the science behind your sex drive to explain more about how it works and how it can affect your life.
We’ve also listed a range of techniques, lifestyle changes and supplements that you can use to increase your sex drive and enjoy better relationships, more satisfying sex and a higher quality of life.
The term sex drive, or libido, usually refers to your level of desire or general interest in engaging in sexual activity.
The science behind male and female sex drive is complicated, with several different factors and biological processes involved.
At the most basic level, three different factors all play different roles in your sex drive. The first is your hormonal health. Sex hormones such as testosterone, estrogen and others are responsible for making and keeping you interested in having sex.
Your body produces testosterone and other sex hormones through a variety of processes. Both men and women produce testosterone, estrogen and other important sex hormones in different amounts.
The second factor is neurochemical. A variety of neurotransmitters — chemical messengers that travel throughout your brain and body — all play different roles in your feelings of sexual desire and response to sexual stimulation.
Finally, external factors can also affect your sex drive. These can vary from your personality to issues like stress, tiredness, relationship issues, use of medication and other factors that may increase or decrease your sex drive at any one time.
Because a variety of factors all affect your sex drive, it’s normal for your level of interest in sex to fluctuate from day to day. On some days, you might have a strong, persistent desire for sex that lasts throughout the day. On others, you might not feel interested in sex at all.
While occasional lulls in your sex drive are nothing to worry about, a persistently low sex drive can often signal an underlying issue in your relationship or health that needs attention.
Since a variety of factors all play a role in your sex drive, there’s no one-size-fits-all product or technique that everyone can use to enjoy a stronger libido.
There’s also no such thing as a one-size-fits-all sex drive in general. Everyone has a different level of interest in sex, meaning a sex drive that’s normal for one person might be stronger or weaker than that of another person.
Despite these differences, there are numerous methods that you can use to increase your sex drive, either by increasing your production of sex-related hormones such as testosterone or by treating lifestyle factors such as stress, anxiety or a lack of attraction.
We’ve listed these below, along with more information on how each technique works and your options for putting it into practice.
As a man, the androgen hormone testosterone plays a central role in numerous aspects of your health and wellbeing, including your sex drive and sexual performance.
Low levels of testosterone are associated with a range of health issues, including fatigue, mood changes and reduced muscle mass and physical strength.
If your testosterone levels drop too low, you may notice a weaker-than-normal sex drive, as well as issues such as erectile dysfunction (ED).
Low testosterone is surprisingly common, particularly in older men. Testosterone levels tend to decrease gradually with age, with research suggesting that about 40 percent of men above the age of 45 and 50 percent of men in their 80s are affected by low testosterone.
If you’ve noticed a weak sex drive and are worried about low testosterone, you can have your testosterone levels checked through a simple blood test.
For men, a normal serum testosterone level is between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per deciliter (nd/dL), or 10 and 35 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).
If your testosterone levels are low or on the low end of the normal range, taking steps to boost your body’s testosterone production might help to strengthen your sex drive and improve your overall quality of life.
Sometimes, small changes like improving your sleep habits or losing weight can have a major impact on your testosterone production. We’ve covered these in more detail in our full guide to increasing your testosterone levels.
Stress and anxiety can have a significant negative impact on your life, affecting everything from your physical wellbeing to your mental health.
Research shows that high levels of stress can affect your sex drive. For example, according to the American Psychological Association, chronic or long-term stress can affect your body’s testosterone production and make you less interested in sex. It may also cause erectile dysfunction.
In addition to reducing sexual desire and performance, chronic stress is associated with worse reproductive health.
High levels of stress can lower your sperm count and motility (the sperm’s ability to swim), making it harder for you and your partner to conceive.
Anxiety can also affect your sex drive. It’s quite common to experience anxiety related to sex — a form of anxiety called sexual performance anxiety. This can affect everything from your ability to get and maintain an erection to your general level of interest in sex.
If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try making changes to your habits and lifestyle to relax and reduce your exposure to stress. Effective techniques include:
Studying and using relaxation techniques
Reducing your exposure to stress triggers
Eating well and exercising regularly
Setting realistic goals for yourself
Avoiding tobacco and nicotine products
If you’re feeling very stressed or think that you might have an anxiety disorder, reach out to your healthcare provider for help. Severe stress and anxiety can often be treated with therapy and/or medication.
Regular exercise is closely linked to healthy testosterone production, which plays a key role in your sex drive and sexual performance.
For example, a study published in 2012 found that men who exercise regularly produce higher levels of testosterone than their sedentary peers.
An older study from 1998 also found that weight training produced an increase in testosterone production in both men and women who were new to training.
In addition to stimulating testosterone production, regular exercise also helps to improve your cardiovascular health and encourage optimal blood flow — one of several important factors for strong erections and optimal sexual performance.
While regular exercise is good, excessive exercising can also have a negative effect on your sex drive. For example, a 2017 study found that men who engage in high-duration endurance training have lower libido scores than those with low or mid-range training intensities.
In short, it’s important to exercise often, but it’s also important not to overextend yourself with too much exercise.
To strike the proper balance, try to aim for the American Heart Association’s recommendations for exercise:
At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes or vigorous exercise
Moderate to high-intensity resistance or weight training at least two days a week
For extra benefits, at least 300 minutes of exercise-related activity per week
Less time sitting and being sedentary
If you’re currently inactive, try to ease yourself into exercise by gradually increasing the amount of time you spend at the gym or exercising around your neighborhood over the course of a few weeks.
It’s common and normal to experience fluctuations in your level of interest in sex, especially if you’re in a long term relationship and spend a lot of time around your partner.
If you think that a factor related to your relationship is causing you or to lose interest in sex, it’s best to talk about it with your partner.
A large, diverse range of factors can affect your sex drive within a relationship. You might feel less interested in sex because of stress within your relationship, a conflict with your partner, a factor that reduces sexual attraction or a simple change in your circumstances.
Or, it could just be the honeymoon phase of the relationship wearing off — an event that occurs in every relationship eventually.
To clear things up, talk openly and honestly with your partner. Sometimes, just acknowledging that you’re spending less time in the bedroom can be enough to spur change and inspire you both to work on getting over a lull in your sex life.
Beyond talking to each other, things like trying new sex positions and roleplaying might help to light a new spark. A quiet, romantic vacation together can also be a useful strategy for getting back on track and spending more time with each other.
Finally, although it’s an awkward thing to talk about, satisfying relationships have a tendency to add an inch or two to your waistline. Seriously, it’s a real, scientific phenomenon and nothing to feel ashamed about if it’s affected you and your partner.
If you and your partner have experienced a little relationship weight gain since getting together and you think it’s affecting your level of attraction for each other, try to work together to reverse the trend and get in shape together.
Small, simple changes like exercising together and changing your eating habits can often have a major positive effect on both your level of attraction for each other and your relationship as a whole.
If you’re currently overweight or obese, losing weight may also have physical benefits for your sex drive and sexual performance. We’ve talked about these more in the section below.
Obesity is linked to numerous health issues, including an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea and other serious conditions. Being overweight or obese is also a common cause of sexual health issues, including a low sex drive.
For example, research tends to show that men who are obese usually have lower-than-normal levels of testosterone.
In one study, researchers found that each one-point increase in BMI for men was linked to a two percent decrease in testosterone levels.
Since testosterone plays such a key role in male sex drive, being significantly overweight may have a negative impact on your level of interest in sex.
Obesity is also linked to several other sexual performance issues.
Men who are obese have a higher risk of erectile dysfunction than men with a normal BMI. Obesity is also linked to lower sperm counts and reduced levels of sperm motility.
While there’s no need to ruthlessly count calories or obsess over your body fat percentage, it’s important to maintain a healthy body weight if you’d like a normal sex drive and optimal sexual performance.
Although BMI is a far from perfect measure of health, especially if you’re taller or more muscular than most people, aiming for a BMI in the normal range is generally a good target. You can check your BMI online using this calculator from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a beer, wine or cocktail every now and then, too much drinking can take a serious toll on both your overall physical wellbeing and your level of interest in sex.
It can also affect your sexual performance, meaning that when you do have sex, you might be less able to satisfy your partner.
Research shows that chronic alcohol abuse is associated with sexual dysfunction and impaired testicular function in men.
A study from 2007 also found that men who drink heavily had high rates of sexual dysfunction, including premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and a low level of sexual desire.
A review of literature demonstrated that men who drink excessively tend to quickly develop low or low-normal testosterone levels.
Since testosterone plays such a major role in your sex drive, this may explain why alcohol can have such a negative effect on sexual performance.
If you drink occasionally, there’s no need to quit alcohol completely just to improve your sexual performance. Instead, try following the alcohol intake recommendations outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
For men, up to two drinks per day
For women, up to one drink per day
These refer to the maximum recommended intake per day, not an average over the course of a week, meaning that one night of heavy drinking is not advisable as an alternative to the recommendations.
Sticking to the guidelines means you can enjoy life and drink occasionally, all while avoiding the negative effects of alcohol on your sex drive, testosterone production and general health.
Many medications, including some common prescription medications used to treat depression, seizures, high blood pressure and other health conditions, can affect your sex drive and make you feel less interested in sex.
For example, some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are associated with a low sex drive and numerous other sex-related side effects, such as difficulty becoming aroused and reaching orgasm.
Other medications that may affect your sex drive include other types of antidepressants, statins and fibrates (both used to treat high cholesterol), blood pressure medications, benzodiazepines and H2 blockers (which are used to treat acid reflux, gastric ulcers, etc.), as well as some types of anticonvulsants and antipsychotics.
If you’ve noticed your sex drive declining after you started using a certain type of medication, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider.
If they believe a medication is affecting your sex drive, they may suggest adjusting your dosage to improve this side effect. In some cases, you may be able to switch to a medication that’s less likely to affect your sex drive and/or sexual performance.
Although the world of supplements is full of unreliable, unproven products that claim to improve your sex drive and performance in bed, there are a few supplements that may offer real benefits for your reproductive health and sexual wellbeing.
For example, dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a precursor hormone that your body creates naturally as a building block for hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. It’s also available as an over-the-counter health supplement, typically in tablet or capsule form.
Although the scientific evidence is mixed overall, some research has found that DHEA may help to improve sexual interest and function. Other research has also linked low levels of DHEA to sexual performance issues such as erectile dysfunction.
Other supplements linked to improve sexual performance in men appear to work by increasing testosterone levels. Supplements that may increase testosterone include:
Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a herbal supplement that’s promoted as a treatment for various health conditions. Although the science behind many of its effects is mixed, research shows that it may help to increase testosterone. For example, one study from 2010 found that ashwagandha increased testosterone in men, including men with fertility issues. Another study found that it produced a small but measurable increase in testosterone levels when combined with resistance training in the study group, which was comprised of men aged 18 to fifty. While there’s very little research on ashwagandha’s effects on sex drive directly, it may help to increase sex drive through its effects on testosterone production.
Vitamin D. Like other supplements, vitamin D is linked to increased testosterone production in men — a factor that’s often associated with sexual desire and a strong sex drive. The scientific research specifically exploring vitamin D’s role in male sexual performance is promising, but also, at this time, limited.
Magnesium. Research shows that magnesium supplements may help to boost levels of testosterone. For example, a study of taekwondo athletes found that the men who used a magnesium supplement experienced an increase in free and total testosterone levels. An estimated 10 percent to 30 percent of the population is deficient in magnesium — an essential nutrient with numerous benefits beyond increasing testosterone.
Zinc. Another essential mineral, zinc plays a significant role in your metabolic health and immune system. It also appears to be associated with testosterone production, although there’s relatively little research into its effects on this aspect of hormonal health. In a study published in the 1990s, men with zinc deficiency experienced a significant increase in testosterone levels after taking a zinc supplement. However, since this study focused on men with low zinc values, it can’t be guaranteed that this effect will be replicated in men with normal zinc values.
As for other supplements, the science is mixed. While many supplements promise a higher sex drive and better performance, research in this field is limited, making it best to stick with proven options rather than products that are big on claims but light on real data.
Although porn doesn’t seem to cause a decline in your libido, some people believe that overuse of porn may rewire certain parts of your brain’s reward systems, making you enjoy real sex less and porn more.
For example, some research has found that young men who watch pornography are more likely to complain of low sexual desire than their peers.
A scientific review from 2016 looked into the science behind porn’s effects on sexual desire and performance. It noted that rates of sexual dysfunction are rising sharply in young men, with use of internet-based porn a common factor.
The review specifically mentioned performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction, difficulty reaching orgasm and a low level of sexual desire as common issues for men who use pornography on a regular basis.
A more recent review from 2019 noted that a growing amount of evidence supports the theory that porn use is associated with lower levels of sexual satisfaction.
Now, this doesn’t mean that watching porn is bad, or that watching porn occasionally will make you less interested in having sex. However, there is evidence that using porn too often could be a negative factor when it comes to maintaining a healthy sex life.
As such, if you watch porn often, trying to change your habits and watch it less frequently might be a positive choice for your sex drive and general level of sexual satisfaction.
We’ve talked about this topic more in our guide to porn-induced erectile dysfunction, which also looks at the effects of porn on your general sexual performance.
It’s normal to experience ups and downs in your libido. If you’re stressed, overworked or simply busy with something that’s unrelated to sex, it’s far from uncommon to temporarily have less of an interest in sex than you normally would.
However, when a lull in your libido is unusually persistent, or if it’s a sudden change without an obvious cause, it’s important to talk to an expert. Consider talking to your healthcare provider if you:
Suddenly lose interest in sex without an obvious reason
Have recently started using a new medication, or undergone a medical procedure and your sex drive has been impacted
Experience pain, discomfort or other unpleasant sensations during sex
Think your relationship is getting worse due to a lack of interest in sex
Notice other symptoms in addition to a low sex drive
Your healthcare provider will be able to work with you to identify the cause of your low sex drive and recommend a suitable treatment.
While occasional ups and downs in your libido are nothing to worry about, a persistently low sex drive is usually something that deserves your attention.
If you’re feeling less interested in sex than normal((having sex everyday is normal, too)) or have no sex drive at all, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. Based on your symptoms, they may recommend that you check your testosterone levels or make certain changes to your habits or use of medication.
If your low sex drive is related to a relationship issue, talking openly with your partner may help you to solve the problem and improve your attraction, intimacy and relationship as a whole.