By Dr Joe
BCAA and Libido; what’s the relationship between the two. One of the questions I get asked every now and again is whether the use of BCAA kills one’s sex drive.
This is an interesting question because sex is important to humans. We not only want to procreate but we also want to have pleasure.
Sex enables us to achieve both objectives.
Anything that negatively impacts on that human function naturally becomes an “emergency” of sorts.
Most sexual activities start with libido.
- No Libido, No Sex.
- Too High Libido, Raving Sex Lunatic.
It all starts with libido. Libido is the barometer of sex drive.
When libido is low or absent, the interest in sex plummets. Hence, anyone with a libido issue would want it fixed ASAP.
But libido issues aren’t very easy to fix. I wish they were. But oh no, they aren’t. Like I mentioned in my article on the health risks of BCAA, I dread having a consultation that centres on libido as the main problem.
The main reason being; the patient quite genuinely has a problem, a serious one at that and he/she is expecting a solution from me. Sadly, issues relating to sex drive aren’t fixed easily with a ‘pill in a bottle’. Sometimes, yes but most times, it requires more than a pill.
Therefore, blaming something like BCAA as the offending agent for your libido or sex drive problems may be a misplaced anger. Barking at the wrong tree, if you like.
Of the pros and cons of BCAA, I do not think issues relating to sexual motivation are high up there on the most common problems reported. By the way, I also answer the question of whether bcaas work or not here.
BCAA and Libido
Something we do know is sex drive (libido) is modulated in the brain. Yes, your brain is your biggest sexual organ, believe it or not.
We also know from research that libido is affected by:
- Sensitivity to sexual cues.
- Psychological inhibition.
You may be highly sensitive to sexual cues but if your psychological inhibition is high, your appetite for sex will be low.
A good sex drive is a fine balance between being very sensitive to sexual cues along with a low psychological inhibition.
Don’t forget that psychological inhibition that affects libido varies from person to person. Upbringing, religious beliefs, cultural and social factors play a huge role in the psychological mash-up for libido.
We can say for certain that BCAAs do not have a role with the psychological aspects of libido. That will be an unfair blame on BCAA if we swing the pendulum in that direction.
The question then arises: do BCAAs have a role to play in the organic and physical aspects of libido?
Well, there is no straight answer to this question, but we will tackle it anyway.
Something we do know is; BCAAs do reduce 5-HT (serotonin) levels in the brain. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing is open to debate. For one thing, 5-HT is responsible for the feeling of fatigue during intense workouts, so BCAAs reducing 5-HT (serotonin) level is a good thing for fitness.
But 5-HT (serotonin) is involved in sexual function as well. Whereas Dopamine is beneficial for sexual function, serotonin negatively impacts sexual function. Serotonin (5-HT) negatively affects sexual motivation thus sexual initiation; sexual performance thus satiety.
From the above, low levels of serotonin (5-HT) should be your preferred option as opposed to high levels, if libido is important to you. BCAAs keeping the levels of 5-HT on the low side would therefore be a good thing for your sexual function.
Now the flip side of that argument:
You’ve got to remember that low serotonin is a bad thing for our mood. You could also argue that low mood is not compatible with high sex drive. Very few people will compensate their low mood with lots of sex. Maybe there are some but very few will.
> You need to be happy to want to have sex and plenty of it, at that.
It does get complicated though. I told you libido and sex matters are not for the faint-hearted.
Why the complication.
Happiness is not always compatible with high libido. Got proof?
Well, here is one. People with low mood generally get prescribed anti-depressants. Usually the more modern antidepressants called SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are the 21st century rave.
I’m talking about drugs like Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, Celexa and Viibryd. They are all SSRI antidepressants. What do these meds do?
SSRIs increase serotonin levels in the brain. And what’s the commonest side effect of SSRIs? Sexual dysfunction it is; inclusive of low libido. You wouldn’t think that, would you?
This actually agrees with the scientific fact we talked about above. High serotonin inhibits sexual function in more ways than one. So, it’s not surprising that SSRI antidepressants cause libido problems because SSRI antidepressants work by raising serotonin levels in the brain.
High serotonin levels boosted by these SSRIs make us happy…really happy.
But aren’t we supposed to be thinking more about sex and having lots more sex when we are happier? Go figure.
Here is another fact about BCAAs.
BCAAs do raise the level of testosterone in the body whilst protecting you against exercise-induced muscle damage.
Oh, that’s not all. BCAAs also raise the level of Human Growth Hormone in the body whilst you are taking them. Just in case you are not aware, human growth hormone also plays a significant role in your sex life.
Now with all of these synergy of action, you would have to think that BCAAs are a gift that just keeps on giving when it comes to sex, right?
Think about it this way:
- BCAAs afford you high testosterone, a good influencer of libido
- High human growth hormone, another libido driver
…and to top it all, you can go ahead and have as much sex as you want with the assurance that BCAAs will protect you from any muscular injury during sex.
Oh, Happy Days!
So, when some people complain that their BCAA supplement is making their libido or sex drive to take a tumble, it kinda rings hollow…
…when you look at the evidence and the physiological chain of events that BCAAs do provoke. It’s more of a red herring.
Having said that, sex and libido are complex matters that have an innate capacity to surprise just about anyone.
On this account, I wouldn’t dismiss your claim about BCAAs killing your libido. I think it is unlikely though. But I would instead suggest you explore the psychological aspects of your sex life.
A simple test would be to discontinue the BCAA use, if you are still convinced the supplements are the culprit.
After all, you don’t need BCAAs to survive the next weather change, do you? And BCAAs aren’t heroine either. You ain’t going to have withdrawal symptoms just because you abandoned your bcaa in your supplement cabinet.
Watch and see what happens when you pause taking the supplements. If your libido makes a sensational return, then, voilla, you are cured. And do you know what…you would have proved your point.
Everyone is happy. You, Your partner and may be ‘Little me’ for this advice. Except the BCAA company. They won’t be.
Suggested further reading:
Could You Optimise Your Sexual Health Naturally With This?