Male Fertility 101: How to improve sperm count and quality

Male Fertility 101: How to improve sperm count and quality

Vanessa Oly is a women's health and fertility nutritionist, fertility awareness educator and the founder of Root & Remedy Wellness. She hosts the Root & Remedy Podcast and works with women of all ages to help them balance hormones, heal digestive issues, have PMS-free cycles, and get pregnant naturally. 

It takes two to tango, but male fertility isn’t given nearly as much attention as it deserves. We know that sperm counts have been in rapid decline in recent decades and they have reduced 50% within the past 50 years. What’s even more alarming is that within the last 10 years the rate of decline has doubled compared to the previous 40 years. Thankfully, there are a lot of things that men and people with sperm can do to improve and optimize their sperm counts.

Women (or those with ovaries) are born with all of the eggs they will ever have, but men (or those with testes) create approximately 200 - 300 million sperm per day, that is about 1500 sperm per second.

Sperm health and generation is very closely linked to hormones and overall health, so let’s dive into some top essentials to improve sperm quality and concentration.

Exercise and Nutrition

First up on the list is exercise, more specifically, strength training. Lifting weights 2-3x per week is an absolute essential for optimal testosterone levels and healthy sperm. It is also a must for maintaining a healthy body weight and building muscle mass, both of which have numerous health benefits. When it comes to general movement throughout the day, a good goal to aim for is 8000 - 10 000 steps per day. This ensures that you’re keeping active, especially if your work requires a lot of sitting.

Nutrition is another cornerstone of optimal fertility and there are two key points you’ll want to hit: what and when you’re eating. Ideally, you’ll have at least 3 meals per day, each containing a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Aiming for at least 40g of protein per meal and having vegetables take up half of your plate are a couple great goals to start with. This will help with improving satiety, lessening cravings, building muscle and more. Men tend to do better with intermittent fasting as well, so going 12-16 hours overnight without food, and keeping your meals within an 8-12 eating window seems to work well for most. 

Personal Care Products

One of the main drivers of declining sperm counts is our exposure to chemicals. For example, men who had higher levels of phthalates (compounds found in many common personal care products like deodorant, cologne, shampoo, conditioner and lotion) in their urine also had lower sperm counts and poorer motility compared to those who did not. Another problem is estrogenic chemicals found in our everyday products, which mimic estrogen in the body and can contribute to both declining testosterone levels and reduced sperm health. The best solution for this is to audit your personal care products using the Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep Database. Try to only use products with a rating of 1-3.

Sleep, Heat and Stress

Sleep deprivation has been shown to significantly alter sperm motility, viability and count. Therefore, getting 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night should be a priority. This also helps to lessen daily stress levels and maintain healthy habits. Another area you may want to consider if you are actively trying for a family is heat. Studies show that too much body exposure to heat can decrease sperm counts. So, limiting things like sauna usage for the time being is a good idea.

Male Fertility Testing

Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk about testing your sperm. There are two main avenues you can go down: an at home sperm concentration test and a full sperm analysis (done by a fertility clinic). If you are curious about your fertility or the health of your sperm overall, the Male Fertility Test is a great place to start and can be done at home. It will tell you if you have a lower than normal sperm concentration. For a more in depth analysis (looking at motility, concentration, viability, morphology and more) you can go to a local fertility clinic like Twig Fertility in Toronto and get a “Fertility Check” whether you are actively trying to conceive or not.


You should not wait until you’re struggling to get pregnant to check in on the health of your sperm (almost 50% of all infertility cases are linked to issues with sperm). There are many things you can do including nutrition and lifestyle changes as well as testing resources to take control of your fertility and plan for the family you want at your own pace.

You can connect with Vanessa on instagram @rootremedywellness and learn more about working with her at

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