Your everyday behaviors can influence how quickly you fall asleep at night (and how restorative that shuteye is), keep you from losing weight, and even influence the health of your offspring. Small decisions carry over to so many major facets of your life, so why not start good habits today, and kick the bad ones to the curb so you can enjoy better fertility and overall health for you and your future mini me?
After all, research shows you can change the strength of your genes by keeping them in top shape (hello, super baby)—and conversely pass on the bad ones, like obesity, too. So, we talked to Jake Anderson-Bialis, co-founder of FertilityIQ, a service that connects patients with credible, highly-detailed, and unbiased information about fertility doctors and clinics in the U.S. Here, the behaviors he says can help you out in the fertility department. (For the bad behaviors you need to quit, check out 7 Everyday Habits Hurting Your Fertility.)
Are you fit enough to be a dad? Your love handles are singing a different story. A sort of nemesis of male fertility, excess body fat does a number on your sexual health (and overall health as well). Harvard research found overweight and obese men are more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to produce lower amounts of sperm, or even no sperm at all. “An unhealthy weight erodes your sperm count, shape, velocity and cellular make-up,” says Anderson-Bialis. “All the more reason to maintain a healthy weight,” he adds. Have a hard time dieting? Check out 20 Muscle-Building Recipes for Guys Who Love Food and these 25 Foods to Eliminate Your Love Handles.
1. Good Habit: Get Plenty of Vitamins (like B9) and Minerals in Your Diet
Another reason to eat spinach and foods high in folate on a daily basis: “Men who have higher B9 levels are more likely to have healthy babies,” says Anderson-Bialis. Folic acid is the vitamin B9, which helps your body create and maintain new cells. It’s how you produce red blood cells, and yes, sperm. Try to get more leafy green veggies (kale, spinach, Swiss chard), fruits (avocado, citrus, banana), beans, even fortified cereals, into your diet. Brand new research also found healthy young men aged 18-35 who supplemented a typical western diet with 60 grams of mixed nuts (e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts) per day produce a higher sperm count and had more powerful swimmers.
2. Good Habit: Log Enough Zzz’s
“If you’re getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night, you’re not only well-rested, but you likely have a healthier sperm count than men who have trouble dozing off,” says Anderson-Bialis. To put it in perspective, guys who sleep 4 hours nightly have morning testosterone levels of 200-300 compared to men who sleep 8 hours a night who have levels of 500-700. Testosterone isn’t just important for building strength, muscle mass, and bone density; it can affect your sense of well-being, vigor, mood, and libido.
3. Good Habit: Drink Coffee—Just Not Too Much
“Drinking coffee in moderation can help you focus, lower your risk of certain diseases and may make you more fertile than your counterparts consuming multiple cups of coffee each day,” says Anderson-Bialis. How much is too much? Focus more on the caffeine. About 200 to 300mg of caffeine a day (while trying to conceive) is deemed safe, and that’s up to two 8-ounce cups of a weaker brew. One study out of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found men who drank two or more cups of strong coffee a day had just a one in five chance of becoming fathers through IVF. Guys who drank less than a cup, had a nearly 52 percent.
4. Good Habit: Practice Safe Sex (When You’re Not Ready to Conceive)
“Using protection reduces your risk of STIs like gonorrhea and chlamydia, which can cause infertility by blocking your tubes (epididymis),” says Anderson-Bialis. “Wearing protection doesn’t just prevent unwanted pregnancy now, it helps preserve the option to have children in the future,” he adds.
5. Good Habit: Keep Your Junk Cool
You hear this a lot—and it’s definitely not a myth. The reason your testicles are located outside your body is because sperm develops best at a temperature that’s several degrees cooler than your average internal body temp. Wear loose-fitting underwear and keep your cell phone out of your pocket, suggests Anderson-Bialis.
6. Good Habit: Plan Your Outdoor Exercise Times Smartly
Check the air quality reports and work out outside when the air is less polluted. “Exposure to fumes in general, and diesel fumes specifically, can cause dramatic mutations to your sperm and its quality,” says Anderson-Bialis. If you live in the city, this can be particularly tricky. Ride your bike away from major roads and highways, run in the morning when the ozone is low (it’s even better to do so after it’s rained), put your air on re-circulate when you’re stuck in traffic, and/or consider driving an electric car.