This is a question that you have to really answer for yourself, based on honest self-observation and a clear understanding of Ayurvedic concepts. Ayurveda teaches that whatever makes the body grow heavier, more lubricated, more warm, and that which promotes a feeling of happiness is “nutritious”.
So this is different from modern nutritional science in that Ayurveda teaches that nutrition comes from all the substances we “consume”:
- The sensual objects we perceive
- Our actions, thoughts, and feelings
- The environment around us
- And our dietary range
These factors together are the essence of nutrition. True, it’s easy to abuse any of the “life-giving” (nutritious) aspects of life. But as long as we strive to honor life and steadily develop our awareness and connection with our own Life Force and the consciousness of Nature, we can learn what’s right for us.
With male fantasy, masturbation and ejaculation there is no doubt an energy loss and often a sleepy feeling afterwards. But there is also a sense of relaxation and healing in healthy masturbation; a moment of relaxation that actually helps us start a new energetic cycle within our bodies on many levels.
The minute we expend our energy, our bodies and minds start metabolizing again, and if our “diet” of the four objects in the bullet list above is wholesome and plentiful, we should be able to regenerate our energy as the energy of the moon is regenerated by the glance of the Sun.
So it’s up to us to restore our energy – no matter whether it has been depleted by exercise, work, or pleasure.
While there can be a sense of loss (of something nutritious and life-giving) from masturbation – often that sense of depletion and loss is a result of emotional despair that drives masturbation or if masturbation is attended by shame afterwards. Or if we are not taking care of ourselves.
On a much more challenging level, it is taught in Ayurveda, Yoga, Taoist, and Chinese Medicine that masturbation depletes the body of both a vital metabolic substance (fluids) and a vital energetic substance (Ojas/Qi). And this would be a concern if one indeed was practicing yoga as a brahmachari and performing internal yogic acts to store both fluids and Life Force.
If you are doing 100% serious yoga and you have committed your life to spiritual discipline, then the “nutrition” you require is different from a regular person. This type of lifestyle requires that one does not even fantasize, as even letting the mind wander into narcissistic thoughts represents a fall-down from the path. So the question of masturbation should not even be an issue in a committed practitioner. Just in the same way that an individual on a diet must restrain themselves, a yogic “diet” of sexual and energetic conservation is altogether a different lifestyle with its own observations and results.
In this one replaces the nutrition of sensuality and physical comfort and love with the nutrition of the spirit. That is brahmacharya.
Alternately, there is a method of semen retention during sex and during masturbation itself that can be practiced as a middle-path when one does not specifically renounce all sensuality in their yogic lifestyle. I know several men who have practiced this way for decades and are now in their sixties with great energy and vitality. They say that semen retention and internal yogas have given them boundless energy.
So the variety of conditions that a person may be in can therefore flavor the answer to the question. Though there are so many hard-liners who believe that only semen retention and “ūrdhva retas” practices are recommended in Ayurveda, they are sadly ignorant and lack compassion and true understanding of the heart of Ayurveda.
One does not require a baby to eat the same foods an athlete requires. Each person is at a different stage in their development and so the concept of what is nutritious to them is contexted by many factors in their lives.
The most important nutrition is self-respect. You must therefore analyze this question for yourself and learn to take care of your body, mind and emotions through svādhyāya and the deep commitment to discovering your Dharma, which is like the Sun and which will guide you to grow strong according to your fullest potential.