It’s the age-old question, can having sex mess with your ability to perform in sports? This idea has been discussed for decades, and there are a few questions that fuel the debate. Can having sex before a competition slow you down? Will you have less stamina? What about lower testosterone levels in your system, causing a lack of focus and drive? These are concerns held commonly by sexually active athletes, whether they’re in professional or amateur leagues. It was even a source of controversy at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, where over 450,000 condoms were handed out to the athletes to promote safe sex.
After a London Marathon race, 2,000 willing participants were surveyed by researchers from Oxford University. They came to the conclusion that those who weren’t sexually active the night before on average were five minutes slower than those who were, suggesting that sex the night before may have led them to completing the race faster. Maybe they were in a hurry to race back to the bed sheets.
Sixteen high-level athletes were given an exact plan of training and sexual activity to follow by a group of researchers from Geneva. The participants were tested on a cycle ergometer two hours after sexual intercourse. The same tests were repeated on another day, but this time around they weren’t sexually active that morning. The study showed that certain athletes from two sports, soccer and cross-country skiing, had worse performances and took longer to recover than usual. The University of Cologne clinic department conducted a similar study. They discovered that athletes who participated in strength and speed sports showed a decrease in performance up to two hours after sexual intercourse. The widely accepted cause of this is the reduction in aggressiveness due to the lower testosterone levels in men after sex. However, the study failed to show any negative effect on the performance of endurance athletes.
On the other hand, a study by Tommy Boone, member of the American Society of Exercise Physiologists, found that there was little difference in performance between those runners who had refrained from sex the night before (12 hours before the test) and those who had been sexually active. Samantha McGlone, an Olympic triathlete and Dr. Ian Shrier, the former president of the Canadian Academy of Sports, reached the same conclusion in an editorial on the impact that sexual activity has before a competition.
“I mean for girls it raises your testosterone, so I try to have as much sex as possible before a fight, actually,” boxer Ronda Rousey stated in an interview with Jim Rome about having sex before sports. “Not with like everybody. I don’t put out Craigslist ads or anything, but you know, if I got a steady, I’m going to be like, ‘Yo. Fight time’s coming up,’ ”
She believes that it can have a positive effect on women but the opposite for men. The boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who was said to have abstained from sex for weeks before a fight, could be used as evidence to prove her point, at least for men, to refrain from having sex before a fight to possibly achieve success in a combat sport.
Sex can even be a big help for athletes who have trouble sleeping the night before a competition because it can have a calming effect. During sex, your body releases endorphins, which help you relax and sleep better.
There’s evidence supporting the idea that having sex shortly before a competition can have a negative impact on performance in combat, speed and strength sports for men. On the other hand, women produce more testosterone during sex, which suggests that it might even boost performance in one-on-one sports. No negative influence on performance could be found for endurance sports.
Therefore, we can say that sex the night before competition generally does not limit athletic performance.
– Teagan Giselbrecht