Vitality

'No Sex Before Sports' Superstition Debunked: Sexual Activity Can Actually Boost Performance, Scientists Say

If you're an athlete, you've probably heard sex before a competition saps energy. Several sports elites, like Muhammad Ali, have taken temporary vows of celibacy before a fight to preserve aggression and concentration. Now, researchers at the University of Florence in Italy suggest sex before sports could actually help, not hurt, your athletic performance.

Inevitably, abstaining from sex before an athletic competition has been a controversial topic, but unless it takes place less than two hours before, “the evidence actually suggests sexual activity may have a beneficial effect on sports performance,” said Laura Stefani, lead author of the study, and an assistant professor of sports medicine at the University of Florence, in a statement.

The myth that abstaining from sex prior to sporting events will improve performance has little evidence to support it. In a 2000 study, researchers hypothesized the long-perpetuated myth may stem from the theory that sexual frustration leads to increased aggression. Some people believe the act of ejaculation draws testosterone — the hormone of both sexual desire and aggression — from the body, leading to poor concentration and fatigue. Scientists dismiss the idea that sex the night before competition has a tiring effect on the athlete, or that it could weaken the athlete's muscles.

In fact, science has shown sex stimulates the production of testosterone, therefore boosting aggression. In women, it can help combat muscle pain or other sports injuries due to the pain-blocking effect from receiving sexual stimulation. The effect can last for up to a day in the case of chronic pain, like muscle pain.

In the recent study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, Stefani and her colleagues reviewed nine studies to draw their conclusions about sex before sports. They found the strength of female former athletes did not differ if they had sex the night before. Moreover, sex seemed to boost the performance of marathon runners.

Women running Sex before sports can enhance performance for some athletes. Photo courtesy of Pexels, Public Domain

After all, sex is not a very demanding exercise. Sex for an hour can burn as many calories as a 30-minute jog. Men and women can burn roughly three to four calories per minute during sex; depending on how long they last. This could be correlated to the energy it takes to walk up two flights of stairs.

It seems athletes are slowly disregarding this myth, as 450,000 condoms were distributed around the athlete's village this summer at the Rio Olympics.

Fans of sex before sports include Real Madrid soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo. "I have had sex several times before some games," he said, Sky Sports reported. "It helps you concentrate.”

A rule of thumb: Give yourself enough time to recover after sex the day of a big game. It could benefit your performance.

Source: Stefani L, Galanti G, Padulo J et al. Sexual Activity before Sports Competition: A Systematic Review. Front. Physiol. 2016.

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