Myth: Sex Negatively Affects Athletic Performance

This time’s myth is that sex before “the big game” will make you lose. Now I think we’ve all heard the old adage that an athlete should not have sex the night before the big game. Or maybe the day before, or two days before. What do coaches say these days about having sex before the big game, or big sports events? It is a belief that sex will drain your vital forces, or somehow make you not as fast or not as strong, or not as quick as you would be if you abstained. And in fact, there are, I understand, some boxers who don’t do it for weeks before they have a major athletic event. This belief, I think, comes from – well originally, it comes from Eastern philosophy. And it was, and is still believed that a man loses, somehow, his vital spirit, his life energy, his vital force, every time he ejaculates – and it may also have something to do with the fact that people feel sleepy after they have an ejaculation or cum – that life force is somehow “in” semen. Based upon this, many ancient Chinese men learned to reach orgasm without actually ejaculating. Moreover, it was further understood that a man received energy from the orgasm of his female partner. So if the partner, that is, the woman, achieved or reached orgasm through the ministrations of her male partner, and he was able to hold on to his ejaculation, he was enriched by her orgasm, or her orgasmic energy, without losing any of his vital fluid, and by that was made stronger and would live longer and would stay young. This belief in the loss of vital energy through male ejaculation, or having an ejaculation, is one of the major fears behind the Western taboos surrounding ejaculation. These false beliefs that by ejaculation you lose energy, or you lose vitality, began historically in the West through a quasi-medical book written by a French physician named Tissaut in the 1700’s. And it was based upon Eastern medicine and philosophy. This hogwash was then swallowed whole-cloth by two very famous 19th-century American health zealots. One was named Sylvester Graham, and he invented the graham cracker, and the second one, who followed him, was named John Harvey Kellogg, and he invented Kellogg’s Cornflakes. They both developed these breakfast foods to cure people of their sexual lust, and this “cure” was to help people stop masturbating or having too much sex of any kind, and then they believed that because people would have less sex and masturbate not at all, they wouldn’t develop tuberculosis and the other diseases that both Graham and Kellogg believed absolutely were caused by the loss of vital fluids through sexual activity of all kinds, but particularly masturbation. Now, Graham and Kellogg both recommended that the ideal frequency of sexual intercourse in marriage was once a month. But if you had to, you could have it once a week without dire consequence if it was absolutely necessary.

So, fear of too much sex and maintaining one’s health and vigor is not a new idea in America or, in fact, in other places in the world. It’s not a new idea, it’s still bouncing around – it was part of the handbook of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, and it’s still running around in our thinking, although it’s absolutely based on no scientific data whatsoever. So let’s see what there is in the scientific evidence to support the proposition that sexual activity before an athletic event will lower one’s performance. And I want you to keep in mind that there’s been very little research, because nobody questions these sorts of ideas that live in our general popular conscious mind, or subconscious mind. Now of course I’m not suggesting, when I talk to you about this, that a major athlete should have wild, passionate sex with his or her partner in the locker room just before running out on the field or taking up the tennis racket on the court. Let’s say 8-12 hours before – the night before you go and have a major athletic event. So let’s look at what studies I could find that address this question.

One study examined the effects of sexual intercourse on maximal treadmill exercise on athletes and tested aerobic power, oxygen pulse, and an index of relative cardiac work on eleven athletes. They were tested on the treadmill, first having abstained from intercourse and then a second time having engaged in intercourse twelve hours before they were tested – maximally tested. The results from the maximal exercise test showed that there was no difference on any of these measures of maximal exercise performance. So, no difference was able to be found in the laboratory.

Now in another study, results do suggest that just before the game, it might not be a good idea if you are looking for an Olympic medal. 15 high-level male athletes – 8 of them were team players, 5 of them were endurance athletes, and 2 of them were weight-lifters – completed two maximal graded stress tests on a cycle ergometer, a one hour exercise stress test, plus an arithmetic mental concentration test. That was just in case you’re a quarterback, to make sure that you could do your quarterbacking as well as possible. Blood samples of testosterone were obtained, and the cardiac activity of each athlete was monitored for 24 hours after these tests. The subjects were tested once two hours after the sexual activity, and once after abstaining from sexual activity. The post-effort heart rate was affected during the morning workout two hours after the activity, but the effect had disappeared by the afternoon workout. So two hours afterwards they could see something in the heart rate that was slightly affected, but after two hours it was gone. So it does suggest that there’s a slight effect of having intercourse on your maximal heart rate. So I guess if you’re a superb athlete and you want to break an Olympic record, it’s probably a good idea not to have intercourse two hours before you go out to break the record. And that’s about all that could be found. By the way, mental acuity was unaffected – so in terms of your quarterbacking, it shouldn’t matter whether you have sex, even right now. Now, the researchers concluded that the recovery capacity of a top athlete could be affected if he had intercourse approximately two hours before a competitive event.

Now let’s look at the effect of sports and sex on ordinary people, since most of us watching this myth a month are not top athletes, and are not looking to break Olympic records. It has been claimed by some that bicycle riding may be a hazard to the sexual health of men. In order to study this hypothesis and to explore any risk factors relating to erectile dysfunction in 688 men, a sample of these men was obtained via the Internet for a survey of sexual health. And these men ranged in age from 18 to 77 years of age. Erectile dysfunction prevalence was 17% in this sample. Those of you who ride bikes for exercise will be very happy to hear that, when controlling for age, there were no correlations between any of the variables of erectile dysfunction and bicycle riding. The overall prevalence of erectile dysfunction in the cycling community appears to be no greater than that found in the literature for the general population. So as far as we can tell at this point with the study that has been done, bicycle riding does not affect sexual functioning in men. Happy days for bicycle riders.

Now, there is evidence to suggest that athletic activity is in fact good for sex. 78 sedentary but healthy men were studied. Their average age was 45 years old. One group of the men exercised for 60 minutes per day, 3 ½ days per week, on average, for nine months, doing aerobic exercise. Peak sustained exercise capacity – for those of you who look at those things – was targeted at 75 to 80% of maximum aerobic working capacity, which is a healthy range in which to exercise. A second group of 17 men, average age 44 years, participated in organized walking at a moderate pace for 60 minutes a day, 4.1 days a week on average. And they kept diaries, including diet, smoking and sexuality, during the first month and the last month of this nine month period. Now, the ones that did the aerobic activity, that is, the fewer days but the harder-working aerobic activity, 75-80% of maximum aerobic working activity during this nine months, had higher frequencies of various intimate activities, had higher reliability of adequate functioning during sex – erectile functioning and so forth, ejaculation – had higher percentage of satisfying orgasms – this was in their diaries – and the degree of sexual enhancement correlated with the degree of their improvement in fitness. So when you look at how fit they were on the fitness measures, and you looked at their sexual enhancement, that is, how much better their sexual activity was and their satisfaction, those were a corollary to each other. So fitness has extra benefits besides just health and living longer. You have a better sex life.

Now another study sent a questionnaire to members of a senior fitness group, and the results indicated that those who were the most fit in that group, and who were the most active, had the highest levels of sexual activity and the highest levels of sexual satisfaction.

Finally, I want to just touch on a very sensitive issue I know, related to sports, athletics, sex, and health. And that’s the use of anabolic steroids. Now you know that anabolic steroids are actually androgens – that is, male sex hormones. They are in the same family. And research has revealed that in regard to sex and reproduction, the use of anabolic steroids leads to some degree of reduced fertility – that is, lower sperm counts and less healthy sperm in men. It leads to some breast growth, which we call gynecomastia, in men who use them, and masculinization in women – that is hair growth and lowering of voice, and so forth, in women who use them. There’s also, of course, a host of negative nonsexual health-related effects, which I’m not going to go into.

Now in a recent study of current anabolic steroid users who were compared to natural bodybuilders and bodybuilders who had used anabolic steroids in the past but were no longer taking them, these three groups were compared to each other, and they looked at such things as orgasmic frequency in coitus and also erectile difficulties. They found that those who were using anabolic steroids presently, although they had a higher frequency of coitus and a higher orgasmic frequency at present, they also had a significantly higher increase in erection dysfunction than the people who were natural bodybuilders and those who were no longer using anabolic steroids but had used them in the past. So although arousal may be increased – which makes sense, they were taking more male hormone – there was also a significant increase in problems with erection. So this study suggests that if athletes stop – this is the good news – stop using steroids, the erectile problems do disappear.

So here are my conclusions about sex and sports. The good news is, and it’s really all good news, except for the anabolic steroid use, that sex before the big game does not appear to affect performance. That’s an old wives’ tale – that’s a myth. As long as it occurs more than two hours before the athlete hits the field. And usually you’re pretty busy before then, eating and doing whatever you have to do to prepare. So, don’t have sex in the locker room if you want to break an Olympic record.

The second, more important conclusion, I think, for most of us, is that physical fitness at any age enhances sexual performance, pleasure, and satisfaction, and probably ensures that your sex life will continue as long as you do. So more fitness, more activity in your life, will provide you with better, happier, more satisfying, and more pleasurable sex.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.