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Just Did It? Sex Before Competition

Passion is an amazing thing. It drives people to accomplish incredible feats. But can passion, when it turns to sex, diminish an athlete's performance?

The mythology has been around for centuries. During the Victorian era, doctors incorrectly believed that the spilling of semen (ejaculation) would reduce health and vitality. People were told to abstain from sex, even if they were married, unless it was for procreation.

That thinking has been handed down from one generation to the next. The modern version is the oft-repeated phrase, "Women weaken legs!" Some coaches actually forbid athletes to engage in sex before major competitions. To test the validity of that belief, we have to explore the conditions surrounding sex.


The first thing that's important is to determine how long you're having sex.

If you're an athlete having sex for 30 minutes to an hour, you're not going to deplete your energy in any significant way the following day. However, if you're having a marathon sex session for several hours, the lack of sleep can impact your capabilities.

For many people, it's not the sex that hurts their performance; it's staying up all night looking for sex that's the problem.


The act of sexual intercourse is sometimes blamed for diminishing an athlete's performance. However, sex isn't particularly taxing. If you're a typical person, you burn about five calories a minute during sex. If you engage in athletic competition or intense exercise, that number climbs to between 15 and 25 calories per minute. So as long as your idea of sex doesn't involve a high-wire act, a trampoline and sprints, you're not going to burn enough calories to make a difference the next day.


Some speculation has been made that sex reduces testosterone, so athletes who have sex the night before are less aggressive. It's not true. Studies were conducted to track testosterone levels, and it was discovered they returned to normal within a couple of hours after having sex. That finding doesn't suggest athletes should change their sexual behavior the night before, but it does suggest a possible benefit of sex an hour or two before competition.

If you're competing in something that requires less aggression and more concentration, like golf, sex an hour or two before might help you relax and focus. The opposite would be true for sports that require aggression, like football or hockey.

Of course, if you're a hothead during competition and are continually receiving penalties, sex just before might take off the edge and make you a better competitor.


Some athletes suffer from something called "pre-game jitters." The night before, they're kept awake with anxiety or nervous tension. Unless it becomes distracting, one way of dealing with that is through sexual release. You can do it alone or with a partner, depending on your relationship.


There's also the "mythical" quality of sex that feeds athletic superstitions. Some athletes wear lucky articles of clothing or follow specific prescribed rituals before competing. For these people having or not having sex is a matter of ritual that's important to achieve a particular mindset, regardless of what the scientific data says.

The bottom line is this. There have been relatively few studies conducted to determine if sex the night before affects athletic performance. The few that are available all come to the same conclusion. Sex the night before an athletic event has no effect on either strength or endurance of an athlete. It's up to you and your particular circumstances to decide when or if you should engage in sex or not.

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