SEX BEFORE COMPETITION: A SUREFIRE WAY TO RUIN PERFORMANCE?

There is a lot of debate surrounding the idea of sex before competition. While old-school-minded athletes claim that refraining from sex before a race fuels performance, new-school athletes aren’t so sure. 

So, what does the science say about the relationship between sex and athletic performance? Does sex before sport hurt your performance? 

The Arguments For and Against Sex Before a Race

Let’s cover the “why” of sex before sport. Why is it that some people treat it like a type of religious doctrine and others encourage you to take a more hedonistic approach?

No Sex Before Competition

Coaches and athletes who support the idea of only using the bed for sleep before a competition usually cite at least one of the following reasons:

  • Testosterone levels are higher in men and women when they abstain from sex.
  • Those higher testosterone levels are going to boost confidence and overall performance.
  • Leg and hip muscles are weaker after sex.
  • You lose your concentration after sex and abstaining prevents brain fog.

Have Sex Before an Event

On the other side of the coin, you have the live-and-let-live athletes. The ones who usually say that sex before sports is a benefit to their performance for one of the following reasons:

  • Sex before a race can help you relax physically and mentally.
  • Sex before sports can lower fight-or-flight hormones, especially cortisol.
  • It alleviates tight muscles and tension making you more nimble.
  • It helps to bring you into the present moment, becoming more mindful and focused.

Is there any truth to these anecdotal benefits? Well, spoiler alert: Both sides are actually half correct, and the benefits apply to both men and women.

The Problem with Sex Studies

Believe it or not, brave athletes actually volunteered for multiple studies to see if sex before their respective sport hurt their performance. 

Here’s the thing: It’s important to define sex. After all, no two-bedroom romps are the same. What might last for a few minutes in missionary position before falling asleep is certainly not the same as a three-hour marathon with a Gatorade break halfway through. And it’s THIS idea that becomes problematic in the question of, “Does sex before competition really make a difference?”

What qualifies as “sex?” And what about masturbation? Does the latter have an impact like the former? 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a truly scientific way to study this question. You can’t force athletes to take the same amount of time or ensure the same level of intensity. The best you can do is look at the whole and try to determine the average, and this is exactly what these studies did. 

Sex Before Competition? Here’s What the Studies Say

With all of that said, here’s a highlight reel of what the meta-analyses concluded:

How to Practice Safe-for-Sports Sex

If you’re having sex at least 10 hours before your big event, you’re not trying to set a new world record in sexual endurance, and you give yourself a full night of sleep, then you have nothing to worry about.[1] [2] [4]

Interestingly enough, remember how the “no sex before sports” group claimed abstinence could boost your testosterone levels? It’s actually just the opposite.[1] [2]

Some of the studies found that testosterone levels were elevated in men and women because of having sex. This answers the sex and testosterone equivalent to the chicken-and-the-egg question. Sex comes first.

The pro-sex before sports group was also correct in that it helps with your mood and mindset, allowing you to relax and calm down before the competition.[3]

Sex Before a Competition: Think Twice

Completely opposite to the point above, the closer you get to showtime and the more intense your bedroom performance, the more likely you are to tire yourself out. This should be common sense. Why would you perform a strenuous workout before your even more strenuous workout?

Turns out the no-sex group was correct about this: Studies show that having sex just a few hours before competition can actually impact your athletic performance, specifically in the lower body. And if you’re a runner or running back, that’s not going to bode well.[1] [2]

But what if you’re all nerves the day of the race or game and you need to find some sort of quick release?

When in Doubt: Go Solo

Assuming masturbation is more of a passive activity and not another two-hour workout, a brief, low-intensity solo session might be the answer when you are nervous before a game. 

Not only can this provide you with a rush of feel-good chemicals, but you also don’t have to worry about overdoing it right before you’re expected to hit the field.[1]

Final Thoughts: Does Having Sex Before a Race Hurt Performance?

The studies made it clear that it wasn’t the act of climaxing that could interfere with athletic performance. Rather, it was the intensity of the physical movements associated with sexual intercourse. Also, the timing makes a huge difference.

The main takeaways for athletes are simple: 

  • Save the kama sutra positions for off-season
  • Focus on fun, easy-going sex without trying to show off your endurance
  • Make sure you have sex no later than 10 hours before showtime

Following these tips can help you be in top shape for your next competition but if you want to be sure to reach your goals you can keep track with the adidas Running app. Set your goals and make sure you are ready for game day no matter what activities you choose to do. 

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David Sautter David J. Sautter has combined a lifelong passion for writing with over a decade of experience as an NASM-certified personal trainer, fitness-nutrition specialist, and sports-conditioning specialist. David has written hundreds of blog posts as well as dozens of e-books, training guides, and online courses covering a range of health and fitness topics. In his free time, David enjoys writing about staying fit while traveling abroad for his blog, FitnessWanders.com. View all posts by David Sautter