Science Has Determined If Having Sex Before Sports Affects Your Performance

Young adult kickboxing girl stretching her body

Young adult kickboxing girl stretching her body | iStock.com/Ozimician

You’ve probably heard the rumors or legends that boxers and wrestlers would abstain from sex for months prior to a big fight in order perform at their best. The thinking was that sex served as a sort of release of testosterone, and that release would hinder athletes not just on a physiological level (decreasing muscle mass and aerobic capacity) but also on a mental level. It was believed that the abstaining from sex made fighters “hungrier” and more aggressive than if they were placated with sex during their training.

It’s thought that this reasoning started way back in the days of Philostratus, the ancient Greek sophist who noticed that athletes who came to the gym fresh from the bedroom didn’t perform as well as those who hadn’t had sex recently.

But do we have anything to go on here besides the observations of a 2,000-year-old Greek dude?

While there isn’t a ton of research done on the subject, scientists were able to review nine studies that give some insight into the phenomenon, and it was enough to draw a conclusion.

One study used female athletes as the subjects, testing them a day after sexual activity and again six days later. The study showed that not only was there no difference in muscle strength between the two periods, but no difference in aerobic capacity, either.

A study of marathon runners actually found that they performed slightly better the day after sexual activity than those who didn’t.

Another study found that aerobic performance of athletes was hindered for two hours after sex, but all detrimental effects were gone just ten hours after their activity.

The big takeaway here? As long as you didn’t just complete some exhausting marathon lovemaking session, you’ll probably be good as new just two hours after sexual activity (once the placating hormones wear off). So even if you’ve got a big game the next day, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to deny yourself the pleasures of sex prior to it.