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Sexual Activity and Athletic Performance | Did You Know?

Olympic MedalsDoes having sex before a sporting event hinder an athlete’s performance?

Probably not, experts say.

The notion, which traces back to the ancient Greeks, holds that sex before sports robs an athlete of strength and energy. For men, it’s believed that a loss of testosterone through ejaculation decreases aggression and focus.

Some athletes take this very seriously. It’s said that Muhammad Ali abstained from sex for weeks before a big boxing match and English soccer coach Glenn Hoddle told his players to avoid sex during the 1998 World Cup.

However, the “no sex before sports” rule appears to be based on myth. Studies have shown that sex does not interfere with an athlete’s physiological endurance, strength, or aerobic power.

“When we test people in the lab, we are examining ‘tests of performance’ but in competition, psychology very likely plays much more important role,” Dr. Ian Shrier of the Department of Family Medicine at McGill University told Reuters.

While sex itself may not affect athletic ability, sexual activity accompanied by late nights or drug and alcohol use could.

Dr. Martin Milton, Senior Lecturer in Psychotherapeutic and Counseling Psychology at the University of Surry told Reuters, “If it’s ‘up all night swinging from the rafters’ type sex we’re talking about, then obviously the athlete is not going to be getting enough sleep or rest and their mind isn’t on the job."

Deciding whether or not sex is okay before an athletic competition is up to the individual. But chances are, sex won’t make a difference in performance

The Conversation
Bishop, David
“Sex before sport: Does it affect an athlete’s performance?”
(July 24, 2012)


National Geographic News
Lovgren, Stefan
“Sex and Sports: Should Athletes Abstain Before Big Events?”
(February 22, 2006)

PLOS Blogs
Janiszewski, Peter, PhD
“Does sexual intercourse hinder subsequent athletic performance?”
(May 24, 2011)

Goldsmith, Belinda and Kate Kelland
“Olympics – No evidence that sex spoils sport”
(July 30, 2012)


Anatoly Alyabyev's two gold and bronze Olympic medals from 1980
Sergeev Pavel
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons