5 Ways Sex Helps Athletic Performance, According To Science
In case you weren't already aware, a lot of sex goes down in the Olympic Village. This year, 110,000 condoms were handed out to all 2,925 participants at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. That's about 37 condoms per person, making it the biggest number of condoms distributed in the entire history of the Winter Olympics. But how does sex actually affect athletic performance? While some may argue that sex before an event will hinder an athlete's abilities to compete, research shows, that's not quite true.
"It has widely been believed that sex for days, even weeks, before an athletic performance was a bad idea," Dr. David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates tells Bustle. For example, experts and athletes once thought sex would decrease your aggression and testosterone, which are crucial in certain sports. On the other hand, others believed that having sex prior to competitions would actually help by calming their nerves.
But after analyzing previous research done on the subject, a 2016 study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, concluded that there is "no robust scientific evidence to indicate that sexual activity has a negative effect upon athletic results." So science says there's really no reason why you shouldn't have sex before a big competition.
"The only time that research, and also my personal belief, found that sexual activity could affect athletic performance is if it happens a few hours before competing," Greuner says. "Up to a day before, it could even help your athletic ability. It can help calm your nerves and nervous system, however, it won’t leave you 'overly relaxed' like many have believed in the past."
Here are some more ways sex can actually help athletic performance:
1. A Female Orgasm Can Help Overcome Pain
Olympic events can do a number on you physically. Luckily, science says sex may dull the pain. A 2010 article published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine explored the effects of PIV intercourse, masturbation, and anal sex had on performance. As Dr. Michael Reitano, sexual health expert and physician in residence at Roman tells Bustle, "It was found that vaginal and clitoral stimulation have painkilling properties."
According to the research, sexual activity involving vaginal intercourse was found to be the most effective at overcoming pain. The female orgasm can help block pain since the region in the brain responsible for pleasure also deals with pain. Other sex acts, like masturbation and anal sex, were found to make less of an impact.
2. Sex Can Improve An Athlete's Focus
A 2017 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine wanted to see whether PIV sex before a big game was good or bad. As it was found, the effects were pretty good.
"Orgasms from penetrative vaginal sex led to at least a four fold rise in prolactin in both males and females," Reitano says. "Increased prolactin leads to a sense of calm and the ability to focus calmly before the storm, which help athletes to center themselves, sleep, and restore themselves."
According to Reitano, the benefit of the prolactin surge is applicable to both males and females and can be beneficial before a competition. But if an athlete thrives on the adrenaline rush of competition, the calming effects won't last too long. "The peak of prolactin after orgasm is at two hours and would be absent after 10," he says.
3. Masturbating Can Actually Help With Speed, Strength, And Agility
In a small 2016 study conducted by sex toy brand, Adam & Eve and Dr. Mike Young, the lead researcher for Athletic Lab, nearly 70 percent of athletes who believed sex would improve their performances actually saw positive results, including increased strength and agility. And for 59 percent of athletes who masturbated before a competition, they saw increased acceleration over a 20m distance.
4. Sex May Help Enhance The Performance Of Male Athletes More Than Women
Although female athletes can benefit from the pain dulling effects of orgasms, the Adam & Eve study also found that male athletes saw the biggest improvements in their athletic performance. Over 60 percent of men saw improvements in strength, speed, and power during their competitions after sexual activity like masturbating.
5. Sex Can Boost Testosterone Levels
Some athletes will practice abstinence before competition in hopes it'll keep their testosterone levels up. That way, they'll have more of an aggressive edge — but that thinking is actually incorrect.
A 2015 study presented by The Endocrine Society found that a lack of sex can lead to a decline in testosterone in males. "If coaches believe testosterone would give their male athletes a greater competitive spirit, then sex would be helpful as it is associated with higher testosterone levels," Reitano says. So all that extra testosterone from sex can actually give athletes the boost they need.
Some coaches, like those in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, ban their athletes from having sex before a game because of the possible physical and psychological consequences. But research shows, there's really no scientific evidence to prove that.
"By the time elite athletes reach the pinnacle of their career, they have a set ritual they follow unfailingly before major events. Whatever that ritual was that brought success before, they will follow it assiduously at the Olympics," Reitano says. "However, the research does not support sexual abstinence as means to maintain peak performance levels unless sexual activity is associated with negative activities like drinking, drug use, lack of sleep, or smoking."
With all the condoms being distributed in the Olympic Village this year, the 2018 Winter Olympians seem to have it all figured out.