Can Sex Hurt Athletic Performance? Experts Debunk This Common Myth
Aside from the sporting events happening at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, you may be reminded of another event that happens at the Olympic Games: Dating and hooking up. Not only do some athletes and non-athletes alike use dating apps while at the Olympics, but stories about sex in the Olympic Village — the place to be when the athletes are not training or competing — often make headlines. PyeongChang distributed 110,000 condoms to the 2,925 athletes at this year's Winter Games — which is 37 condoms per athlete. All this to say, it begs the question: Can sex hurt athletic performance, Olympics or not?
For the World Cup in 2014, some soccer coaches implemented a no-sex rule for their players, so that their main focus could be soccer. Mexico's coach, Miguel Herrera, was one of them, and he'd asked his players to abstain from sexual activity for the duration of the month-long tournament. "If a player can't go one month or 20 days without having sexual relations, then they are not prepared to be a professional player," Herrera told Reforma, a Mexican newspaper, according to CNN. "…So then we will not be looking for sex or having sex at the World Cup just to have it, we are going to go after what we came for, a competition that gives us the opportunity to rise above and do something really great…" he said.
In Actuality, Sex Before An Athletic Performance May Be *Beneficial*
Dr. Uchenna "UC" Ossai, Pelvic Health Physical Therapist And Sex Educator, thinks that, if anything, sex could be beneficial before an athletic performance. "Sexual activity is one of the global indicators of health and well-being," she tells Bustle. "It's a truly loyal friend when it comes to your mood, pain management, sleep quality, and pelvic floor function, to name a fabulous few. It is widely known that high-level physical performance and fitness have an elevating effect when it comes to overall sexual function." However, Dr. Ossai also says that, officially, there is not enough research proving the impact of sex on one's athletic performance.
“The grand jury is still out on this one because there is very little scientific evidence that supports the idea that abstinence improves athletic performance. The idea of staying away from sex before sports competition is literally old-school, dating back to the ancient Greek and Roman era. A recent systemic review of the research literature (Stefani, et al 2016) found that the current evidence cannot sustain the recommendation of abstinence one day before sporting competitions. However, more research is needed to look at the impact of sex immediately (less than two hours) before competition."
Dr. Rachel Gelman, DPT, PT, of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center, agrees. "I don't think there is any research that indicates sex can hurt athletic performance," she tells Bustle. "I suppose if someone has pain with sex and they had intercourse or masturbated and experienced a flare in their symptoms, that could negatively impact athletic performance. Otherwise, further research is needed."
Sex Before An Athletic Performance May Reduce Stress
Dr. Michael Krychman, Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine and co-author of The Sexual Spark: 20 Essential Exercises to Reignite the Passion, also thinks there can be more pluses than minuses when it comes to having sex before an athletic performance.
"Abstinence may actually increase frustration and aggression."
"The concept that sex before an athletic performance hinders performance may be more of a myth than reality," he tells Bustle. "By having sex, you may reduce stress and be more relaxed and less aggressive. Plus, with all the endorphins and feel-good pleasure neurotransmitters and hormones, it may improve your adrenaline axis and make you more focused. On the other hand, abstinence may actually increase frustration and aggression."
But There *Are* A Few Sex-Related Factors To Watch Out For
Even though sex itself may not have a negative impact on athletic performance, there are some other variables to watch out for that may revolve around sex. "Some of the proven factors that have been shown to negatively impact an athlete's physical performance are sleep duration and quality, drug and alcohol use patterns, diet, and smoking habits," Dr. Ossai says. Dr. Krychman seconds the notion about making sure to get enough sleep if you decide to have sex the night before an athletic performance. "If sex leads to an all-night romp in the sack and impacts sleep time and/or quality, it's intuitive that a sleep-deprived, exhausted athlete may perform less optimally than a well-rested, fresh athlete."
Dr. Ossai also says the kind of sex you are having may affect you the next day. "If you are up all night having Cirque du Soleil sex and consuming copious amounts of alcohol, your performance will take a hit the next day." Plus, certain sex positions may have a higher incidence of a sex-related physical injury occurring, as well — such as slipping onto the floor during sex in the shower. "A slick shower floor can lead to slippage and falls," Dr. Krychman says. "Be careful — and a bath mat is advised." Dr. Rachel Needle, licensed psychologist and Certified Sex Therapist in West Palm Beach, FL, and the Co-Director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, also warns to be cautious if trying a new or more adventurous sexual position. "If you are trying something new, be careful," she tells Bustle. "If you get injured easily, try stretching before engaging in sexual activity."
If You Have Sex The Night Before An Athletic Performance, Follow This Tip
"Learn your body and your performance patterns," Dr. Ossai says. "Focus on reducing the proven negative factors on athletic performance and proceed widely when it comes to your sexy-time behavior." That said, it's good to see that there may be more positives than negatives when it comes to having sex before an athletic performance, as long as you keep the above in mind.