The Myth of Sex and Athletic Performance, Explained

Highlights of history

Will having sex affect athletic performance? It might tire you out, but probably not

There is a lack of research on the subject, say scientists


Since Ancient olympic games began around 776 BC, the tales of athletes secretly engaging in sex at the ceremonies have become common knowledge. As former Olympic swimmer Dara Torres told CNN in 2012, “What is happening in the [Olympic] The Village remains in the Village.

Now with the 2016 summer olympics underway in Rio de Janeiro, the idea of ​​“busy” athletes returns to center stage. About 450,000 condoms were allocated this year for athletes to have safe sex.

Condoms at the Olympic Games

  • 1988 Summer Olympics – Condoms were distributed publicly for the first time in the Seoul 1988 Olympics to reduce the spread of HIV.
  • 1994 Winter Olympics – Olympic organizers distributed free condoms to athletes, media and celebrities as part of an AIDS awareness campaign in 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
  • 2000 Summer Olympics – Olympic organizers reportedly distributed some 90,000 condoms to athletes during the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
  • 2010 Winter Olympics – The BC Center for Disease Control distributed approximately 100,000 condoms to athletes and officials at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
  • 2016 Summer Olympics – Olympic organizers have allocated approximately 450,000 condoms to distribute to athletes during the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, which is equivalent to 42 condoms per person.

For those who decide to participate in sexual activity, will taking action hamper athletic performance on the court, track and field or the ring?

The idea dates from Ancient Greece and Traditional Chinese medicine, which suggests both abstaining from sex could increase frustration and aggression, and boost energy, said David Bishop, research director at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and of the working life of Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.

Do you remember the 1976 movie “Rocky”? In the film, boxer Rocky Balboa’s trainer Mickey says, “women weaken legsSuggesting that the athlete should put romance on hold during training and competition.

On a related note, the Mexican soccer team announced in 2014 that its players were invited to abstain from sex during the World Cup in Brazil to maximize their athletic performance. The team lost in the round of 16, as they had done at every World Cup since 1994.

On the other hand, the MMA fighter UFC 12-1 record holder Ronda Rousey told Showtime’s Jim Rome in 2012 that she tries to have “as much sex as possible” before a fight because this has been linked to a testosterone levels in women.

Still, very few studies have scientifically examined how sex can improve or impair athletic performance, if at all, Bishop said. He added that he only knew four of them and that “all the studies were done on men”.

The research cited by Bishop includes a small study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Fitness in 2000, which involved 15 high performance athletes between the ages of 20 and 40 who participated in a two-day experiment.

The athletes were ordered to abstain from sex for at least 24 hours before the start of the study. On the first day, they performed a stress test on an exercise bike in the morning, a mental test designed to measure concentration in the afternoon, and then a second exercise test on an exercise bike later. in the afternoon.

Between the mental test and the second stress test, around 4:15 p.m., blood samples were taken to measure testosterone.

Then the athletes had sex with their usual partners, who were aware of the research protocol. The next day, the athletes participated in the same tests and had their testosterone levels measured again.

Researchers found that sexual activity did not have a significant overall effect on athlete performance during exercise and mental testing. However, during the morning exercise test after sex, the researchers noticed slightly higher heart rate levels.

They concluded that “an athlete’s ability to recover could be affected if they had sex about 2 hours before a competition”.

A separate article, published last month in the journal Frontiers in physiology, found that gender had no significant effect on athletic performance. The article included a systematic review of nine studies on the topic of sexual activity and athletics.

These researchers concluded that “This review demonstrates that sexual activity in sport is poorly studied in both men and women. However, the available data does not really support the misconception that sexual activity can have a negative effect on athlete performance.

Overall, athletes competing in the Rio Olympics this month shouldn’t be too worried about how sex may affect their competitions, said Emmanuele Jannini, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology at the ‘University of Rome-Tor Vergata in Italy.

“Sex is not only fun but also healthy“he said,” however, if concentration is important I would suggest avoiding sex for a few days before the game. ”

Bishop, the sports scientist in Australia, advised against having sex only if it affected sleep.

“If sex is going to affect performance, it will be through a lack of sleep. … Wait until your final event is over, ”he said, adding,“ but I don’t see any problem in having sex and then getting a good night’s sleep. ”

However, the current consensus among coaches and coaches seems to be that each athlete should make the individual choice of whether or not to have sex in the middle of a major competition.

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“The current thinking in elite sports is that athletes should act in a way they consider ‘normal’ and not do anything that goes against their beliefs, which will lead to guilt. , like believing that sex before competition is not good for you and yet having sex anyway, ”said Mark Anshel, professor emeritus in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Middle Tennessee State University .

“Many athletes feel free from guilt and accept sex before competition, as it helps them sleep better as long as their sleep is not disturbed and sex does not follow a night of partying and alcohol consumption, ”he said. “Most contemporary coaches seem to agree.”

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