Hearing about top athletes abstaining from sex to improve their athletic performance isn’t new news. Athletes have been following this “rule” for years now. However, research shows the truth about how time between the sheets really affects time in the ring or on the field.
Sex and athletic performance
The idea of abstinence before sport has been around since, well, sports were invented. The ancient Greeks believed in it. Muhammed Ali would reportedly abstain from sex for the six weeks before a big fight. But is there any truth to the idea? Science doesn’t seem to think so.
One study took 14 married males, all former athletes, and had them perform a maximum strength grip test the morning after sex and after a six day period of abstinence. No significant difference was found. Another study took 10 fit, married men ages 18-45, and tested for “grip strength, balance, lateral movement, reaction time, aerobic power (stair-climbing exercise), and VO2max (treadmill test)” (VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen an athlete consumes during exercise).
Again, the results did not change due to sexual activity.
There’s another vein of thought in this debate which focuses on the idea that sex burns valuable energy best saved for your competition or race the next day.
But as it turns out, unless you’re going at it aggressively for hours on end, the energy you expend is pretty negligible.
It’s not all about science, though. As anyone who pushes themselves to the limits at the gym knows, competition and performance is just as much mental as it is physical. Athletes who subscribe to the abstinence before competition theory often cite the belief that sex can sap one’s aggression and motivation. As Marty Liquori, a U.S. Olympian in the 1500 meters in 1968 and the third ever American high schooler to break the four minute mile mark once said, “Sex makes you happy. Happy people do not run a 3:47 mile.” The effect of sex on aggression was a key reason why Ali would abstain, too.
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