Flat Lay Composition with Condoms and Exotic Fruits on Pink Background. Concept

Getting Down and Dirty Before Game Time

Let's delve into the age-old debate that's as contentious as pineapple on pizza: Should athletes hit the sack before hitting the track? Buckle up, folks, as we take a journey through the tangled web of sex and sports.

Enter the ring with Mike Tyson. The undisputed champ had an interesting pre-match ritual: He'd engage in a little romp in the hay to release his pent-up aggression. According to his former bodyguard, Tyson would "bang the shit" out of women, tucked away in various hideaways. After satisfying his desires, he'd snap his neck vertebrae back into place and declare his opponent would live another day. Tyson's approach might seem bizarre, but it aligns with the ancient belief that sex before sports can sap an athlete's aggression, energy, and success.

Now, most athletes aren't keen on losing that competitive edge, but they still want to know if sex can be their secret weapon. Maybe you've heard the wise words of Mickey, Rocky Balboa's trainer, who famously claimed, "Women weaken legs."

But here's the rub – is there any science behind these age-old beliefs? The jury's still out. To add a dash of empirical evidence to the mix, we turn to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The organizers provided a whopping 450,000 condoms for around 10,000 athletes, roughly 42 condoms per athlete. Some may argue that athletes were just really efficient in their workouts, but let's be real, how much action can an Olympic ping pong player really be getting?

The truth is, while the Olympics were a celebration of athletic achievement, they were also a gold mine for souvenir collectors. Those Olympic-branded condoms were probably scooped up faster than you can say "world record."

But let's cut through the nonsense and get to the science. Most of the concerns about pre-game intimacy revolve around a fear that it might drain testosterone levels. Does sex really mess with your T-levels? The answer is about as clear as mud. Some studies suggest that sex can boost testosterone levels, but we're talking about such minuscule and fleeting changes that they wouldn't even tickle your performance.

On the flip side, even if sex did lead to a slight drop in testosterone, it's still like trying to water a garden with a teaspoon. Testosterone doesn't work like those magical elixirs from sci-fi flicks – it doesn't instantly turn you into a hulking behemoth.

But we're not ones to back down from a challenge, so let's dive into the nitty-gritty. A study from 1995 found that, for sedentary men, sex didn't affect their performance on a bike if it happened 10 hours before exercise. However, getting frisky less than two hours before exercise led to a slightly raised heart rate, which isn't ideal for athletes.

Another study in 2000Β showed that the night before a strength test, sexual activity had zero effect on hand-grip strength. So, don't worry, arm wrestlers – you're safe.

Now, onto the exciting world of sports like baseball and soccer. One study compared abstinence in these athletes, with soccer players being more prone to keep their hands to themselves. The theory was that abstinence gave them an edge. Another study with amateur runners suggested that pre-race sex had a positive effect on performance.

But it's not all about the dudes. A study from 1968 found that women, former athletes to be exact, showed no changes in strength when tested after having sex. So, gals, you're in the clear.

Now, don't get too cozy – we're just scratching the surface. What happens to testosterone levels after the deed is done? It's a mixed bag. One study from 2015 found no changes in T-levels, while another involving four heterosexual couples showed that test levels went up when the couples got busy.

All these studies may leave you scratching your head, but one thing is clear: sex before a competition doesn't have a major effect on your strength or endurance. The whole "sex saps your energy" theory? It's got more holes than a block of Swiss cheese.

But there's one teeny-tiny problem with these studies. They don't define "sex." And as any grown-up knows, there's the "quick, we've got an early meeting" type of intimacy, and then there's the Cirque du Soleil-level performance. The latter can definitely have a more noticeable effect on your testosterone.

And remember, there's a sneaky hormone called oxytocin, aka the "love" or "cuddle" hormone. It's released after sex and makes you want to snuggle. In sports where aggression is key, that's not ideal. Nobody wants a defensive lineman to start spooning the quarterback after a tackle.

But here's where it gets interesting: new research suggests that oxytocin acts like a volume knob, amplifying whatever activity you're doing. So, if you've just had an amorous encounter and then run onto the field, you might be in for a wild ride.

However, the hormone's effects are super short-lived, so there's no reason to stress. Unless, of course, you're getting intimate right before the game starts – then you might have a problem.

Now, here's the kicker. Beyond hormones, there's also post-sex relaxation to consider. Some sports need steady nerves and a Zen-like focus. So, for those athletes, a little pre-game action might be just the ticket.

On the other hand, aggression-driven sports might benefit from a bit of frustration – it can fuel your performance. This taps into the psychology theory that a lack of sex equals better performance, while being sexually satisfied can lead to less desire for athletic success. In simpler terms, why work hard for victory when you've already had a victory of a different kind?

But what about weight training? Here's where things get interesting. Some experts believe that weightlifting keeps your testosterone levels steady, so sex shouldn't be a problem. Yet, there's research showing that pumping iron can lead to a temporary drop in testosterone levels. So, weightlifters who want to break personal records might want to think twice before a romp.

In conclusion, should you get frisky before a game or a tough training session? The answer is about as clear as mud. It depends on your sport, your goals, and your personal beliefs. If you need calm and focus, go ahead and enjoy some pre-game intimacy. If you thrive on aggression and intensity, maybe abstinence is your secret weapon.

But always remember the immortal words of Casey Stengel: "It wasn't sex that weakened athletes; it was staying up all night looking for it." And, ultimately, your beliefs are your most powerful ally – if you think sex will affect your performance, it probably will. So, go out there and make the decision that feels right for you.

James Freeman


Liam Marshall, the friendly fitness coach, has spent 14 years sharing his love for sports and fitness. With degrees in sports science, he crafts workouts that fit like your favorite jeans. Beyond the gym, he organizes sports clinics and tech-savvy fitness apps that motivate people worldwide. He's all about making fitness doable for everyone, and it's not just about bodies – it's boosting confidence. In 2019, he scored the "Virginia Fitness Coach of the Year" award. Outside the fitness world, he loves family time and hikes in Shenandoah National Park. Liam's journey from a small-town fitness fan to a big-time coach is all about passion, inspiring people to see fitness as a body-and-mind thing. Catch him on Instagram to stay in the loop!