Sex Ed

Sex at #Rio2016: Does Getting it on Before Competing Hurt Athletic Performance?

August 10, 2016 by Justin Lehmiller

Every time a major international sporting competition takes places, news articles inevitably emerge about the athletes who proclaim that they will be abstaining from sex until the competition is over. It seems that many athletes–and some coaches, too–worry that getting it on before a sporting event could ultimately harm performance. Competitors at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio have been no exception to this line of thinking. For instance, The Daily Telegraph recently reported that several Australian couples who will be competing in Rio have their own personal abstinence rules in place.

But is this actually going to help them on their way to taking home some medals? Is sex really harmful to athletic performance?

According to the research, probably not. A systematic review of all the studies conducted on this topic to date was published earlier this summer in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, and it concluded that there’s really no evidence to support the idea that sex before participating in sports is necessarily a bad idea.

Instead, this review suggests that it might not be sex, but rather the timing of it that seems to matter most. Specifically, if sex occurs the night before a competition, it can potentially improve performance. However, if sex happens right before the event (as in two hours or less beforehand), it may be harmful.

That said, the effect of sex on athletic performance is something that seems to vary a lot across persons. Sex–no matter when it occurs–doesn’t affect everyone the same way, which suggests that the real key to how sex affects a given athlete probably has a lot more to do with psychology than physiology.

For a closer look at the research in this area, check out the video below.

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Image Source: 123RF/Valeriy Lebedev

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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