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Making Love Before an Athletic Competition is A-Okay

by: Dr. Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

Image from Bjorka Oddities
Muhammad Ali would not make love for six weeks before a fight and some football players won't make love on the night before a game. Coach Glenn Hoddle told his players to avoid sexual relations during the month-long 1998 soccer World Cup, However, an article in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness (Sep 1995;35(3):214-217) showed that sexual relations on the night before competition have no effect on endurance to exhaustion on a treadmill, strength, the ability of the body to transport oxygen to muscles, or the amount of blood pumped by the heart.

Lovemaking is not a very demanding exercise. The most aggressive people burn about 250 calories an hour or 4 calories per minute while making love, and the average person makes love for about five minutes and burns about 25 calories. That’s less energy than it takes to walk up two flights of stairs. If you think that you shouldn't make love on the night before a game, you shouldn't participate in pre-game warmups; they are much more demanding than [love making].

Not Making Love Can Hamper Athletic Performance

On the day before competition, most athletes usually reduce their workouts and have extra energy. If they don't make love, they spend the night tossing and turning and wake up exhausted. Casey Stengel, the former manager of the New York Yankees, said “it’s not sex that wrecks these guys, it's staying up all night looking for it.”

The Buffalo Bills football players were rumored to have been separated from their wives before four straight Super Bowl games (1991-1994). You know their record: zero and four. The Minnesota Vikings also lost four Super Bowl Games (1970, 1974, 1975 and 1977). The directors of the 2012 Olympics in London knew better. They handed out 150,000 condoms to the 10,500 competing athletes.

The Scientific Data

Making love has been shown in scientific studies to have no effect on power or endurance (Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, October 2000;10(4):233-315). Sexual relations do not weaken muscles (J Sex Res 1968; 4:247–248), and do not decrease endurance by reducing maximal aerobic power or oxygen uptake (J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1995;35:214–217).

However, it is possible that the emotional effects of making love may calm the athlete so much that he could lose some of the aggressiveness necessary for successful athletic competition. Nobody has measured the psychological effects that making love could have on athletic performance. We do know that making love can raise blood testosterone levels, and testosterone increases aggression to make an athlete more competitive.

Should You Make Love Before Competition?

It depends on what you believe. If you think that lovemaking will harm an important [game or match], don’t do it. On the other hand, if you believe that lovemaking has no effect on athletic performance, go for it. At least your partner won’t be disappointed with you.

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