The notion that sex before sporting events affects athletic performance has long been debated, and rules about sexual activity were made as recently as the 2018 World Cup. USA Today reported that Germany and Panama coaches banned sexual activity for their players. Other countries, including Argentina and Denmark had no restrictions. Still others had rules based on partners or matched results.
Are these concerns valid? Overall study results have been mixed, but new research suggests that for lower extremity muscle force, sex the night before activity has no effect.
The study involved 12 healthy, sexually-active men (average age 26 years) who regularly engaged in strength training.
The men participated in three exercise sessions for the study, spaced 3 to 7 days apart. Baseline measurements were recorded at the first session. For the remining two sessions, the men were instructed to either abstain from sex 12 hours beforehand or to engage in sexual activity during that time frame. (Sexual activity, in this case, resulted in orgasm.)
During each session, knee extension and knee flexion range of motion was assessed through 5 sets of 4 repetitions. Men took a 30-second recovery break between each set.
Sexual activity did not seem to affect the men’s knee extension and knee flexion ranges. Researchers found “no significant effect” of sexual intercourse beforehand.
“For example, after sexual intercourse, [knee extension] torque was similar in set 1 and set 5 compared to when men abstained from sexual intercourse,” the authors wrote, adding that the findings “suggest that abstention from sexual intercourse prior to brief bouts of high-force activity is not warranted.”
They acknowledged several limitations. The sample was small and consisted of young, healthy men who engaged in strength training. Thus, the results might not apply to other populations, such as women or people who do not exercise. Also, the exercises pertained to only the knee joint, so it is not clear whether the findings would apply to whole-body exercise or athletic activities that involve cognition, such as soccer, volleyball, or tennis.
In addition, androgen levels were not measured. And participants’ sexual activities could have varied by position, which might have affected the knees.
Further research is recommended, the authors said.
The study was published online in May 2018 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Valenti, Leah M., et al.
“Effect of Sexual Intercourse on Lower Extremity Muscle Force in Strength-Trained Men”
(Full-text. Published online: May 9, 2018)
“Sex at the World Cup: Some countries only let their players score *on* the field”
(June 22, 2018)