Is sex really a big deal?
By Carlos Bilan, Staff Writer
For some reason, there seems to be an almost universal belief in the world of sports that athletes must abstain from sex before big games or sporting events. The boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who abstained from sex for weeks before entering the ring, is a notable example. Even during the World Cup in 2014, many football (soccer) coaches representing different countries openly mentioned to reporters that they were banning their teams from having sex.
It does sound reasonable when you think of possible reasons why having sex before a big game could be disadvantageous. If you’re into rough and rigorous sex, then it makes sense that athletes should reserve their energy the night before and save it for a big game.
What about masturbation? It’s apparently also advisable to abstain from that as well. This belief stems from the fear that testosterone levels may be lowered after ejaculation. Having a lot of testosterone is considered positive in sports, because you are more pumped up and energetic.
Although not many acknowledge the possible origin, the idea of abstinence before a big sporting event is actually linked to traditional Chinese medicine and Ancient Greek philosophy, which believed that a man’s semen represents energy and strength, respectively.
However, there’s a big problem with all of this. There is really no scientific evidence to support the belief that having sex hinders athletic performance. When looking at the existing research, the results are inconclusive. According to a review by Ian Schier of “Does Sex the Night Before Competition Decrease Performance?” published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, the results of a late night of sexscapades depend on how a person perceives sex. He also mentions that it will be very difficult for researchers to control the factors related to sexual behavior because of the abundant number of variables that must be considered.
Another problem is how this belief does not include women in the bigger picture. If the release of testosterone seems to be the main concern, then is it okay for women to have sex before a competition since women only produce relatively small quantities of testosterone? There is no scientific evidence to support this notion, either.
It can be concluded that abstaining from sex before sports is simply a superstition in the world of sports. If you see sex as something out of your usual routine or something that will use a lot of your energy—there are some people who aren’t too vanilla—then maybe you should get a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, if you think that having sex could make you less nervous and help you relax before the game, then just make sure you don’t pull an all-nighter.