It is one of the biggest headaches for many elite athletes when it comes to facing an official competition. Does having sex affect performance?
There have been not a few coaches who, throughout the history of sports, have banned their athletes from having sex during a concentration. For this reason, the question remains in the air: are sex and elite sport compatible?
One of the first to put the debate on the table was Rinus Michels . The coach of the Dutch National Team in 1974 allowed his players to take his wives and partners to share accommodation with them throughout the World Cup in Germany. The measure was not taken well by the fans of ‘A Clockwork Orange ‘, but, curiously, the Netherlands made one of its best participations in the history of the World Cups. He reached the final and played brilliant football.
However, other athletes have warned of its risks, such as Muhammed Ali. The most famous boxer of all time, claimed not to have sex in the six weeks before a fight. But what is true about the supposed negative or positive effects of having sex during a competition?
An ancient thesis
Many coaches, such as Guardiola or Capello, maintain that having sexual relations before a game is not recommended —not even during the time a concentration lasts— as there is caloric exhaustion that generates a drop in muscle tone that can affect the player’s performance on the court. This idea, which excludes sex from any sport, originates from the Olympic Games in ancient Greece or Chinese Taoism.Since ancient times, in Greece and Rome, it was thought that sexual abstinence was necessary, since there had to be a communion between the body and the spirit. An athlete to ensure his performance would have to rest before a tournament and not have distracting activities. This recommendation has endured over the years and many trainers consider abstinence necessary, because it is thought that physical wear and tear is generated with sexual activity and, in the case of men, ejaculation decreases testosterone, which causes Reduces aggressiveness and muscle strength.
“There was a belief that semen contained magical and mystical substances that gave a man strength and virility, and that removing them from his body lowered his performance,” sexuality specialist Elsy Reyes explained in an interview on CNN.
But what does science say?
Studies in this field began in 1968 by Johnson ( Muscular performance following coitus ∗. Journal of Sex Research ) and in 1981 by Anshel (Effects of sexual activity on athletic performance. Physician Sports Med. ), to try to demonstrate the changes generated with sexual activity. But at the time these clinical studies were not considered very rigorous.
The physiologist Tommy Boone , from the University of Minnesota and author of the book “Sex before a sports competition: myths and realities”, is probably the most recognized expert in this field.
In an article published in 1995, “Effects of intercourse on maximal aerobic power, oxygen pulse, and double product in sedentary male subjects ,” he described a physical endurance study in 11 volunteers, some of whom were given had allowed sexual intercourse 12 hours before the tests and others had not.
Boone demonstrated that there were no significant differences in physical performance between both groups expressed in anaerobic power, blood oxygen concentration, and cardiac work.What’s more, some investigations -such as those included in the extensive Planet Triathlon report- point out that there are several factors that show that sex and sport should go hand in hand. Part of proper physical training is also a restful sleep that allows us to rest well at night and thus be able to assimilate the physical effort of the day and promote the recovery of our muscles. In this aspect, sex is a good ally since it is a powerful sleep inducer .
At each orgasm, our body favors the production of prolactin and oxytocin , two essential hormones for quality sleep. On the other hand, orgasm, among its many benefits, also acts as a natural analgesic , since, during its manifestation, spino-thalamic neurons intervene, related to the sensation of excitement and relaxation that, in addition to being very pleasant, mitigate pain . , especially the muscular one, such as “shoes” and muscle cramps .
Some scientific studies state that this effect can remain in our body for two or three days, thus contributing to being a good ally after training or competition.
Coaches and their “sexual norms”
Despite the fact that science seems to show that sex and sports achievements have no relationship, some coaches remain firm in their beliefs and “sexual norms” are part of their manual.
Pep Guardiola, for example, imposes on his players that anyone who wants to have a sexual relationship must do so before midnight because they need to have a good night’s sleep. He assures that this is how he did it with Messi, “who since then hasn’t had a muscle injury, and also with Lewandowski, whom he left on the bench and began to understand some things.”
Antonio Conte is another of the strictest coaches on the football scene and known for going with his philosophy to the end and not marrying anyone. One of his most curious recommendations is the one he usually gives his players in the sexual field: “During the season, sexual relations should not be very long, you have to make as little effort as possible. So, it’s better to be below your partner” , is the curious advice that he gives to his pupils.