Deleterious effect of sex on athletic performance – (03-18-01)

Deleterious effect of sex on athletic performance

Being involved in athletics most of my life, from gymnastics to fighting in the ring, I have heard the promotions for abstination numerous times. However, as it turns out, this recommendation is about as weak as many other athletic-related dogmas. This review shows no reduction in sports performance with intercourse.

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 2000; 10:233-4 The evidence supporting the deleterious effect of sex on athletic performance is about as substantial as a negligée, according to a recent review. Athletes as mismatched as Muhammad Ali and Marty Liquori advocated sexual abstinence the night before competition. Does sex have a detrimental physiological effect on competitors? Is sex mentally bad? Or, as Casey Stengel suggested in more laymanly terms, is sex just a marker for other behavior that hurts performance? (Stengel said, “It’s not the sex that wrecks these guys, it’s staying up all night looking for it.”) The literature is not exactly bulging with evidence. Only three scientific studies have investigated the topic, note authors Samantha McGlone and Ian Shrier, MD, PhD. The results (all in cross-over trials) suggest that sex has no impact on physical measures such as grip strength, balance, lateral movement, reaction time, or aerobic power. (See McGlone and Shrier, 2000.)”All of these studies showed that sex the night before competition does not alter physiological testing results,” they observe. What about the influence of sex on competitive stress? Sports psychologists generally believe “there is an optimal level of alertness/anxiety before a competition, and a poor performance will result from either being too anxious or not alert enough,” note the authors. Under this theory, sex might be beneficial for a stressed athlete, yet deprive another athlete of a needed night’s sleep.”Clearly, there is a need for more research on this topic,” conclude McGlone and Shrier. Future investigators will have plenty of methodological issues to ponder (e.g. is a repeated-measures cross-over design appropriate?). And, as one veteran team physician noted, “probably a lot of willing subjects.”

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.