Abstinence and the playoffs – what do they have in common besides your girlfriend’s displeasure? A large portion of professional and amateur male athletes prescribe to the belief that sex negatively impacts upon their ability to compete in sports.
Engaging in sexual activity on the day of, evening prior, or week leading up to a sporting event is thought to diminish the masculine vigor that is vital to optimal athletic performance. In fact, some athletes are forced to stay in hotel rooms (away from wives, girlfriends and mistresses) in the days leading up to an important event.
What is the correlation between sex and athletic performance? Should you be more careful about when you chose to “play”? If Friday evening is never the right time for you to say “not tonight honey,” can you expect your performance at Saturday afternoon’s football or squash game to suffer the consequences?
According to scholars, sex has been taboo for male athletes since the time of ancient Greece. One of the most prominent Greek philosophers, Plato, wrote about the abstinence of a young male “during all the period of his training” for the contests at Olympia.
Sex as a taboo for athletes was a cultural ideal – athletes who prescribed to the practice were respected, while sexually indulgent activity prior to an important event was considered an act of rebellion. Respect for the tradition of sport and male athleticism has successfully perpetuated this ideal over centuries, though its foundations still remain somewhat mythological.
But perhaps it is easier to de-bunk the myth than we think. First of all, it is safe to say that a sexual encounter – if it is a successful one – results in the loss of bodily fluid. For the athlete who performs at a professional level, bodily fluids (of any sort) directly effect stamina, strength and endurance, and can potentially determine whether a performance results in a victory or a loss. For this reason, it seems quite logical to abstain from any vigorous activity that results in excessive fluid loss in the period leading up to an important sporting event – whether it be sexual or not.
The main side effect of fluid loss associated with sexual activity is a reduction in testosterone. The testosterone supply in both men and women is temporarily depleted following intercourse, until the body takes the time to re-build it’s supply. Testosterone, as many of us know, dictates men’s thoughts and actions, and it is considered to be an integral component of male vigor. This known, it is easy to see why Mohammed Ali chose to abstain from sex for six weeks prior to an important fight – he wanted to harness as much of his testosterone and male vigor as possible.
For the male athlete who is not interested in preserving his testosterone levels by way of abstinence, there is The Gladiator Diet. This recent dieting trend promises to preserve peak health and sexual energy – by eating like a warrior, any athlete can keep virile, energetic and fit. The Gladiator Diet provides helpful instructions on how to eat in order to maximize a man’s testosterone balance, and can be practiced alongside the diet for women’s physical and sexual needs – The Goddess Diet. These new diets perpetuate the respect for traditions of sport, athleticism and sexuality that originated with the Greeks.
Putting all of the Greek legend and male logic regarding abstinence and sport aside, there seems to be little scientific basis for the belief that sexual activity negatively effects athletic performance. A recent study on the topic of sport, testosterone and abstinence in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness concluded that there was no correlation between sexual activity and endurance, strength, the ability of the body to transport oxygen to the muscles, or the amount of blood pumped to the heart. So what are so many athletes and coaches really worried about?
More than the physical act of sex itself, it may be the psychological effects that sexual intimacy can have on an athlete that is the main source of concern for coaches and players. Sex, especially for men, can be a source of major distraction, as well as a means of relaxation. However, in the nights leading up to a big game, athletes are intended to refine their focus and “gear up” for the event.
The anxiety that may be relieved by sexual intercourse is intended to be re-directed by the athlete back towards the main priority – victory. Furthermore, sexual relations most commonly occur in the evening, in the place of another important element in an athlete’s game day readiness – sleep. The lack of sleep caused by an evening of cavorting with a woman might be the main stimulus in shutting up male athletes in hotel rooms, where the worst they can do is invest in over-priced porn on the television.
Whether sex is right or wrong for a male athlete who is preparing for a sporting event likely depends on the man’s physical prowess, mental focus, and personal beliefs. Sometimes sex is a priority, and sometimes sports are – this is no revelation to any woman hoping to watch a chick flick or get down with her Gladiator man on a Friday night.
Besides if all athletes really prescribed to the theory about male abstinence and sport, than Durex would not have handed out over 130,000 condoms to Olympic athletes in the summer of 2004. Really, if athletes who have been training their whole lives for a sporting event want to play a game of poke poke the night before the biggest day of their life, who are we to stop them?
Ultimately your decision to indulge in sex on any given night leading up to a game or event is a personal one. “Not tonight honey” might not go over very well if your woman finds out that her pleasure is being sacrificed for the greater good of your sports team. But then again, for as many times as you have heard her say “not tonight” maybe a small part of you will feel relieved as you look forward to tomorrow afternoon’s game.