A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Does sex before an athletic event decrease your performance on the field?

May 17, 1991

Dear Cecil:

A number of my karate cronies and I got into an argument recently about a question I'm sure has been bandied about men's locker rooms for years. Does sex the evening before an athletic competition decrease one's performance on the field (or in our case, in the ring)? I say this is an old wives' tale — i.e., wives tell it to avoid yet another round of boring sex. Please vindicate me. My health depends on it.

Cecil replies:

What kind of sex did you have in mind? If we're talking a trapeze, roller skates, and a quart bottle of Mazola, I guess I wouldn't feel too confident about facing off against Bruce Lee at dawn. Routine sex is another matter. The common view among sports medics is that sex is about as taxing as a 40-yard dash, and it takes the same time to recover from one as from the other.

Admittedly little serious research has been done on the subject. But in surveys and interviews with both professional and amateur athletes, Mirkin and Hoffman (1978) found that few refrained from sex before competing. On the contrary, some athletes claimed they'd turned in their best performances shortly after a session in the sack. There were a few dissenters, of course, and nobody is saying you can throw all caution to the winds. As the late Casey Stengel once said, "It isn't sex that wrecks these guys, it's staying up all night looking for it."

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