Sex and training – Do cyclists have to sacrifice more than Saturday morning lie-ins?
Athletes and coaches the world over have long subscribed to the belief that it’s best to abstain from sex before athletic competitions.Boxing legend Muhammad Ali allegedly abstained from sex a month and a half before a fight, saying that the practice made him unbeatable in the ring. Even Plato said Olympians should avoid sex before competition. But science suggests doing the deed won’t actually zap all that energy or necessarily be a distraction during the kick-off. In fact, an orgasm may help combat muscle pain for ladies, while a testosterone boost could even help build strength for men [eg. Storer et al found that Testosterone dose-dependently increases maximal voluntary strength and leg power, but does not affect fatigability or specific tension, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism]
ESPN decided to test the theory on the show Sport Science. They tested a professional male and female fighter on cardiovascular endurance, lower and upper body strength and power using impact sensors designed by the United States Boxing Association. The fighters were asked to abstain for a day in order to run the first series of tests and then after engaging in sexual intercourse with their spouse, the athletes were retested. The results indicated that physiologically, testosterone levels were higher in both the male and the female fighter after having sex. According to the numbers, the female boxer’s punch registered at 632 pounds of force pre-sex. She then registered 876 pounds of force after sex. That’s almost a 30% improvement.
So it might be worth staying up a bit longer the night before a race………
In fact, going without sex for a long period of time can even drop your testosterone levels says Emmanuele A. Jannini, professor of endocrinology at the University of L’Aquila in Italy who has done extensive research in the study of bodily secretions. Furthermore Tommy Boone, a exercise physiologist at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, and author of Sex Before Athletic Competition: Myth or Fact, found no evidence to support abstinence, when in 1995, he conducted a study that challenged 11 athletes to a treadmill test. Some had sex 12 hours before the test and some abstained. According to the findings, there was no difference in performance between the groups.
There is no doubt a man’s body does undergo some physical changes during sex – a faster heart rate, perhaps from 70 bpm at rest to up to 130 bpm when active. But as stated by Boone, this ‘activity’ requires less than 25% of the aerobic effort required during a match…..and generally lasts less time. Surprisingly….or unsurprisingly shall I say, scientists have found that, in general, sexual intercourse between married partners expends only 25 to 50 calories. That’s about the energy it takes to walk up two flights of stairs. In fact, one of the most credible studies on sex, conducted at Queen’s University in Belfast, asserts that having sex reduces the risk of heart disease and improves overall fitness.
Looking at the mental side, sex doesn’t seem to disturb the mental game either, at least for men. In one study – ‘Effect of sexual activity on cycle ergometer stress test parameters, on plasmatic testosterone levels and on concentration capacity. A study in high-level male athletes performed in the laboratory‘ – researchers gave both endurance athletes and weight lifters a series of concentration and athletic tests after intercourse and found that having sex beforehand didn’t mess with concentration. However do note there was evidence for subjects to be less attentive when sex took place only 2 hours before the activity! So straight out of bed in the morning!
There is a BUT in this though.
Athletes in general have a specific routine that they go through when preparing for a competition. That includes staying focused and getting lots of rest. In addition, they are secluded from their wives and girlfriends as part of the training process. Sex, although a useful exercise can disrupt a training routine and have a negative psychological effect.
Perhaps you might just have to schedule it in your training schedule……
As Casey Stengeal famously said, ‘Being with a woman all night hurt no baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a women that does him in’.
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