S*x the night before a sporting event has long been banned by coaches.
But scientists now believe that making love does not harm performance on the running track, on football pitch or boxing ring. Rather than hamper performance, s*x before sport – as long as it takes place more than two hours before competition – can actually improve results, according to the study.
For years, coaches and sportsmen have perpetuated the advice that sexual activity before an important game or event is likely to ‘drain’ the body – of both testosterone and energy, leaving athletes without the aggression and determination needed to win.
Linford Christie, the British sprinter, has supported the view, and said a romp the night before a race made his legs feel like lead.
The idea also had support in the boxing film when the Irish trainer Mickey – told Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone Italian ‘Women weaken legs.’
The long-standing view has now been challenged by analysis of current scientific evidence, published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology.
Review lead author Doctor Laura Stefani, an Assistant Professor of Sports Medicine at the University of Florence in Italy, said: ‘Abstaining from sexual activity before athletic competition is a controversial topic in the world of sport.
‘We show no robust scientific evidence to indicate that sexual activity has a negative effect upon athletic results.’
The researchers sifted through hundreds of studies with the potential to provide evidence, however big or small, on the impact of sexual activity on sporting performance.
One of the nine studies assessed found that the strength of female former athletes didn’t differ if they had s*x the night before. Another actually observed a beneficial effect on marathon runners’ performance.
While the handful of studies provided some clues about the real effects of sex on sporting performance, Dr Stefani and her colleagues were disappointed with the research on the subject to date.
She said: ‘We clearly show that this topic has not been well investigated and only anecdotal stories have been reported.
‘In fact, unless it takes place less than two hours before, the evidence actually suggests sexual activity may have a beneficial effect on sports performance.’
The review also revealed that men were more frequently investigated than women, with no comparison of effects across genders.
And Dr Stefani said it also highlights that cultural differences in attitudes towards sexual activity may influence how much or how little impact it may have.
She added: ‘No particular importance has been laid on the psychological or physical effects of sexual activity on sports performance, or upon the different kinds of sports.’
Dr Stefani said that is an important point, given each sport’s different mental and physical challenges.
She said the review demonstrates the need for proper scientific investigation into the impact of sexual activity on sport performance, clarifying any ethical, gender and sport differences.
Dr Stefani and her team concluded that because the current evidence debunks the long-held abstinence theories, athletes should not feel guilty when engaging in their usual sexual activity up to the day before competition.