Good news, runners: having sex the night before a big race may help you crush your goals. While many athletes and coaches have long believed that sex depletes runners of energy and testosterone, new research suggests that is a myth, and having sex pre-race may actually boost your performance.
In a meta-analysis published in Scientific Reports, researchers determined that participating in sexual activity anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours prior to a physical fitness test had no influence on participant test results. This remained true across different types of exercise assessments, including testing for aerobic capacity, musculoskeletal endurance, muscular strength and power. Sex isn’t hindering athletes–and it may provide benefits to some.
Potential benefits of sex for runners
Researchers highlighted something called the “inverted U theory of arousal” as being potentially beneficial to some individuals. The theory states that as a person becomes more aroused, athletic performance climbs. While there is a tipping point when too much arousal becomes detrimental to performance, for many athletes the theory points to sex as stress-reducing. Anxiety also falls under the inverted U theory, and too much anxiety stress can negatively affect athletic performance.
The researchers suggest that an athlete who feels nervous before a big event may benefit from having sex the night before, to help relax the body and lower anxiety levels–as long it isn’t impacting their sleep.
Find what works for you
Most of the studies collected around sex and athletic performance has been conducted on male participants, and researchers acknowledge more investigation need is needed. The science suggests athletes may respond differently, and what calms one runner down may bring levels of anxiety up in another. Runners may need to test the theory for themselves to determine whether having sex the night before a race has them feeling ramped up or mellowed out.