Should Athletes Have Sex Before A Big Match?

Posted On: September 14, 2021

Should Athletes Have Sex Before A Big MatchThis article was first published for here.

The relationship between sex and athletic performance has been debated for centuries. Here’s what some of the science says.

The role of testosterone

Men may have more of it, but testosterone affects both men and women. It impacts athletic performance and low levels are linked to low energy, decreased strength and increased body fat. It also affects sex drive.

While short, high-intensity training boosts testosterone levels in both men and women, low-intensity endurance training decreases it, which not only affects performance but also the desire for sex.

It’s a downward spiral: low testosterone = low sex drive. Low sex drive = lower endorphins. More cortisol = anxiety = less sex drive. Plus, lower testosterone makes hitting those higher intensity sessions more difficult.

What does the science say?

Although there have been clinical studies attempting to ascertain the answer, the results don’t point strongly one way or the other. One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine concluded that “sex had no statistically significant effect on athletic performance,” and others have produced the same results. In other words, we can assume it doesn’t harm performance, but you’re most likely not going to benefit either.

How about anecdotal evidence?

Regardless of the science, it appears many athletes believe athletic performance does improve after sex. This could be due to the release of endorphins, feelings of satisfaction or merely emotional connectivity with your partner.

We tend to look for hard science, but anecdotal evidence still has a place. If you feel something is benefitting you, then you should go for it.

When to refrain from sex pre-competition

There are only really two circumstances in which it’d be better to refrain.

Sports which require a great deal of concentration can be negatively impacted by sex. We’re talking about pool, snooker, darts and so on.

If your sex sessions take so long it disrupts your sleep. We know sleep is a massive performance enhancer, so if your escapades see you swinging from the rafters all night long, then you might want to hold fire until the day after competition!

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Sex advice for athletes

All in all, athletes attending the Olympic Games in Rio this month should not worry excessively about how sex may affect their competitions, said Emmanuele Jannini, professor of endocrinology and medical sexology at the University of Rome-Tor Vergata in Italy.

“Sex is not just fun but also healthy,” he said, “however, if concentration is important, I would suggest to avoid sex for some few days before the game.”

Bishop, the sports scientist in Australia, advised against having sex only if it was going to affect sleep.

“If sex is going to affect performance, it will be via a lack of sleep. … Wait until after your final event,” he said, adding, “but I can’t see any problems with having sex and then getting a good night’s sleep.”

However, the current consensus among coaches and trainers seems to be that each athlete should make the individual choice of whether to have sex in the midst of a major competition.

“Current thinking in elite sports is that athletes should act in ways they consider ‘normal’ and not do something that goes against their beliefs, which will induce guilt, such as believing pre-competition sex is not good for you and yet engage in sex anyway,” said Mark Anshel, professor emeritus at Middle Tennessee State University’s Department of Health and Human Performance.

“A lot of athletes feel guilt-free and OK about pre-competition sex because it helps them sleep better as long as their sleep is not disrupted and sex does not follow a night of partying and alcohol intake,” he said. “Most contemporary coaches seem to agree.”


1. Crosbie, J. (2017, October 13). Here’s Why Professional Athletes Like Dak Prescott Keep Swearing Off Sex. Men’s Health.

2. Eacott, J. (2019, September 26). How Can Sex Affect Your Athletic Performance?Trainingpeaks.Com.

3. Howard, J. C. (2016, August 8). The myth of sex and athletic performance, explained. CNN.

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice for more than 12 years, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore. She is also a Red Tent Women’s Circles Facilitator from Star of Ishtar.

Often cited in the media, Dr. Lee is the appointed Resident Sexologist for; as well appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She has published four books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic YogaFrom Princess to Queen and {Un}Inhibited.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.

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