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Can Sex Boost Athletic Performance? [Body Blog]


The Olympics are always a big event, but this year the games – and especially the athletes – seemed to attract more attention than ever before. And in between everyone and their mother obsessing over Ryan Lochte’s abs and Gabby Douglas’ flawless routines, a few juicy tidbits about the Olympic village captured our attention. One of those tidbits was the fact that the International Olympic Committee distributed 150,000 condoms to the athletes this year.

This came as no surprise to me. A bunch of ridiculously hot people in close quarters, combined with the adrenaline highs and excitement of competition? Of course they were getting it on. But apparently, the condom giveaway would have come as a big surprise about 50 years ago. In the late 50s and early 60s, many coaches told their trainees that they should abstain from sex before big competitions. The worry was that sex would sap an athlete’s energy, and harm their performance.

While certain coaches and athletes still insist that it’s best to abstain at least the night before a big event or competition, some have challenged that belief in recent years. One study found that, for male athletes, sex may improve athletic performance because it boosts testosterone levels. This causes an increase in strength and competitiveness. It’s also a well-known fact that orgasms provide powerful pain relief and reduce stress. There’s a belief that this could aid athletic performance by reducing pain from sore muscles, and helping to calm an athlete’s nerves.

Juan Carlos Medina, coordinator of the sports department at a university in Mexico, is all about sex before competition. He told CNN that sex makes athletes feel relaxed and satisfied, reducing anxiety levels before key competitions. But there’s no definitive scientific evidence that sex improves performance. There’s no concrete evidence that it harms performance, either.

So, athletes out there, what do you think? I’d say that judging from all those condoms in the Olympic village, and the amazing feats we saw every day during the games, sex can’t hurt. But is sex Michael Phelps’ secret weapon? The world may never know.

Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. She is “that person” who starts dancing at a party when everyone else is standing around, and if there were a Facebook stalking Olympics, she would be a gold medalist. She also loves cheesy 90s music, and almost died of happiness when Vanilla Ice retweeted her. Once. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.

    Dancer, choreographer, personal trainer, and freelance writer based in New York City. More here.