You may have heard that sex before a race can hinder your performance, but researchers have found it may have the opposite effect.
Looking to get an edge before your next half marathon? Hop between the sheets for a little afternoon delight. Runners can harness the power of a totally legal, hugely beneficial PED (performance-enhancing drug), and it’s called S-E-X—you get it.
For years, a commonly held belief among athletes and coaches has been that knocking boots will negatively affect athletic performance in the days following the act. Even Plato, in all of his wisdom, once recommended Olympians should abstain from sex before competition. Muhammad Ali was an outspoken proponent of this “fact,” as was Marv Levy, the Buffalo Bills coach who separated his players from their partners before the Super Bowl. Many runners—age-groupers and pros alike—admit they avoid sex in the days and weeks leading up to a major race.
But despite this anecdotal “evidence,” scientists have found the combo of fitness and fornication is not a recipe for disaster. Sam McGlone, a former triathlon world champion turned M.D., conducted a review of sports and sex studies and found that strength and aerobic power are no different in athletes who are sexually active when compared to those who are abstinent.
On the contrary: Arousal may actually benefit women about to undertake a tough training session or race. According to studies out of Rutgers University, having sex can increase a woman’s pain tolerance for up to 24 hours after the act, meaning a wrestle in the sheets at night could mean a PR the next morning.
“Intercourse releases neurotransmitters that block pain, elevate energy and promote feelings of happiness,” says Pete McCall of the American Council on Exercise. In his work, McCall has encountered several women who utilize pre-race nooky as a performance aid: “Some say it helps them relax if they are feeling anxious about a race. Intercourse also improves the respiratory rate during exercise by warming up the respiratory muscles prior to performance.”
Don’t worry about the physicality of the act impeding your performance. The average sexual encounter lasts 7.3 minutes and burns about 3 calories per minute, so it won’t deplete your race mojo. In fact, McCall says the metabolic equivalent (MET) of sex is comparable to walking 2.8 miles per hour on a level surface.
No partner? No problem. It’s likely a solo session—either manually or with the use of a vibrator—will yield the same results. In fact, the first researchers of sex, William Masters and Virginia Johnson, noted it is common among women to masturbate for analgesic effect.
This is the kind of pre-race strategy that makes us say yes, yes, YES!