Sex and athletic performance: Does intimacy really weaken knees?Written by Lee Cleveland
In the first Rocky movie, Rocky's trainer tells him not to have sex with Adrian before his fight because "women weaken knees."
Truth or myth?
It's an axiom that has existed in athletics (not just boxing) for quite a while as many surmise that sex before competition sapps energy.
Earlier this year, unified super middleweight champion Carl Froch said he abstained from sex for three months prior to his rematch with George Groves, insisting his legs are stronger when he's not intimate.
"I haven't got any vices at all except for my beautiful partner Rachael, and I don't go near her for three months, believe it or not, before a fight because I think abstaining keeps my legs strong, it might be a myth, but for me mentally," Froch told BBC in May.
"And that affects my relationship but it's given me what I would have never ever had through any other walk of life because I'm not good enough at anything else."
But actually, the theory behind the 'no sex before competitions' hypothesis isn't that intercourse weakens legs. However, since ejaculating eliminates testosterone from the body, managers, coaches and trainers are concerned that it may negatively impact an athlete's level of aggression.
In contrast, some scientists say there is no physiological evidence to suggest that sex before competition is detrimental. In fact, some studies suggest that sex may actually aid athletes by raising their testosterone levels in the long run.
In 2000, Ian Shrier, a sports medicine specialist at McGill University in Montreal, published an editorial titled Does Sex the Night Before Competition Decrease Performance? in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. He wrote that the "long-standing myth that athletes should practice abstinence before important competitions may stem from the theory that sexual deprivation leads to increased aggression."
The abstinence hypothesis is prevalent in power sports, such as boxing, MMA and football, where aggression is considered a valuable trait.
Side effects of sex before fighting are thought to be:
- Reduced energy
- Weakened Legs
- Decreased aggression
- Reduced testosterone
Proponents of pre fight sex argue sex before a fight:
- Relaxes athletes
- Combats existing chronic pain
- Releases anxiety and tension
- Increases focus
- Promotes testosterone release (potentially increasing performance)
- Boosts your performance psychologically
Confusing isn't it?
Perhaps it's all psychological?
Maybe, just maybe, having sex prior to a big fight reduces one's motivation to succeed and weakens an individual's competitive spirit? After all, by enjoying one of the spoils of success (sex), one may lose the desire to fight for it.
Perhaps it's akin to eating dessert before dinner. Not only will feasting on that thick slice of chocolate cake likely ruin your appetite, you may not want to eat your brussels sprouts and all of the other more nutritious food on your plate if you choose to indulge in the yummy stuff before dinner.
For contact sports like boxing, football and MMA, abstaining from sex prior to a big event may help athletes retain that competitive edge the same way a fighter who trains in a hot, musky gym may have a little more grit and tenacity than an opponent who works out in a comfortable, plush facility.
So does sex prior to a competition hinder athletic performance?
Who knows? Perhaps its impact is not the same for everyone.
The debate will rage on...
If you're a fighter or athlete in another contact sport, experiment to learn what works best for you. If you have already done so, please share your results and insight with us.
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.