The myth surrounding sporting performance and its correlation with sex has intrigued sports scientists and coaches for decades. I decided to revisit the issue amid many reports that a large number of World Cup teams are abstaining, in the hope of achieving glory in Brazil this summer.

When we refer to the correlation between sporting performance and sex, it is worth noting that intercourse is generally seen as being a negative force the night before a race/match. Some do not delve too far into its physical effects but merely point to it as being an unnecessary distraction for athletes before an important event in their career. Removing an intimate 5 or 10 minutes, or indeed longer on the night of an important fixture is surely not too much of an ordeal, but for some Olympic teams and boxers the process is a little more painstaking.

Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali, was reported to have abstained for six weeks in the run up to a fight. It certainly seemed to do the trick for him, but there still remains little concrete evidence that supports the acts of such sporting legends. Of course, the obvious connotations of sex include reduced sleep thus the minor possibility of diminished energy for game day. Most poignant perhaps are the results of a 90’s investigation into the effects of lovemaking on oxygen pulse and aerobic power among a group of males on treadmills. They were examined on two occasions, once not having sex 12 hours before and once after making out, if you’ll excuse the formalities. Though the sample size could have been greater and indeed been retested more frequently, the results came back with absolutely no difference on performance either way.

The Greatest. But Ali is widely believed to have maintained temporary celibacy for up to six weeks before a fight

Having given a couple of examples regarding timing earlier in the article, exhaustion is now progressively being dismissed in terms of its affect on sporting activity. The majority of sexual intercourse burns a maximum of 50 calories, a quite insignificant amount. It seems more likely that the issue is a psychological one and its relevance varies from person to person. It also depends on the sport, activities that revolve around strength or rely on short bursts of pace/power can be looked at a little differently. Men involved in weightlifting, sprinting, boxing etc. will be cautious about their testosterone levels. Sex increases testosterone, so that particular concern need not be worried about.

For females, it is widely argued that orgasms actually help facilitate women to be more competitive on the athletic front. This has not been expertly validated though, and there is not a lot of research on the reasons behind this. Something that I would suggest is that there is more statistics which confront the idea of sex being destructive to performance, unless one was unable to contain themselves moments before a key encounter. On the whole it appears to be a topic that can fluctuate depending on an individual’s psyche or trail of thought, rather than one which highlights clear cut physical benefits or hindrances.

Returning to the football, and it is fascinating to see the differing remits of the national teams competing this year. Bosnian, Russian, Chilean and Mexican footballing authorities are said to have enforced a sex ban on its players. Yet the hosts have given their players a little more leeway it seems. Brazilian players are welcome to enjoy sexual dalliances but mustn’t go all the way in ‘acrobatic’ fashion. Bizarre. The French too are perfectly fine to engage in a bit of  ‘how’s your father been’, but should restrain themselves against all nighters. For entertainment’s sake, it is widely rumoured that the likes of John Obi Mikel and Shola Ameobi may sleep with their wives but spending a romantic evening with a girlfriend is out of the question.

Neymar will have to keep the acrobatics football related

There can be no generalisation about the benefits because in truth it is murky territory. Increased aggression is but a possibility, a concept. The rules outlined above simply reflect distorted concepts based on scraps of evidence and wide ranging theories. It is highly doubtful that abstinence will be a key factor behind 11 men lifting that infamous golden trophy.

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