"Not tonight, dear, I'm preserving my manhood."
It's a widely held belief in the world of athletics that you're not supposed to put out before any big game or competition. People (a lot of men) seem to think that if they're having sex before a huge performance, some essence or virility will escape from the tip of their penis and render them completely useless. This superstition extends far beyond the realm of sports: performers of all types have been preserving their juices, so to speak, for fear that their sexual spirit is somehow linked to talent and performance. Turns out, this is all bunk.
When I was dating a musician, he would never want to have sex the day before a show, expressing that, "I don't know, I just don't want to lose anything." "Lose what?" I asked, honestly wondering what could happen between heated foreplay and a post-sex snack that could possibly mess up his concert. What could happen, would he ejaculate out his sense of melody? He wasn't alone in that self-damning, hocus-pocus talk. Rumor has it that Muhammad Ali wouldn't have sex for up to six weeks before a big fight. Mark Levy, former coach of the Buffalo Bills, famously banned his players from sex with their partners for a few weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. As Mickey, the trainer from Rocky, succinctly put it, "Women weaken legs."
The line of reasoning behind this call for abstinence has been that the sexually frustrated remain the most aggressive, and therefore, the best competitors. But ejaculation doesn't draw testosterone from the body as some would assume. Also, sex isn't as demanding a physical expenditure as, say, jogging. Sex only burns an average of 144 calories an hour, and most of us never make it even a quarter of the way to that time.
A 2000 study from the Journal of Clinical Sports Medicine looked at 14 married men who performed a maximum grip strength test on a morning after a sex session and then another morning after not having sex for six days. Doing it before exercising had absolutely no impact on the men's balance, reaction time, or aerobic power. Meaning the sex-before-a-performance hex might just be in everyone's heads. Sex, and the attendant romantic feelings that sometimes come in its wake, can be pretty mentally distracting. Love is a work out, but it won't ruin one.
The effect boning has on our performances — musical, theatrical, or athletic — probably relates more to how we think about sex and talent than any hormones levels or post-coital exhaustion. Afterall, Marty Liquori, one the highest ranked 5,000-meter runners, claims, “Sex makes you happy, and happy people don't run a 3:47 mile.”
Image via Fotopedia.