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Abstinence vs Activity: attitudes on sex before sports competition changing with new research

Recently UFC Womens Champion Ronday Rousey has advocated the benefit of sexual intercourse leading up to a fight, and now an article on espnW reveals a change in thinking when it comes to the relationship between sex and sports performance.

Esther Lin

Abstinence from sex in sport has been a long held tradition when it comes to effecting or optimising performance. Any MMA fan who has watched the documentary 'Choke' will have witnessed Rickson Gracie advocating and practising abstinence as he prepares for the Japan Vale Tudo event, believing the energy he's saved can be used to enhance his physical capabilities.

Many other sportsmen -- such as this weekend's Boxing main eventer Manny Pacquiao -- have also believed that sexual activity can drain them of their testosterone, the body's natural anabolic steroidal hormone necessary for muscle growth and repair.

As a recent espnW article goes on to explain, the advice of abstinence is believed to have originated from Ancient Greek scholar Plato in 444 BC, when he said "Olympic competitors before races should avoid sexual intimacy."

The article's main focus though is how this belief is changing among not only sportsmen, but scientists looking at the body's biochemistry and testosterone production:

As for the fairer sex, at least one prominent female fighter thinks Plato had it all wrong. Ronda Rousey, the No. 1 ranked female MMA fighter in the world and the first woman signed to the UFC, said last week on "Jim Rome on Showtime" that she likes to get busy in the bed before she gets nasty in the ring.

"For girls, it raises your testosterone so I try to have as much sex as possible before I fight, actually," Rousey, 25, told Rome. "Not with like everybody," she said with a laugh. "I don't, like, put out Craigslist ads or anything. But if I've got a steady I'm going to be like 'Yo, fight time's coming up.'"

Roman philosopher Pliny The Elder is in Rousey's corner for this fight. He wrote, in 77 AD: "Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by lovemaking."

So which really old dude was right?

A study from Georgia State University's Department of Psychology sides with Pliny and Rousey, stating that testosterone levels in both males and females "increased across the evening when there was intercourse and decreased when there was none."

Emmanuele A. Jannini, a professor of endocrinology at the University of L'Aquila in Italy, agrees. He says sex stimulates the production of testosterone, thus boosting aggression.

"After three months without sex, which is not so uncommon for some athletes, testosterone dramatically drops to levels close to children's levels," Jannini said. "Do you think this may be useful for a boxer?"

The whole article is worth a read, citing more studies that support the 'Sex Helps' line of thinking, and also talks about the how the psychological impact of Abstinence vs Activity has yet to be determined through research. It does suggest sex on game day or the night before could be detrimental to an athlete, possibly due to staying up late trying to score.

What's your position on sex before sports, BElitists?

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