Can watching porn boost testosterone before hitting the gym?

It has often been believed in sporting circles that abstaining from sex before a big event is highly recommended. Quite when and where this advice originated from is unclear, although many believe it originated with the Victorians who believed a loss of semen caused a temporary loss of health and vitality.

Regardless of the notion’s origins, a number of high profile athletes and teams have embraced and strictly adhered to these guidelines. Does anyone remember the Romanian football team from Euro 2000 and their infamous team doctor, Dr Pompilu Popescu? Popescu used the analogy of the calm ox who had been castrated, and the raging bull who had no control as his hormones were out of control. Thankfully the Romanian players didn’t take this too literally and suffer the same fate as the ox but they did manage a respectable quarter final finish, having qualified from the group stages at England’s expense.

Interestingly, England football team manger Fabio Capello also adopted this no-sex strategy at the 2010 World Cup. He banned his players’ wives and girlfriends from the England camp, allowing them to see the players just once a week, an act that many applauded. This, however, didn’t exactly have the desired effect, with the team crashing out in an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Germany in the last 16.

Boxers such as Rocky Marciano and Mohammed Ali seemed to agree with Popescu’s viewpoint, reportedly abstaining for months before big fights and sprinter Linford Christie is another advocate of the no sex before big events, claiming that intercourse made his legs feel like lead. Ladies’ man George Best and star striker Romario took an altogether different view on sex before the big game, with the later stating “good strikers can only score goals when they have had good sex the night before.”

 

But can these theories be applied to your gym sessions I hear you ask...

Despite the varying views of the merits of sex before big competitions, in recent years, the notion that watching porn before workouts and athletic activity may be beneficial for performance has seemed to crop up regularly on popular bodybuilding forums and websites.

 

It is well known that a good amount of exercise can help the libido but can an active libido help exercise?

According to research on primates at Emory University, when male monkeys so much as see sexually active females, they can register a testosterone increase of up to 400 per cent. Much like our primate cousins, researchers from Rutgers University in Germany have suggested that when male humans view adult movies, their dopamine levels increase, associated with a spike in testosterone levels. The study offers good news for all the single guys out there as researchers suggest that you do not need a real-life partner to benefit from increased testosterone, simply having an erection is all you need to spur production.

In another study from 1990, Scottish scientists studied the endocrine responses to erotic stimulation. Interestingly, the study showed a non-significant rise in testosterone due to the x-rated images, however it did show a significant rise in cortisolin those who watched the neutral (non-pornographic) film, and a noticeable reduction in the levels of those who viewed the adult material. Cortisol of course, is many bodybuilders’ worst enemy due to its catabolic effects when high levels are present. This change in cortisol levels may be due to reduced prolactin and thus, high dopamine levels.

In perhaps the most promising study to date, a more recent investigation by Cook and Crewther examined the effects that different videos induced on participants’ 3 Rep Max squat performance. Participants were shown short clips of motivational, sad, training, humorous as well as erotic videos before performing their 3RM squat lift. The erotic, training and aggressive videos resulted in a significant improvement in the squat performance compared to the neutral control videos.

So does that mean we should all watch a blue movie before we hit the gym? There probably needs to be some more solid research in the area before we can categorically promote this (in addition to the ethical issues involved). However, if you would like to try this to see if you can push out an extra rep or hit your PBs then please do let us know how it goes (the training, not the bit before!). Be sure to remember to do so in the privacy of your own home, rather than at the gym on your iPhone which will generally be seen as inappropriate gym etiquette and may well elicit some dodgy looks.


David Rowse
By David Rowse

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