If you’ve opened the sports section at all in the past few weeks, you’ve probably already heard it: Russell Wilson is killing it. The Seahawks moved up to sixth in NFL rankings last weekend after the quarterback helped the team dominate the Vikings, 38 to 7. In fact, Wilson is currently second in the NFL in completion percentage and third in quarterback ratings. But could the QB’s prowess be a result of the other reason his name has been in the headlines this year—his public declaration that he is abstaining from premarital sex with his girlfriend, singer Ciara?
The question of whether the last time an athlete got lucky makes or breaks a championship game is as serious and personal as the rest of the player’s pre-performance ritual. Most guys fall hard on one side or the other. NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, for example, announced a few years ago that he was abstaining until marriage. Rocky Balboa swore off sex before every major match (as did the real-life Marciano before retiring 49-0) and Muhammad Ali famously said no to nookie for the six weeks before a fight. Most of the World Cup players were sexually frustrated when they hit the field as per their coaches’ instructions.
On the other hand, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath famously prepared for the Super Bowl III game by logging plenty of hours between the sheets. Like Tebow, New York Giants cornerback Prince Amukamaraa was waiting until marriage, and interestingly, he ended up having his best season yet last year—the same year he tied the knot. And Wilson helped the Seahawks win the 2014 Super Bowl before his pledge to celibacy.
So when it comes to a championship game or even your daily workout, does recent whoopie help or hurt come go time? “This is actually a fairly complex topic,” says Joel Seedman, Ph.D., founder of training studio Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta. “There are multiple factors that come into play including physiological, psychological, hormonal, as well as ethical and moral aspects.”
For the most part, research shows little difference in how having or abstaining from sex the night before affects performance markers or testosterone levels. A small study in the mid-90s found that men performed just as well on a treadmill 12 hours after getting laid as when they abstained from sex, while a later Swiss study found pretty much the same thing on stationary bikes. However, many coaches and athletes claim the opposite—that getting down less than 24 hours before a competition does in fact negatively impact performance, Seedman says.
So which is it?