Sexual Health and Fitness

I am certain that many of you who are reading this do care about how your performance in bed gets influenced by a healthy lifestyle.  As much as men care, I know so do women.

But before we get into the depth of it, let me clarify that this article is not meant to cure your sexual health problems through some supplements or any kind of magic, but rather it’s the reality and realization of how fitness affects your sex lives.

Let me start with the root cause of most of the issues: Obesity.

Whatever problems you have in bed, you will find most fingers pointing to all those stored layers and tyres, and the verdict is almost always that “your obesity is likely the reason for your under-performance.” Is there any truth to this? The answer to this, unequivocally, a Yes.

In one of the researches, it was found that obese men have much higher chances of erectile and sexual dysfunction [1]. The best performance is one where you can supply blood to your organ as fast as possible. With obese men, that’s not the case. The functioning of the endothelium is affected in obese men which hampers the supply of blood to your organ. Well, how do you know you are obese? Stand up and look down, can you see your toes? No? Well, I am sorry, you are obese.

Obesity, Sexual Health, and Gender

Does obesity cause sexual health problems only in men? Definitely not.  In one of the studies, it showed that obesity has caused problems in sexual lives of women as well [2].

But can an obsession with fitness affect sex life? I would say, “it depends.”

Dieting and its impact on sexual health

1. Extreme Calorie-Deficit Diet

Let’s say you are one of those who want to drop your body fat percentage, and therefore start with extreme calorie deficit. Extreme calorie deficit can lead to loss of many nutrients, which directly or indirectly affects your sexual functions. In one of the studies, a calorie-restricted diet drastically reduced serum Total Testosterone, Estradiol, and the sex hormone-binding Globulin [3]. Just to clarify, when we talk about calorie restriction here, it’s way lower than BMR.

That is one of the reasons why some of the bodybuilders complain about lower sex drive, especially during the preparation phase, but after the competition when they get back to their maintenance calories, their sex drive returns to normalcy. My statement is supported by one of the studies in this field [4].

2. Avoiding Saturated Fats

One of the major reasons even many fit people lack in satisfactory performance in bed is because they completely avoid saturated fats.  Saturated fats can greatly help in production of testosterone. Now we all know testosterone has many functions, one of which improves your libido, if the testosterone is produced naturally and not ‘injected’ or ‘orally’ taken. There are many studies which advocate high fat diets to improve your testosterone levels, and state that surviving on low fat diets can cause lower testosterone production[5][6][7] .

Now, will this mean that with diets like ketogenic diet, if we eat just under maintenance, our sex lives will improve greatly? Is it keto for life, then?

Perhaps that is too hasty a conclusion to form.

I can point you to one research which show that low-carb diets actually reduce your testosterone levels and can impact your sex lives adversely, and another study showing how carbs are important in producing free testosterone [8][9][10].

So does that now mean carbohydrates are better for better sex life? More carbs = better performance?

Agreed that research results may sound contradictory and confusing. To help you, I have presented my final conclusion on this in the final paragraph of this article. Do read on till the end to get your answer to the carb problem!

Exercise and its impact on sexual health

Next, we will be focusing on effects of exercise. When we exercise, we release feel-good hormones called Endorphins. These are the same hormones which are released during sex. The logic is simple, the more you trigger the release of endorphins in your daily routine, the more you will trigger this hormone even during sexual activity. And of course, your interest in sex will also be enhanced. You must have noticed, after incorporating exercise in your lifestyle, you are more sexually aroused, and now you know why.

So what kind of exercise needs to be done? Well, nothing beats good old weightlifting or any forms of it.

Some people might think, doing cardiovascular exercises, for instance jogging, will increase their ‘stamina’. Well, it definitely does increase your stamina – your stamina for jogging. No doubt a good cardio routine improves your cardiovascular health, but sexual health isn’t just about cardiovascular health.  In fact, to support my statement, there is a research which says low intensity cardio actually reduces testosterone levels [11]. However there is no harm doing HIIT every now and then.

The main idea is to increase blood flow in all your organs and keep your heart rate up. If you do weight lifting right, your cardiovascular health will be in check (Diet adherence is important just as much).

Women, exercise, and sexual health

Ladies, getting bored?  I have some insights for you too. Exercise improves sexual function and brings in stronger orgasms in females [12] [13]. So don’t just expect your men to perform and lead, buckle up and hit some weights yourself! 

In conclusion

So far, we have talked about many things, but what are the key take home points?

  • If you are obese, stop being obese – do something about it. Get on a structured diet and training plan, and make yourself fit. There is simply no doubt that a physically fit body contributes vastly to sexual appeal.
  • If you don’t exercise, start exercising.
  • If you smoke, stop smoking for your better sexual health [14].
  • If you drink alcohol, male or female, you may want to reconsider your decision. It adversely affects sexual health and libido in both genders [15] [16].
  • If you feel while in your weight loss journey that your sexual stamina has reduced, check your calories. If you are at an appreciable deficit (i.e., not too low on calories) and still facing the issue, then let me give you a way to deal with it – Fix your system first, get leaner. Once you get leaner, you definitely will bump your calories to near maintenance and perhaps even more. Researches have shown, the fitter body performs better than the obese one. So the question to consider is, just because of the temporary loss of sexual stamina, are you willing to stay obese and start an irreversible downfall of your sexual health? Or are you thinking “since I am doing well on bed while being obese, let me stay obese…” No, you are never doing well by being obese; you may be capable of doing a LOT BETTER once you are not obese.
  • Don’t worry. Be happy. Having a happy mind actually helps you perform lot better on bed. Don’t stress yourself too much [17].
  • If you are not sleeping well, then focus on improving your sleep quality. Researches have confirmed the ill-effects of less sleep on sexual health [18].
  • If you are thinking of cutting down some macros in order to improve sexual health and performance, then I would suggest you think again based on the recent researches. Have a balanced meal of all 3 macros (if you are not on any macro deficient diet for health/fitness goals). Don’t cut down on your fats. Include Saturated fats in your diet. Recent researches support the idea that ingestion of saturated fats leads to better sexual health. Now you may argue, should you follow Keto at maintenance? Well try it for 3 months and be your own judge. Should you follow a diet which involves carbs? Again, try it for 3 months and decide based on how your body responds. If including carbs, try to include more fibrous and nutrient dense carbs just to get the best out of it. Remember that every body is different, and reacts differently to diets. 

The final advice is this –  if you are not fit, first get fit, then start eating near your maintenance caloric levels, and exercise regularly. Addressing the root issues is the first step not just towards physical, but also mental as well as sexual health.

 

Article Credits – Matin Sheikh

References:

  1. http://www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v17/n5/full/3901333a.html?foxtrotcallback=true
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20485360
  3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1474-9726.2010.00553.x/full
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23412685
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6298507
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15741266
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8942407
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8495690
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3573976
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20091182
  11. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1207%2Fs15327558ijbm0201_2
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18221285
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1513197/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3003263/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3159513/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1273207
  17. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jcem.83.6.4843
  18. http://www.sono.org.br/pdf/2008_Andersen_Sleep_Med_Rev.pdf)