Another major mood killer? A crappy diet. The foods you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat them can mess with your energy levels, blood flow, and hormones — all key players in supercharging your sex life.
Think about it: There are plenty of foods that help you get it up, keep your sperm healthy, and boost your testosterone. So naturally, some eating habits exist on the other end of the libido-killing spectrum.
Here, six ways your diet can tank your sex life — and exactly what you can do to get your performance up to par.
“A healthy heart equals healthy sex,” says Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., a urologist at Orlando Health. Just like any workout, an A+ bedroom session requires strength, stamina, and endurance. In other words, any eating habit that’s bad for your gym game is also bad for your sex life.
Eating a diet high in unhealthy fats and added sugars can exacerbate the issue. “It is commonly known that obese men have lower levels of testosterone,” explains Dr. Brahmbhatt, the hormone that fuels your sex drive. That doesn’t mean all heavier guys have low T, but you are at a higher risk when the number on your scale starts to spike.
The remedy? Eat a diet full of various nutrient-dense whole foods (these foods that help your penis perform are a good start) and get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, says Dr. Brahmbhatt. “Anything that helps decrease the amount of fat in your body will help your testosterone levels naturally go up,” he says. “The more your body can tolerate physical activity and exercise, the more likely you will be able to go longer and stronger in the bedroom.”
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Your daily coffee might play a bigger role in bed than you realize. That’s because your caffeine intake can impact your circulation. In a preliminary study from the American Heart Association, people who drank a caffeinated cup of coffee (typically around 100 milligrams of caffeine) experienced a 30 percent increase in blood flow over the next 75 minutes compared to those who downed decaf.
The researchers theorize that caffeine might improve the function of your small blood vessels and reduce inflammation, both good signs for your heart.
That means it could benefit your penis, too. “A large part of sexual health is about increasing blood flow,” says Joshua Gonzalez, M.D., a urologist specializing in sexual medicine in Los Angeles, since better blood flow equals better erections.
While the study is far from conclusive enough to turn Starbucks into a Viagra alternative, it does suggest that drinking decaf might set you back. Sex is already hard enough to get through when you’re exhausted, so the extra cup of Joe might be just what you need to perk your penis up.
There’s real science behind the dreaded whiskey dick. Sure, booze may relax you enough to pull out your best pickup lines, but going too hard means you might have trouble getting it up later, says Dr. Brahmbhatt
That round of shots tanks your erection in a few ways. Alcohol is a depressant, so it can “numb the feelings of sexual stimulation and alter the blood flow in and out of your penis,” Dr. Brahmbhatt explains. As your body works to flush the alcohol from your system, it will prioritize that instead of your hard on.
Heavy drinking can dip your testosterone while raising your estrogen levels, which can sap your libido, bring your mood down, and make it harder to achieve orgasm, even when you can get an erection, says Dr. Brahmbhatt.
“Heavy drinking” is defined as more than four drinks a day or 14 drinks per week, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Research also suggests that chronic drinking can permanently damage the cells in your testicles, which could impact your ability to have kids later on.
“There is no amount of alcohol that is ‘safe’ for your erection,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “I usually tell patients that the more they drink, the harder it will be for them to stay hard. One drink probably wont make it or break it for the average guy, but the more alcohol consumed, the greater chance of killing your erection.”
Cut yourself off early and stick to the recommended limit of two drinks per day.
Sugar is a sex life killer on a few fronts. First up, “diets that are high in sugar are going to impact your overall cardiovascular health,” says Dr. Gonzalez, which subsequently impacts your penis health.
Sugar also lowers your libido by reducing testosterone levels. In a 2013 study published in Clinical Endocrinology, researchers measured the T levels in guys aged 19 to 74 after they ate 75 grams of sugar, which is double the recommended daily intake for men. They saw a 25 percent decrease in average testosterone levels after they downed the sweet stuff, which remained suppressed for up to two hours.
Finally, don’t forget about the sugar crash, says Dr. Gonzalez. “If you’re eating a high sugar meal and you crash afterward, you’re likely to be more fatigued.” That’s because sugar can flip switches in your brain, turning off neurons that help keep you alert while flipping on neurons that make you feel sleepy.
Stick to naturally occurring sugars, like those in fruit, when possible. When it comes to added sugars — like those found soda and baked goods — the American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 36 grams per day for men.
Piling too much food on your plate can slow things down in bed, says Dr. Brahmbhatt. Not only does it lead to weight gain, but it also sets you up for a major energy slump.
“If you over eat, especially carbs and sugar, you may crash and feel too tired to do anything but lay on the couch or sleep,” he explains. Besides feeling sluggish from the amount of food, sticking with refined carbs (think white bread and sugary cereal) rapidly spikes your blood sugar. Your body tries to fight back by pumping out more insulin, making you feel even more tired.
So if you know you want to get it on later, try to eat more frequently throughout your day, rather than scarfing down a giant dinner. So instead of three huge meals, aim for four or five smaller ones full of protein and slower-digesting carbs that are full of fiber, like oats, quinoa, and vegetables.