middle aged man considering taking Viagra before working out

Why Are Some Men Taking Viagra Before Working Out?

Highlights

  • Some believe that Viagra and other ED medications can support exercise performance or muscle growth through a variety of possible mechanisms.
  • No convincing evidence exists to indicate that erectile dysfunction medications significantly improve athletic performance, despite several decades of research.
  • Taking Viagra as prescribed will not affect your workouts.
  • Gaining the supposed benefits of taking Viagra before working out can be more easily achieved with regular cardio and a healthy diet.

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Dr. Michael DiLeo
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Convinced that it gives them an edge, a growing number of bodybuilders and exercise fans are taking Viagra before the gym. They theorize that if ED medications can temporarily maximize blood flow to the penis, it’s possible they could do the same for muscle groups targeted during exercise routines. 

Like many claims, however, the science doesn’t line up with the beliefs. Read about the perceived Viagra exercise benefits, the science behind Viagra and athletic performance, and what’s safe and what isn’t.

What Are the Theories Concerning Viagra and Athletic Performance?

The basic idea, that Viagra increases blood flow throughout the body, is correct. Viagra, and other ED medications, are vasodilators, acting on a specific enzyme in the body to prevent the breakdown of nitric oxide, allowing more blood flow into the penis. It doesn’t just work on the penis, though; these effects happen throughout the body.

The theory is that more blood flow to the muscles lets you push harder and go further in a given workout. Some observers suggest that the use of ED drugs in connection with strenuous exercise got its start when bodybuilders taking anabolic steroids began taking Viagra or Cialis to counteract the impotence often caused by steroids.

Is Viagra Safe For Workouts?

man working out outdoors before taking viagra

First of all, if you’re taking Viagra as directed, you don’t need to worry about side effects from Viagra and exercise. Viagra has a half-life of around four hours, meaning it takes that long to leave your body. So, unless you hit the gym right after getting romantic, it won’t help you.

Bodybuilders, however, are supposedly taking Viagra regularly as part of their workout routine, and the routine use of ED drugs to maximize the benefits of physical exercise is a bad idea, according to most medical professionals.

Urologist Jamin V. Brahmbhatt, M.D., an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine, told MensHealth.com that the Viagra-workout combo exposes devotees to the entire range of side effects. These include the possibility of priapism, an erection that persists for four hours or more, or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Furthermore, the higher the dose, the more likely the side effects.

Brahmbhatt also pointed out that scientific study of ED medications’ benefits in enhancing exercise performance is thus far very limited and not particularly encouraging in terms of its findings to date.

The most commonly cited study is from 2006. It did find some promising results for performance in low oxygen environments. What it didn’t find, however, was any meaningful difference when oxygen was at normal levels.

Is Viagra for Endurance A Good Idea?

Some of the urban legends are based on actual science. It seems that Viagra can, potentially, increase your endurance. However, so far, that’s only been reported in very specific circumstances, usually at high altitudes or in low-oxygen environments. That is, it will bring your physiology back to normal.

If you’re in a suboptimal metabolic environment, such as high altitude, a “return to normal” may well seem like the urban legend come true.

One 2004 study, for example,  looked at the relative benefits of supplementation with sildenafil, Viagra’s active ingredient, on exercise performance at or near sea level and again at elevations of 12,000 feet or more. While the sildenafil did little to improve performance at sea level, it did appear to modestly improve performance at extreme elevations.

Overall, the consensus is that it does seem that some people can benefit from ED drugs in certain situations, but it depends on multiple variables and isn’t consistent. Probably a better way to build endurance, and to help with ED, is to do it the old-fashioned way, with cardio. A recent study found that at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise, three times a week, helped men with ED better manage their symptoms.

It should also be noted that while Viagra or Cialis might help to treat symptoms of ED that arise because of steroid use, the damage caused by steroids extends far beyond its impact on erectile function. And there is no indication that ED medications would help to undo that damage.

Should I Use Viagra for Workouts?

middle-aged man stretching before viagra

ED drugs temporarily increase the body’s preservation of nitric oxide levels, as we noted, which has been widely touted by some as helping to build muscle. But while nitric oxide does play a key role in the body by promoting blood flow, it’s not clear what, if any, function it has in muscle growth.

For example, one 2015 study with a small sample found that preserving and maintaining nitric oxide levels might help with muscle strengthening but not muscle power — that is, the ability of the body to perform an exercise repeatedly. A review conducted in 2023 found promise but cautioned that more research was needed.

There is some intriguing science that indicates there may be some truth to the claims around Viagra and muscle growth. One 2013 study found evidence it encourages muscle building and reduces fatigue and a rat study from 2016 got similar results.

With the small studies thus far, it may be that those who exercised during the studies got their results just from the exercise! It doesn’t appear that the in-depth research we need most, with large groups of men participating in a study, has been conducted.

In short, the best science has given us is an “it depends” on nitric oxide, and it’s worth noting that ED medication is not the only way to get more nitric oxide into your bloodstream.

Can I Avoid Viagra Workout Side Effects?

middle-aged man running

If you want to see if nitric oxide can help with your workouts, you don’t have to pop a Viagra and risk the side effects. The body naturally makes nitric oxide, and eating foods high in specific nutrients can help you get more of it into your bloodstream.

Perhaps the most famous food in this category is beets. The nitrates in beets are so abundant and widely available, they have an entire set of claims around treating erectile dysfunction on their own. While beets aren’t a miracle cure, they are good for you and fairly easy to add to your diet.

Other nutrients that can have a beneficial effect on erectile function are the amino acids L-citrulline, found in squash, pumpkin, cucumber, and melons, and L-arginine, found in meat and fish, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and dairy products.

You might notice that the overall conclusions here dovetail with two keys to ED management: eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Also, the well-established “mind-body” connection is best served with these two lifestyle options. After all, sex begins in the head.

Whether you’re looking to perform in the bedroom or the weight room, the science is clear: Start with the basics, and stick to the FDA-approved uses for prescription medication like Viagra.

Get Viagra for ED

However, if your need for Viagra, Cialis, or another ED drug is based on its ability to improve erectile function, check out all the services available from eDrugstore. We stock a full range of ED medications, including both brand-name and generic products. Based in Tempe, Arizona, we sell only FDA-approved products, all of which are dispensed by licensed U.S. pharmacists. To learn more and get your free online medical consultation, visit our erectile dysfunction page.

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