If you clicked over because of the headline, great. But this isn't some click-bait piece, this is a serious post, directed at those who have had their fitness and "health" activities impact their intimate time in negative and sometimes devastating ways, or those who want to know why this level of exercise can have incredibly deep and long-lasting negative effects on their body.
As seen by the recent article shared by Men's Health, this issue is far more common than we may like to admit, as it reaches FAR beyond the fitness pageant and body-builder communities, effecting lives of "average Joe's and Jane's", whose lives have come to revolve around their "fitness" routines which have reached truly unhealthy levels.
But I'm an "Athlete" living a "Healthy lifestyle"!
Sex, much like eating disorders and body image disorders, tends to be a very taboo subject that doesn't get much exposure in the fitness industry. And why would it? Yes, sex is used to sell, no doubt, hell, look at instagram and all the beautiful women and ripped men who have tens of thousands of "followers" purely because of looks? And of course, those followers blindly follow whatever these "Insta-celebs" post and sell as workout plans, despite their complete lack of any knowledge or expertise beyond what they do.....which leads to their followers having injuries and pain, because these programs are, well, stupid.
But I digress. Yet, this has very much to do with what the media and world around you are telling you is a "healthy lifestyle" negatively effecting your sex drive. Let's dive in.
When it comes to living a "Healthy lifestyle" in the last few years leading up to 2017, it's come to mean that one spends exorbitant amount of time in the gym/on the road/in the pool/at the "box", and one's life revolves around the exclusion of food from their diet because they're not "Paleo" or because they're "On a cleanse".
This is an incredible juxtaposition to what a truly healthy lifestyle is, and is a major factor as to why so many who are trying to "get healthy" feel that they are successful ONLY once they reach the place of taking half-naked selfies in the bathroom mirror, have super-low body fat, and have 200+ likes and comments from people telling them how "Skinny" or "hot" they look.
The truly funny (In a Shakespearean way) thing about this, is that while they look sexy and have all these folks telling them how hot they are, when it comes down to this person ACTUALLY spending time with someone whom they WANT to have sex with....they "Don't have the drive" or "Don't have the energy". This is a big, giant sign telling you that there is something really wrong.
The whole idea behind "getting healthy" is to raise the level at which our body and mind can function, increase the ability of the bodies cells and systems to function, allowing us to better regulate everything from our temperature & hormone levels, to our metabolism, thus boosting our ability to remain mobile and active in our lives. This means less time sick or being cared for by others, and more time out living our lives and doing things we love.
But this has been lost in the last X years, as social media and media have been feeding us the equivalent of the worst kind of mental junk food possible.
For the sake of brevity, let's cut the crap and get to the point:
If you are working out to the point that your social life, sex drive, and hormones are being negatively effected, either you are an athlete in the final 6-8 weeks leading up to a peak event, or you have a problem and should seek professional help to help you come to a healthy balance in your life.
Read that again.
The point here is that while OCCASIONALLY being out of balance in our lives may be a purposeful and well thought out decision we choose to undertake for short periods of time in pursuit of athletic accomplishment, these periods should be limited, as they can have long-lasting negative effects on us, both physically and mentally, not to mention socially.
Don't believe me? Check out the article written by Chris Shugart back in March 2017 on the effects of competition dieting on female fitness competitors:
FOUR MONTHS for MOST, but not all hormone levels to come back to normal/starting values. This doesn't include T3 (thyroid) and Testosterone, two incredibly important hormones in the body for normal function, let alone sports performance!
If you don't think T3 and/or the thyroid are SUPER important for your health and well being, go ahead and google "Thyroid functions in the body", I'll wait for you to pick your jaw up off the floor and continue reading. Harsh? A bit. Yet getting this message across to you is really important, as what one may see as "normal and healthy" may lead to you going down a really dark, deep path that can literally screw up your body for the rest of your life.
So what? I'm an endurance athlete! I don't need to worry about this! I'm supposed to be tired and need to recover!
"Ok" you're thinking "This is nice and all, but I'm an endurance athlete, this doesn't effect me". Actually, it does, and perhaps moreso than any other mainstream sport athlete.
While training and racing can, and should, be a part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle, all too often, especially nowadays, we see it get way out of hand. Perhaps this is in large part due to the incredible amounts of information available to us at our fingertips: No longer do you need to have access to a top-level expert coach in order to learn how to train like a pro. You can simply jump onto their website, Training Peaks, or one of many other options available and learn some of their principles and use them for yourself.
This is both fantastic, and tragic all at once. Much like a great Shakespearean play, our training lives are full of humor and tragedy. The problem is, many of us are too "In the zone" to be bothered by the imbalances. We think these imbalances are "Part of training". And while that notion can at times be correct, these imbalances must be carefully BALANCED with your mental health and social well-being, and of course, your long-term health.
Add on top of that that endurance athletes seem to be constantly "Trying to drop weight to be as lean as possible", and we see the logic behind avoiding strength training with actual weights (this is another post, or 20, in an of itself), and we can begin to grasp the reasons behind the prevalence of disordered eating (note, this is different than eating disorders) that occurs within those populations.
The Internet and media have skewed your visualization of what "Healthy" is
The inter-webs and media aren't helping either.... They're showing us these incredibly lean and toned people, telling us that THIS is healthy, when in fact, it is not.
Do you even know what someone looks like when they are in a truly healthy body fat % range?
Unless you're a well-trained fitness or health professional, NO. And even many of us get it wrong because we've been effected by the mass media pushing unhealthy people in front of us and telling us that "THIS IS HEALTHY!"
Case in point: When I went to google "Healthy body fat percentages" The image that displayed prominently at the top of the page is a woman who is WELL BELOW healthy Body Fat percentage. In fact, she is somewhere around 10-12% body fat (if not lower), which is INCREDIBLY difficult to achieve, and unhealthy to boot!
Yet, because of the prominence of these super-slim, ultra-toned physiques we see every day, and the sexification of these physiques, the number of adults taking exercise and "fitness" to new, unhealthy levels, is absolutely astounding.
Exercise and fitness should be a part of your life to help BOOST your health and wellness, including our basic human needs/drives to eat, drink, sleep, socialize, and reproduce. It should be supporting these drives, and allowing the body to function, as a whole, at a HIGHER level, not suppress it.
What does it all mean?
If you've been at the point that your sex drive has dropped to the point where intimate time with your partner/a partner brings thoughts of "Not now, i'm tired" or "that's the last thing on my mind" for longer than 2-3 weeks, you should book an appointment to meet with your family physician for a check up.
Yes, there are times in our lives that work stress or life stress will effect our sex drive as well, yet we tend to recognize these as unhealthy, and begin to think seriously about how to better deal with them.
Yes, there are many contributing factors as to why our sex drive may drop. However as athletes, or those who are on the quest to "becoming healthier" we should be in-tuned enough with our bodies to know and understand that changes such as these, beyond short, and carefully planned-out segments of time in our training year, are huge, giant, ginormous warning signs to us, that our body is out of whack, and we need to take a step back to reassess whether or not we are actually being healthy.