August 10, 2016 10:29 am

Rio 2016 and sex: Tinder, libido and the science of athletic attraction

The Olympics are a sexually charged time not just for athletes - many of whom are on Tinder - but also for those watching the action at home.

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Sex is pretty much the 40th sport for the athletes at the Olympics. And for the millions who watch as the toned Olympians go for gold, the Games can be as good as foreplay.

At least that’s what some experts believe, including Winnipeg-based sexologist Susan Wenzel. She’s written about the link between relationship intimacy and hockey, but thinks cheering for any sport can make people feel friskier.

“A lot of people live in their heads,” she said. “But when you’re watching sport, you’re living in the moment.”

Being fully present makes you more in touch with your body, Wenzel added.

The science behind it

From a hormonal perspective, she explained similar neurotransmitters — dopamine and oxytocin — are activated during both sex and sport.

Dopamine is released through just sheer anticipation, either of sex or a big game. The hit of oxytocin is why you crave the post-coital cuddle.

“Or sleep, if you’re a man,” Wenzel joked.

READ MORE: Best time to have sex or work out, according to your body clock

But for athletes in Rio, the latter “bonding” hormone can make them “feel closer to people in a land [they] don’t know.”

Oxytocin is also why athletes often feel the urge to give high fives to strangers in the crowd.

Olympians single and ready to mingle

With all the hormones flowing, it’s no wonder residents of Rio’s athlete village were treated to a record 450,000 (rainforest-friendly) condoms. Almost a quarter of those (100,000) were female condoms — a first at the Olympics, likely due to the Zika threat.

That’s 42 condoms per person. Or almost three condoms for each of the 16 days. That could be an Olympic feat of endurance in itself.

READ MORE: More isn’t always better when it comes to sex, says study

To help put those prophylactics to use, some athletes turn to Tinder. The dating app is infamous for facilitating hook-ups by suggesting possible matches based on a user’s geographical location.

An Instagram page has identified some familiar faces on there, including Canadian rower Will Crothers.

Most of the Canucks featured on the page, however, fall under the Winter Olympics category, including speed skaters Shannon Rempel, Gilmore Junio, Kali Christ and Brianne Tutt as well as ski stars like Kaya Turksi, Valerie Grenier and Mikaela Tommy.

The 2014 games in Sochi is when Tinder’s popularity among athletes first rose, when U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson described it as “next level” in the Olympic Village.

She admitted the app became so distracting she had to delete it to concentrate on the competition.

Yemi Apithy, a 27-year-old French-Beninese fencer competing in Rio, likes the distraction.

The self-confessed “pretty boy” is among plenty of athlete profiles to choose from. Many updated their status to reflect they are in Rio with a photo of them shirtless or in a bikini next to the pool or a beach.

Tinder spokeswoman Rosette Pambakian said usage has skyrocketed in the Brazilian city. Matches in the athlete village increased by 129 per cent over the weekend, and the company expects that trend to continue, she said.

Marcus Nyman, a judoka in the men’s 90-kilogram division from Sweden, said he got 10 matches on Tinder in the first day or so after he arrived in Rio.

“A lot of the athletes here are using this app,” the 25-year-old said.

The sex effect

It’s a departure from the long-standing belief that pre-game sex should be avoided.

At the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, some coaches banned entire teams from having sex. Bosnia’s coach generously gave his blessing for the players to “masturbate if they want.”

Muhammed Ali apparently wouldn’t have sex for weeks before a fight.

READ MORE: Does abstinence help players perform?

However, there’s no sound science that shows sex the night before a competition affects how a person will play.

A decades-old study had men squeeze a device that measured force — sex or no sex the night before, the men all performed the same.

Players or coaches worried that sex will consume too much energy should also rest easy.

One Quebec study found 30 minutes of sex burns between 90 and 120 calories, the rough equivalent of “a brisk uphill walk, a game of doubles tennis or a 15 minute jog.”

You probably burn less than that, though. One health expert claims “the average person makes love for only five minutes and burns fewer than 25 calories.”

“It takes as much energy to make love as it does to walk up two flights of stairs. If you think that you shouldn’t make love on the night before a game, you shouldn’t participate in pregame warm-ups,” wrote sports medicine doctor Gabe Mirkin.

In some cases, sex might make players sleep better and relax, which in turn may improve their performance. For others, the tension-release from sex can even be considered a form of self-care.

READ MORE: Women get hands-on in quest for better sex

Wenzel thinks the key is not to have sex too close to game time.

“You don’t want to be mellow right before you compete.”

“If I was there,” she added, “I’d just advise — fool around, kiss, and don’t [climax] until later.”

“When you win the games, do it.”

How sport can help couples have better sex

Wenzel tells her clients that watching your partner play a sport or playing it together can heighten attraction in a relationship.

“It’s this other part of them you don’t see all the time,” she explained.

“You see them so passionate… and it’s attractive.”

WATCH: Sex and relationship expert Jessica O’Reilly shares more tips on how to spice up your sex life

So whether you’re on the field, in the pool or just on your couch, enjoy the Olympics and the renewed energy they bring to the bedroom.

With files from Carmen Chai, Global News and The Associated Press

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