Male performance

It’s something that often gets tongues wagging. We’re not talking about sports performance here, we’re talking about performance of the sexual kind. What affects sexual performance in men?

Men's Health

Sonia Chartier

15 March 2016

For some, male performance is the stuff of jokes or bragging, but for others, it’s no laughing matter. There’s a wide range of problems, as well as a few solutions, so stay with us…

First, let’s define the problem. If you’re unable to get or maintain an erection when things start heating up, ask yourself this: Have you by any chance just changed jobs, finished an Iron Man competition, sold your house, worked a 70‑hour week or polished off a bottle of scotch? If so, your problem is almost certainly not a sexual one. Your inability to rise to the occasion is likely caused by stress, fatigue, alcohol or drugs. The real problem arises when it happens over and over again.

Sexual dysfunction affects up to 20% of men aged 50 to 59. The numbers increase with age, but younger men can be affected too, though it’s less common. There are several types of dysfunction:

  • A lasting decrease in libido or sexual desire for no obvious reason
  • Ejaculation problems, including premature or delayed ejaculation, or anejaculation, which is the inability to ejaculate
  • Erectile problems: the inability to obtain or maintain an erection strong enough for penetration

There’s also a wide range of possible causes. For example, a weak libido can also be caused by depression, whereas delayed ejaculation or a complete lack of it can be caused by diabetes or the overexposure to pornography. Erectile problems can be linked to a lack of testosterone or to metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. An impressive range of factors can affect performance:

The most common factor underlying sexual dysfunction is age, especially in men over 60. Other common causes are an enlarged prostate, diabetes, hypertension and a heart condition, not to mention psychological problems.

Enlargement of the prostate is therefore a major factor underlying sexual dysfunctions. The risk of developing erectile dysfunction is 3.7% higher in men with an enlarged prostate. The link between the two is very real and unfortunately, one of the frustrating side effects of the standard medical treatment for enlarged prostate is a high incidence of erectile problems (between 30% and 38%).

Men affected by metabolic syndrome have low testosterone levels, and 96.5% of them suffer from erectile dysfunction. What is this syndrome? It’s a number of symptoms which, when occurring together, point to an increased risk of diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed when three of the following symptoms occur together:

  • Excess abdominal fat (waistline of over 94 cm or 37 in.)
  • High blood triglycerides (1.7 mmol/l or higher)
  • High blood pressure (130/85 or higher)
  • Low “good” (HDL) cholesterol (less than 1.0 mmol/l)
  • Elevated blood sugar (5.6 mmol/l or higher)

What’s even more surprising is the direct link between glucose consumption and testosterone levels. A study has demonstrated that consuming glucose significantly reduces the production of testosterone in the testicles and that the findings apply to all men.

To find out what the precise cause is, talk to your doctor!

Improving performance

Natural solutions can help either improve performance or reduce the risks of dysfunction.

  • Limit your sugar intake
  • Eat plenty of fruits and veggies
  • Eat good fats from nuts, fish, olives, olive oil, avocado…
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage stress
  • Take cold showers

Cold showers?!? But don’t they say that you should take a cold show when you need to lower your excitement levels? Actually, no. Finishing off your usual shower with a minute of cold water has a number of benefits, including significant ones linked to improving blood flow, increasing fertility and boosting testosterone production. What’s more, that cold shower will help eliminate bad fat, help you sleep better and give you energy.

In the event that your erectile problems are being caused by poor circulation, Ginkgo biloba could prove beneficial. But be careful: Ginkgo isn’t a miracle cure. What it does is improve blood circulation to the limbs. But it won’t happen overnight. It has to be taken continuously over several weeks before you’ll see any improvement.

Flowering oat has a balancing and nourishing effect on the nervous system and is recognized for its ability to boost libido in both men and women. However, if stress is affecting performance, a complex of flowering oat and rhodiola is indicated instead. Russian researchers have demonstrated rhodiola’s positive effect on sexual vigour.

For sexual dysfunction linked to an enlarged prostate, saw palmetto has proved its worth. A 40% improvement was noted in just eight weeks for every factor studied: ejaculatory function, erectile function, sex drive, sexual satisfaction and general sexual problems. Given that enlargement of the prostate affects a majority of men over 50, saw palmetto tends to elicit standing ovations…

In Chinese traditional medicine, ginseng (Panax ginseng) has long been used to improve sexual performance; it acts on the nervous system and testicular tissue.

Like most articles on men’s health, we too advise against loafing around on the couch with a cigarette and a coke. Instead, try replacing that with exercise and a little cold shower. Think about it: the hot/cold treatment has long been part of the traditions of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Japanese, North America’s aboriginal peoples… And it’s not just about tightening pores.


  • Rosen R, Altwein J, Boyle P, Kirby RS, Lukacs B, Meuleman E, et al. Lower urinary tract symptoms and male sexual dysfunction: the multinational survey of the aging male (MSAM-7). Eur Urol. 2003;44:637
  • Roehrborn CG. Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms, Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, Erectile Dysfunction, and Phosphodiesterase-5 Inhibitors. Rev Urol. 2004 Summer; 6(3): 121–127
  • Corona G, Mannucci E, Schulman C, Petrone L, Mansani R, Cilotti A, Balercia G, Chiarini V, Forti G, Maggi M. Psychobiologic correlates of the metabolic syndrome and associated sexual dysfunction. Eur Urol. 2006 Sep;50(3):595-604
  • Brown RP, Gerbarg PL, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview. HerbalGram. 2002;56:40-52.
  • Suter A, Saller R, Riedi E, Heinrich M. Improving BPH symptoms and sexual dysfunctions with a saw palmetto preparation? Results from a pilot trial. Phytother Res. 2012 Apr 23. doi: 10.1002/ptr. 4696.

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