Should You Use Erectile Dysfunction Meds as a Pre-Workout?

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: June 20, 2024
FACT CHECKED by Dr. Kristy Dayanan, BS, MD
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Our team has started tuning out to all the get-ripped-fast articles we get bombarded with unless we think they are dangerous or too bizarre to ignore.

One such bizarre story emerged a while back when someone I worked with in the past told me that he had started using erectile dysfunction drugs as a pre-workout supplement.

Now, I have to admit that his reasoning about increased blood flow for better pumps sounded plausible. But is that blood really going to flow to the “right” parts of your body?

Here’s what our research found.

Quick Summary

  • The use of Erectile Dysfunction (ED) meds as pre-workout supplements is explored due to their potential to increase blood flow, yet there's no scientific backing for enhanced exercise performance.
  • Some bodybuilders turned to ED meds like Viagra and Cialis to possibly counter muscle fatigue and achieve better pumps during training, stemming from steroid-induced erectile issues.
  • A study published in "The Journal of Applied Physiology" in 2010 found that Viagra improved cycling time trial performance by approximately 15% in trained cyclists, possibly due to improved blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles.
  • Personally, I believe it's safer and more effective to stick with traditional pre-workout supplements, as the risks associated with ED medications, like low blood pressure and priapism, outweigh their unproven benefits for exercise performance.

What Types Of ED Drugs Are Bodybuilders Using?

A man flexing his muscles

Some bodybuilders are using erectile dysfunction drugs like Cialis, Viagra, and Tadalafil, obtainable through a doctor's prescription, to increase blood flow to the penis. Note that the FDA approves these drugs solely for treating erectile dysfunction.

It’s probably because Viagra and Cialis are so easy to get that they have become the favored drugs.

It's intriguing to note that some pre-workout supplements contain specific ingredients like nitric oxide, caffeine, la-citrulline, and l-arginine, which have been touted for their potential to improve blood flow, a crucial factor for alleviating ED symptoms.

Why Are People Using Erectile Dysfunction Drugs As A Pre-Workout?

People use erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Cialis as pre-workouts since these products increase the blood flow, especially in the penis.

While this has the benefit of causing an erection, some bodybuilders believe it can help them get better pumps and use it as a pre-workout supplement. 

I remember when I first heard about this trend from a fellow fighter. He was struggling with the side effects of steroids, mainly erectile issues. To counteract this, he turned to Viagra and Cialis.

He shared with me that not only did these meds help with his erectile issues, but he also noticed better muscle function and lesser muscle fatigue during training.

How Do ED Medications Work?

A man holding a pill

From personal experience, I know that ED medications like Viagra and Cialis work by boosting nitric oxide levels in the body, which in turn promotes blood flow to the penis.

Unlike men without erectile issues, where this occurs naturally during arousal, these medications necessitate precise timing due to the gradual dilation of blood vessels.

It's essential to note the lack of control over erections while in public places.

Are There Scientifically Proven Benefits?

A man using a kettlebell in his workout

There are typically two scientific resources that men use to justify taking Cialis or Viagra as a pre-workout supplement for men.

Firstly, a Daily News report, referencing a clinical study, highlighted cyclists at high altitudes experiencing increased blood oxygen levels [1]. This discovery was initially made by athletes using it to counteract other performance-enhancing drugs, which complicates attributing performance boosts solely to this drug.

Another study in PubMed Central explored a link between muscle protein synthesis and drugs like Cialis [2]. However, its small sample size and potential interference from other medications have drawn criticism, casting doubt on its findings.

Overall, we just didn’t see convincing evidence that Cialis or similar drugs are suitable or beneficial for athletes. 

On the flip side, it's essential to highlight the potential negative effects associated with using ED meds as pre-workouts, such as the risk of low blood pressure and priapism, which underscores the importance of exercising caution and seeking medical advice before considering this approach.

What Are The Risks?

A person checking her blood pressure

One of the most awkward situations I found myself in was having to navigate an erection at the training centre, all thanks to popping an ED pill before my training session.

It's one of those risks that you don't really consider until you're in that uncomfortable scenario.

That might seem like a small problem, but I would imagine that can be a bit distracting. But there are some more significant negative effects that doctors warn patients about.

1. Blood Pressure

I learned the hard way that these types of drugs could cause low blood pressure and abnormal heart rates. In extreme circumstances, it can also raise your risk of having a heart attack, therefore you should always speak with a doctor before taking these medications.

High blood pressure patients must approach the use of such medications cautiously due to possible interactions and exacerbation of symptoms.

Managing both your fitness objectives as well as blood pressure levels requires prioritizing the wellness of your cardiovascular system which can be achieved through seeking advice from a medical professional.

"Sildenafil is also used in both men and women to treat the symptoms of pulmonary arterial hypertension. This is a type of high blood pressure that occurs between the heart and the lungs."


2. Priapism

Banana inside a jeans

One of my acquaintances shared a horrifying experience of priapism, where the active ingredient sildenafil caused an erection that lasted for more than 4 hours.

These are serious symptoms to keep in mind, especially when the benefits are based more on theory than anything else.

We advise you to check these pre-workouts that can help you get better pumps without experiencing any of these side effects.


Can Viagra Help With Bodybuilding?

No, there is not enough scientific evidence that viagra can help with bodybuilding. In some cases, it might even do more harm as it could lower your blood pressure, which is not something you’d want to have happen at the gym.

Can Viagra Improve Athletic Performance?

No, Viagra doesn’t improve athletic performance for a workout. Some bodybuilders believe it can improve pumps, but there are more chances that it’ll lower your blood pressure while you’re working out.




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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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