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Last updated: Dec 23, 2021
5 min read

How to take Viagra for best results: top tips to enhance effectiveness

Viagra (sildenafil) is a medication that can help with erectile dysfunction. There are things you can do to make Viagra more effective, including using it at the right time, not taking it on a full stomach, and not taking the drug with excessive alcohol or drugs. Lifestyle changes and overall healthy habits can help too––and even decrease your risk for ED altogether.

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Sildenafil (brand name Viagra; see Important Safety Information) is a highly effective, FDA-approved medication used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). But like any other medication, there are things that you can do to help Viagra be as effective as possible. 

Whether you’re taking the medication for the first time or are a seasoned pro, read on to learn steps you can take to make Viagra work best for you.

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How does Viagra work for erectile dysfunction?

Viagra works by stopping the chemical reaction that causes blood to leave an erect penis—knowing this is key to understanding how to make Viagra work best. 

Viagra works by blocking an enzyme called PDE-5, which encourages blood to flow out of the penis. When PDE-5 is blocked, it keeps the blood vessels in the penis open, allowing blood to flow into the penis more freely, and making it easier to get and maintain an erection.

Of course, PDE-5 inhibitors like Viagra don’t work automatically. You’ll still need to feel sexually aroused in order to get an erection. So, step one to boosting the effects of Viagra is making sure you set the mood.

What impacts the effectiveness of Viagra?

Several factors can influence how quickly and completely Viagra works once you take it. Here are some tips that can really help Viagra do its thing.

Avoid taking it on a full stomach.

If you take Viagra on a full stomach—particularly if you’ve had a heavy, high-fat meal—the medication may take longer to work (Zucchi, 2019). 

A full stomach can delay your body’s absorption of Viagra by up to an hour, meaning your erection might come later than expected, be less strong than you wanted, or not last as long as you would’ve liked. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take Viagra on an empty stomach, but be mindful of how close to a meal you take it.

Avoid drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

While it’s safe to drink alcohol with Viagra in moderation, drinking may make it more difficult to get an erection. Alcohol is a depressant that affects many different systems in the body, including those involved in producing an erection. 

Alcohol, as well as illicit drugs and marijuana, can worsen ED symptoms. Chronic heavy drinking damages the liver, heart, and nerves, as well as reduces testosterone—all of which can lead to ED and make it more difficult for Viagra to achieve its desired effect (Arackal, 2007). 

Take the recommended dose––and get the timing right 

Ideally, Viagra should be taken 30–60 minutes before you plan to have sex in order to get the best results. It needs time to work, so taking it too close to the time that you need it may make it more difficult to get an erection strong enough for satisfying sex

Taking it too early may do the same. Because Viagra works for about four hours before wearing off, taking it way ahead of sexual activity (say, in the morning when you plan to have sex at night) might not lead to the erection you want. If you’re new to Viagra, try it out a couple of times solo before masturbating to see how it affects you. That will take the pressure off when it comes to partnered play.

If you’ve tried Viagra and it hasn’t worked for you, sometimes a dose adjustment or switching to a different prescription medication might help. Speak to your healthcare provider about what you’re looking to get out of your medication so they can make the appropriate adjustments in your dosing schedule.

Improve your overall health

Viagra works best when you’re healthy. A healthy body—particularly a healthy heart—is your best asset in overcoming ED. 

Since an erection requires good blood flow, anything that hinders blood flow makes it more difficult to get an erection, and that’s true even if you take Viagra. The best way to get harder, stronger erections is by improving blood flow and blood pressure and maintaining healthy hormone levels. You can keep your heart healthy with these tips:

  • Getting enough cardiovascular exercise. A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction, especially because it can contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, and other medical conditions that affect blood flow. One study found that men who were inactive or moderately active (less than 150 minutes of physical activity a week) were as much as 60% more likely to experience ED than men who got at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week (Janiszewski, 2009). 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. A large, multi-year study found that obesity nearly doubles a person’s risk for ED. Obesity is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which can damage nerves and blood vessels throughout the body. This includes those that supply the penis, which can potentially result in ED (Bacon, 2006).
  • Not smoking. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxins that can damage the lining of the blood vessels in your body, including the penis. Research has linked cigarette smoking to erectile dysfunction and demonstrated how stopping smoking can help improve the symptoms of ED (Kovac, 2015). 
  • Avoiding medications that may cause ED. Some medications cause ED as a side effect. If you’ve experienced ED after beginning a certain medication (an antidepressant, for example), speak with your healthcare provider about whether there might be an alternative treatment option available.

Viagra side effects

All medications have the potential to cause side effects, and ED medications like Viagra are no different. Common side effects tend to be mild. Common side effects of Viagra include (Smith, 2021): 

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Upset stomach or indigestion
  • Abnormal vision (increased sensitivity to light, blurred vision, or blue-tinted vision)
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Rash
  • Muscle pain

Serious side effects of Viagra tend to be less common but require urgent medical attention if experienced. These include: 

  • Priapism (a prolonged, painful erection that won’t go away)
  • Chest pain
  • Sudden vision loss
  • Ringing in ears or hearing loss
  • Seizures
  • Swelling in your arms or legs

If you’ve been taking Viagra and haven’t seen the effects you desire, these tips may help make it as effective as possible. Also, trying out a different dosage or alternative medication might be a good idea. Speak with your healthcare provider to learn what additional steps you can take to attain the sexual satisfaction and performance you desire.

References

  1. Arackal, B. S. & Benegal, V. (2007). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(2), 109–112. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.33257. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/
  2. Bacon, C. G., Mittleman, M. A., Kawachi, I., Giovannucci, E., Glasser, D. B., & Rimm, E. B. (2006). A prospective study of risk factors for erectile dysfunction. The Journal of Urology, 176(1), 217–221. doi:10.1016/S0022-5347(06)00589-1. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16753404/
  3. DailyMed. (2020). Viagra- sildenafil citrate tablet, film-coated. Retrieved on Dec. 7, 2021 from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=a2a9f459-e692-4e85-83b0-a35fbf35e91b
  4. Janiszewski, P. M., Janssen, I., & Ross, R. (2009). Abdominal obesity and physical inactivity are associated with erectile dysfunction independent of body mass index. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6(7), 1990-1998. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01302.x. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19453892.
  5. Kovac, J. R., Labbate, C., Ramasamy, R., Tang, D., & Lipshultz, L. I. (2015). Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction. Andrologia, 47(10), 1087–1092. Doi: 10.1111/and.12393. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25557907/
  6. Smith, B. P., & Babos, M. (2021). Sildenafil. [Updated June 29, 2021]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Retrieved on Dec. 7, 2021 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558978/
  7. Zucchi, A., Costantini, E., Scroppo, F. I., Silvani, M., Kopa, Z., Illiano, E., et al. (2019). The first-generation phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors and their pharmacokinetic issue. Andrology, 7(6), 804–817. doi:10.1111/andr.12683. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31350821/