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How to Get the Maximum Effect from Cialis

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 01/24/2021

Updated 07/27/2023

If you’re on Cialis, you’re hopefully one of many people the medication has helped over the past few decades. Cialis (and its generic version, tadalafil) has a long and successful history of treating erectile dysfunction (ED) when taken safely and as directed, whether for daily use or whenever the mood strikes.

Some guys are just happy to get their boners back. After weeks, months or years without reliable erectile function, treatment of erectile dysfunction can make you feel like a new man again.

But if Cialis isn’t working exactly how you hoped it would — or if you’re just trying to maximize the benefits of this drug — you may be wondering how to get the best results every time you take it.

We’re here to help. Below is our best advice on safely working the Cialis system to get uber-awesome erections with every dose.

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How to Get the Maximum Effect From Cialis

Cialis is a drug manufactured by the company Eli Lilly. You may have heard of its generic name, tadalafil.

Regardless of what it’s called, it’s a well-established, safe, effective and popular treatment for ED that’s helped many men recover their sexual prowess.

But to get the most out of it, you have to think beyond the simple terms of “pill good, swallow for boners.” In fact, there are a few crucial things about this medication your healthcare provider may not have explained the first time you discussed ED treatments.

Getting the maximum effect from Cialis requires you to:

  • Understand how Cialis works

  • Know how to take Cialis safely

  • Know when to take it for the best results

  • Be aware of side effects and interactions

  • Have realistic expectations

  • Combine medication with a healthy lifestyle

Now that you know what’s required, let’s look at each critical component in more detail.

Understand How Cialis Works

Getting more out of your meds can be as simple as Googling “how does Cialis work” and reading reliable sources (like our blog).

Cialis is a medication designed primarily for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. It’s also sometimes used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension and enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia).

Like other erectile dysfunction drugs, Cialis is a phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitor prescribed for erectile dysfunction. PDE5 inhibitors work to enhance the effects of nitric oxide (NO) in the smooth muscle cells of the penis.

Nitric oxide starts the chain reaction that leads to increased blood flow to the penis and, ultimately, an erection. In this way, PDE5 inhibitors help men get and maintain erections if they otherwise struggle with erectile dysfunction.

Got all that? If not, the simplified version is that this medication makes it easier for blood to flow into your penis. You still have to get aroused and stimulated, which means other causes of ED (like psychological factors) may still present problems.

So if you’re not getting what you need right now, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider about potential causes of ED you haven’t addressed.

Know How to Take Cialis Safely

When you receive a prescription medication like Cialis, your healthcare provider chooses the proper dosage based on how you plan to take it and other factors.

At first, they might start you on a smaller dose and increase it if you’re not seeing desired effects. Keep that in mind if you don’t see the results you were hoping for within the first weeks.

If you’re taking Cialis as needed, the starting dose is typically 10 milligrams, but it can be increased to 20 milligrams or lowered to 5 milligrams if necessary. A single dose should last up to 36 hours.

If you’re taking daily Cialis, the dose is generally lower. Your healthcare provider will likely start you at 2.5 milligrams of Cialis daily and increase your dosage to 5 milligrams if needed. When taken every day, it’s important to take the medication at the same time every day.

Still have questions? See our Cialis dosage guide for more information.

Know When to Take Cialis for Best Results

Your Cialis dosage is certainly important, but when you take it can also make an impact.

As mentioned, there are two ways to take Cialis: as needed for help achieving or maintaining an erection or as a once-daily lower dose.

Both methods are approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and a healthcare provider can help determine which is best for you. 

When to take Cialis is both a personal and mechanical decision. You can definitely choose a time that fits your lifestyle, but you should have a clear idea of how long it’ll take the medication to kick in.

The best time to take Cialis is on a daily schedule at the same time each day. Or if you’re using the medication as needed, it’s best taken within 30 minutes to two hours of when you plan to get intimate.

Cialis will probably last several hours, and it stays in your system for about 36 hours. So if you pop your pill, then take longer to wrap up dinner than usual, it’s no big deal. But if you drastically overshoot your effectiveness window, you may not see the same hardness you’re used to.

In other words, mind the window or maintain a calendar.

Be Aware of Cialis Side Effects and Interactions

If you’re worried about health and safety, you should know when something’s not going correctly — the common side effects and serious side effects of tadalafil. 

Cialis side effects are a well-known set of issues. Likewise, there are some tadalafil drug interactions you’ll want to avoid. 

Like nearly every prescription drug, Cialis comes with a lengthy list of potential side effects. Many of these side effects are rare, but knowing what to look out for will ensure you’re not taken off-guard. 

According to the company that makes it, the most common adverse reactions to Cialis include headache, back pain, congestion, flushing and indigestion. More serious side effects of Cialis can include chest pain, vision loss and severe drops in blood pressure — if you experience any of these, seek medical attention.

But of the effects of Cialis you want to avoid, some of the most severe are drug interactions — the dangerous risks of using the active ingredient tadalafil while taking certain other medications.

While tadalafil’s FDA-approved safety is documented, it’s also well known that using nitrates like nitroglycerin, nitric oxide supplements, alpha-blockers and other medications that function as vasodilators may cause dangerous drops in blood pressure and potentially heart attack. Why? They basically do a different version of the same thing PDE5 inhibitors do.

Other things can also have this effect. Everything from antibiotics like erythromycin to antifungal agents can potentially increase the concentration of a dose of Cialis in your body. This can lead to the same dangerous medical conditions as taking too much medication. Unfun breakfast fact: Grapefruit juice can do the same thing, so morning sex enthusiasts, beware.

Talk to your healthcare provider about all other medications you’re on before beginning Cialis. It may interact with high blood pressure medications, such as nitrates and alpha blockers, as well as HIV drugs, antifungals and alcohol.

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Have Realistic Expectations

Hard truth incoming: Not every drug works for every person. Tadalafil is a widely effective drug, but this doesn’t mean it’s a slam-dunk perfect fit for you. 

According to the scientific literature, how quickly and effectively it works may vary. 

For instance, the medicine can remain effective 24 to 36 hours after taking it, sometimes up to 72 hours. So, for you, it could be effective for one full day, while the next guy could see effects for three days.

Another thing worth repeating about Cialis effectiveness: It doesn’t cause an immediate and spontaneous erection. Since PDE5 inhibitors don’t directly affect the smooth muscles of the penis (and are instead dependent on the initial release of NO), sexual stimulation is still required for your penis to get hard.

Finally, you may simply want to try another medication if tadalafil isn’t measuring up. We’re not going to legislate the Cialis versus Viagra debate here, but other medications may give you the results you want if this one isn’t delivering.

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Combine Cialis With a Healthy Lifestyle

One of the best ways to give any medication the best shot at success is to do as much as possible to improve your erectile health outside of medications — which may include lifestyle changes.

Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of larger health problems, and addressing these issues can often help ED treatment. For instance, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and smoking can all lead to (or contribute to) sexual dysfunction. 

By managing these conditions, you may get better results from your ED treatment. 

Getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, quitting smoking and losing weight go a long way in your overall physical health and, ultimately, your sexual health. 

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Getting the Best Results From Cialis 

Cialis is just one of several brand-name ED medications out there. Erectile dysfunction treatments on the market today include generic Levitra, sildenafil (generic for Viagra), avanafil (generic for Stendra) and some non-tablet options like our own chewable ED meds hard mints.

There really are a seemingly endless number of possibilities.

When you struggle with getting an erection — or keeping one long enough to satisfy your partner — it can make sex a source of stress rather than pleasure. Fortunately, there are many erectile dysfunction medications on the market. Cialis is just one.

Cialis may be right for you, and you might be able to get the maximum effect by using it under medical advice. So if you’re trying to let Cialis do its best work, remember this:

  • Cialis is a safe and effective ED medication that can improve sexual activity with an occasional or daily dose.

  • If you’re not seeing the effects you anticipated, chatting with your healthcare provider may help you get clarity on what you can do for better results, including such as trying another medication or taking Cialis at a higher dose. 

  • Your healthcare provider is best equipped to provide guidance on getting the most out of any medical treatment, including the use of Cialis. 

Take our tips to heart (and to the bedroom). If you’re still not seeing the results you want, reach out — we’re always here to help.

Explore the sexual health resources from Hims today.

4 Sources

  1. DeLay, K. J., Haney, N., & Hellstrom, W. J. (2016). Modifying Risk Factors in the Management of Erectile Dysfunction: A Review. The world journal of men's health, 34(2), 89–100. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4999494/.
  2. HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION: CIALIS (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use . accessdata.fda.gov. (n.d.). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/021368s20s21lbl.pdf.
  3. Evans, J. D., & Hill, S. R. (2015). A comparison of the available phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: a focus on avanafil. Patient preference and adherence, 9, 1159–1164. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4542406/.
  4. Huang, S. A., & Lie, J. D. (2013). Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) Inhibitors In the Management of Erectile Dysfunction. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 38(7), 407–419. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776492/.
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