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How to Get the Maximum Effect from Cialis

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 01/24/2021

Updated 04/15/2024

Cialis® (and its generic version, tadalafil) has a long and successful history of treating erectile dysfunction (ED), whether for daily use or whenever the mood strikes. If you’ve got your hands on a prescription, you might be wondering how to get the maximum effect from Cialis.

Some guys are just happy to see any results from this treatment for erectile dysfunction. But if Cialis isn’t working exactly how you hoped it would — or if you’re just trying to optimize the benefits of this drug — you’ve come to the right place.

There are ways to optimize ED drugs in their performance.

If you want Cialis to work well for you, check out our best advice on safely working the Cialis system to get uber-awesome erections with every dose.

Cialis is a well-established, safe, effective and popular treatment for ED. But to get the most out of it, you have to understand a few crucial things about this medication.

When your healthcare provider prescribed the medication, they should have given you specific guidelines on how to safely use and get the maximum effect from Cialis. But if you forgot what they said or they didn’t explain things very clearly, we got you.

Using Cialis for maximum effect requires you to:

  • Understand how Cialis works

  • Understand Cialis safety

  • Take it at the right time

  • Be aware of side effects

  • Avoid dangerous drug interactions

  • Have realistic expectations

  • Combine the medication with a healthy lifestyle

Let’s unpack these tips in more detail.

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1. Understand How Cialis Works

Getting more out of your meds can be as simple as asking, “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 (high blood pressure affecting arteries in the lungs) when tadalafil is prescribed as a different brand name and enlarged prostate (also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH).

  • Like other oral erectile dysfunction drugs (sildenafil, avanafil and vardenafil), Cialis is a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor prescribed for erectile dysfunction. PDE5 inhibitors work to enhance the effects of nitric oxide (NO) in the smooth muscle cells in the arteries supplying blood to the penis.

  • Nitric oxide starts a chain reaction that leads to increased blood flow through the blood vessels 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.

2. Know How to Take Cialis Safely

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

  • Your provider will start you on a smaller dose and potentially increase it if you’re not seeing the desired effects.

  • If you’re taking Cialis as needed, the starting dose is typically 10 milligrams (mg), but it can be increased to 20 milligrams or lowered to 5 milligrams if necessary.

  • A single dose can last up to 36 hours, according to the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

  • 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 daily, it’s important to take the medication at the same time each day.

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

3. Know When to Take Cialis for Best Results

When to take Cialis depends on what guidance your healthcare provider has given you, but for as-needed dosing, you’ll generally take it at least 30 minutes to two hours before sex. For a daily prescription, take your once-daily lower dose at the same time each day.

Figuring out the best Cialis timing is both a personal and mechanical decision. You can choose a time that fits your lifestyle.

Cialis stays working in your system for up to 36 hours. So mind the window or maintain a calendar.

4. Be Aware of Cialis Side Effects

If you’re worried about health and safety, you should know when something’s not quite right. In other words, be aware of the common side effects and serious side effects of tadalafil.

Cialis side effects are a well-known set of issues.

The most common adverse reactions to Cialis include:

  • Headache

  • Back pain

  • Congestion

  • Flushing

  • Indigestion

More serious side effects of Cialis can include vision loss, hearing loss and priapism. If you experience any of these, seek medical attention right away.

5. Avoid Dangerous Drug Interactions

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

Tadalafil’s FDA-approved safety is documented. Still, 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 medications like erythromycin and 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.

Breakfast fact: Grapefruit juice can do the same thing.

Talk to your healthcare provider about all other medications you’re on and supplements you take before beginning Cialis.

6. Have Realistic Expectations

Hard truth incoming: Not every drug works for every person. Tadalafil is a widely effective drug, but how quickly and effectively it works can vary.

  • Cialis can remain effective for 24 to 36 hours after taking it — sometimes up to 72 hours. So, for you, it could last a full day, while the next guy could see effects for three days.

  • Cialis doesn’t cause an immediate and spontaneous erection. Sexual stimulation is still required for your penis to get hard.

Oh, and you might 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.

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

There really are a seemingly endless number of possibilities.

7. Combine Cialis With a Healthy Lifestyle

Google “what can I take to enhance Cialis,” and you’ll see a slew of dangerous suggestions. Ignore these. One of the best ways to maximize the effects of the medication is to make lifestyle changes.

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

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

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

Choose your chew

Find answers to frequently asked questions about when to take Cialis and how to take Cialis for best results below.

How Long Does Cialis Take to Kick In?

Cialis doesn’t start working immediately after you take it. If you’re using the medication on an as-needed basis, you’ll want to take it at least half-hour or more before you plan to have sex. Since it can take up to two hours to kick in (sometimes longer), you might even want to take it way before that.

Can I Take Another Cialis Pill If the First One Isn’t Working?

As noted, Cialis can take multiple hours to kick in. You shouldn’t double up on your dose or take your medication any other way than how your provider prescribed it. And remember, you still need to be sexually stimulated to get an erection, even with Cialis in your system.

How Long Does Cialis Last?

Cialis usually lasts several hours, giving you plenty of time to get it on after taking it. But the effects can linger for up to 24 or even 36 hours. This is where it gets the nickname “the weekend pill.”

Does Cialis Make You Last Longer?

Cialis might make you last longer in bed, although it isn’t FDA approved for that purpose.

If you’re interested in premature ejaculation (PE) treatment, we have options available through our telehealth platform.

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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 could be right for you, and you might be able to get the maximum effect by using it under medical advice.

So if you’re wondering how to get the maximum effect from Cialis, 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 might give you clarity on what to do for better results, like 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 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 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/.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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