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How to Take Viagra for Best Results

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 09/18/2017

Updated 02/15/2024

Viagra is great as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED), but doing certain things to support it can make it even more effective. 

Like other prescription medicines, Viagra and its generic form, sildenafil, work best when they’re taken under the right conditions. From your mental state to your eating habits, a range of factors all influence the effectiveness of Viagra (and medications like it).

Understanding these factors — and using them to your advantage — can help you enjoy better sex and more reliable erections from the “little blue pill,” all while reducing your risk of having to deal with side effects.

Below, we’ve covered how you can take Viagra or generic sildenafil for optimal results, from the best time to take Viagra before sexual intercourse to drug interactions and adverse effects that you should be aware of before using this medication for sexual dysfunction. 

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Choose your chew

Add a boost to your sex life with our new chewable formats

How to Use Viagra for Best Results

It’s common and very normal to have questions about how to use Viagra to treat ED, especially if you’ve just started using an erectile dysfunction medication

The good news is that Viagra is a fairly easy medication to use once you’re aware of the basics of taking it safely and effectively.

To get the best results from Viagra, you’ll want to keep the following six things in mind:

  • Viagra works best when it’s taken at least 30 to 60 minutes before sex (and no more than four hours before)

  • Eating food that’s high in fat can affect absorption and make Viagra slightly slower to work. 

  • Viagra may not work fully the first time, especially if you feel anxious about sex. 

  • There are drug interactions linked to Viagra. 

  • Viagra can cause side effects, most of which are mild and temporary.

  • All ED medications work best when they’re combined with a healthy lifestyle. 

That’s the 30-thousand-foot view, now let’s zoom in a little closer.

How to Take Viagra for Best Results: What You Need to Know

Take Viagra 30-60 Minutes Before Sex, Not Earlier

If you’re wondering how to get Viagra to work on your schedule, you need to schedule when you take the medication.

If you’re planning to have sex, it’s best to take your recommended dose of Viagra ahead of time, even if it means sneaking away for an “unexpected phone call” or taking a quick bathroom break before dessert hits the table. 

Viagra doesn’t start working the moment you swallow it — instead, it needs time to make its way into your blood vessels and start increasing blood flow to your penis

It usually takes 30 to 60 minutes for Viagra or generic sildenafil to start producing a noticeable improvement in your erection quality.

However, make sure not to take your Viagra tablet more than three or four hours before the time you plan to have sex.

On average, Viagra lasts for about four hours, after which it may no longer help you get and maintain an erection. This means that if you take Viagra in the morning for your evening date, prepare to be super disappointed for dessert.

Knowing when to take Viagra can have a big effect on your results. For better confidence in bed (and better sex), take Viagra 30-60 minutes ahead of time, no earlier. 

Avoid Heavy, High-Fat Meals Before Taking Viagra

Some people might wonder how to make Viagra work faster, and while there aren’t any safe ways to speed up the process, there are some things to avoid if you don’t want to slow it down. 

Viagra can be taken on an empty stomach or with food. However, you’ll want to avoid foods high in fat if you’re looking for the best possible experience with this medication.

This is because fat can interfere with the absorption of sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra. By slowing down your body’s ability to absorb sildenafil, Viagra may take longer to work and produce less impressive results than normal if taken after a fat-heavy meal.

So, if your idea of a perfect date meal is a big, juicy burger with truffle fries and a milkshake for dessert, you might want to reconsider. 

If it’s your first time taking Viagra, try opting for something a little lighter. Once you get used to how long it takes for the medication to start working for you, you can adjust your eating habits accordingly.

If Viagra Doesn’t Work The First Time, Don’t Panic

Does Viagra work the first time? For most guys, yes. But not for everyone. It’s quite common to deal with weak or unreliable erections the first few times you take Viagra — something that may cause you to panic.

If you’re prescribed Viagra and still get ED, one or several things could be at play:

  • You might not be prescribed the right dose of Viagra. Viagra comes in a range of different doses and requires a prescription for a reason. If you still get ED after using Viagra, consider talking to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dose.

  • You could have sexual performance anxiety. Feeling anxious, nervous or guilty about sex may cause erectile dysfunction that doesn’t improve with medication like Viagra.

  • You may suffer from another mental health condition. Other causes of psychological ED include major depressive disorder (MDD), stress and low self-esteem.

  • You might not feel attracted or in the mood for sex. Viagra works by improving blood flow to your penis, not by changing your mood. As such, it may not work if you don’t feel attracted to your partner or don’t feel interested in sex

If Viagra doesn’t work for you the first time you use it, don’t panic. Try taking Viagra the next time you plan to have sex and see if you feel more relaxed and able to stay hard.

You can also try taking Viagra for the first time when you don’t plan to have sex, just to see if you can get an erection when you don’t feel any pressure around your partner. 

If nothing seems to work, reach out to your healthcare provider and let them know. They might recommend changing your Viagra dosage or switching to a different type of ED pill — topics we discuss more in our guide to what to do when Viagra isn’t working.

Don’t Drink Grapefruit Juice

While it may be a favorite morning beverage or cocktail ingredient, steer clear of grapefruit juice any time you’re using a prescription ED medication.

Grapefruit juice can impact how your body metabolizes PDE5 inhibitor medications like Viagra. It could put you at risk of low blood pressure and serious complications if you take other medications that affect your blood pressure.

Check for Drug Interactions Before You Take Viagra

Viagra is safe and effective for most guys. However, it can cause interactions when it’s taken with other drugs, including several common prescription medications. 

Some of you might be wondering “How should I take sildenafil for best results when I take more than one medication?” And the answer to that depends on the medication.

Both brand name Viagra and generic sildenafil can cause dangerous interactions when they’re used at the same time as nitrates and alpha-blockers used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). 

When used with nitrates, Viagra can trigger a sudden decrease in blood pressure that may be harmful. In some cases, this drop in blood pressure may result in dizziness, fainting or serious cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke.

Common nitrates include nitroglycerin. You should also avoid nitrites, such as can be found in, as well as recreational “poppers.”

Other medications that may also interact with Viagra include certain antibiotics and antifungal medications.

Our guide to sildenafil interactions goes into more detail about medication interactions that you should be aware of before using Viagra. 

If you currently take any over-the-counter or prescription medications or any supplements, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know before you use Viagra, sildenafil or similar ED treatments.

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Viagra and Other PDE5 Inhibitors

Viagra isn’t the only PDE5 inhibitor on the market. In fact, the FDA has approved three other PDE5 inhibitors to help treat the symptoms of erectile dysfunction:

It’s important not to mix PDE5 inhibitors without the expressed supervision of your healthcare provider. When used together that their full doses, these medications can interact in some pretty dangerous ways. 

However, healthcare providers sometimes prescribe multiple PDE5 inhibitors at once to help optimize the effects of each medication for an individual case — usually at a reduced dosage in the form of a compounded medication.

For example, we offer compounded chewable ED medications that combine generic sildenafil and tadalafil at a lower dosage to help you get harder erections and last longer. 

Be Aware of the Side Effects of Viagra

Viagra can cause adverse effects. Most of these are mild and rarely stick around for longer than a few hours, but it’s still important to be aware of them. 

Common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Headaches

  • Flushing

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)

  • Abnormal vision (blurred vision and/or changes in color vision)

  • Increased sensitivity to light

  • Myalgia (muscle pain)

  • Nasal congestion

  • Back pain

  • Dizziness

  • Rash

Although rare, Viagra and sildenafil can cause more serious side effects, including:

  • Sudden vision loss

  • Hearing loss

  • Priapism (a prolonged, painful erection)

Priapism is a serious issue that can cause tissue damage to your penis when left untreated, making it important to get emergency medical attention if you develop a painful erection after taking Viagra. 

Although these issues might sound alarming, it’s important to keep in mind they only occur in a tiny percentage of men who take Viagra. 

Our list of Viagra FAQs goes into more detail about common worries related to Viagra, as well as how you can use this medication while putting safety first. 

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Treat ED With a Healthy Lifestyle, Not Just Medication

Viagra makes getting and maintaining an erection easier for the overwhelming majority of men who use it. However, it’s not a miracle drug, and pairing it with healthy habits can make it work far better than relying on it as your sole source of relief from ED.

These include:

Sometimes, even a small improvement in your weight, overall fitness levels or diet can have a noticeable effect on your health and sexual performance.

Our guide to naturally maintaining your erection shares numerous healthy habits that you can use for better erections, sexual function and cardiovascular well-being.

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The Bottom Line on Taking Viagra for the Best Results

If you’re one of the tens of millions of adult men affected by ED, using Viagra can make getting and maintaining an erection much easier, allowing you to enjoy a more satisfying sex life.

How long before sex should you take Viagra? What’s going to help you get 100 percent out of this medication? To get the best results from Viagra:

  • Take it at least 30 to 60 minutes (and no more than four hours) before sexual activity while limiting your intake of high-fat foods that can slow down Viagra absorption.

  • Don’t panic if it doesn’t work the first time. Instead, try using it on your own to see if it’s effective, or talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dosage.

  • Check that you’re not taking any medications that can interact with Viagra and make it less effective or more likely to cause side effects.

  • Combine Viagra with healthy habits, including regular physical activity, a balanced diet, lots of sleep and pelvic floor exercises.

For questions like the “best way to take Viagra” and “when to take Viagra before sex,” there are simple, straightforward answers, but whether you should take Viagra isn’t something we can say from here. You’ll need to speak with a healthcare professional.

Interested in trying Viagra or similar ED medication? Take an ED consultation online to learn more about your options for treating and preventing erectile dysfunction. 

Related Articles

3 Sources

  1. VIAGRA- sildenafil citrate tablet, film coated. (2017, August). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/spl/data/40578e70-350a-4940-9630-55d90989c146/40578e70-350a-4940-9630-55d90989c146.xml
  2. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  3. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
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 and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years in digital health focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show and Sharecare and has served on the Medical Expert Board of Eat This, Not That!.

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.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information

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.

Education

  • Bachelor of Arts, Egyptian and Ancient Western Asian Archaeology. Brown University |

  • Doctor of Medicine. |

  • Master of Public Health, General Public Health. |

  • Master of Liberal Arts, Journalism. |

  • Master of Business Administration. | (anticipated 2024)

  • Master of Science, Healthcare Leadership. | (anticipated 2024)

Training

  • NYU Internal Medicine Residency—Brooklyn Community Health Track. |

Certifications

  • Certified in Public Health.

  • Medical Writer Certified.

  • Editor in the Life Sciences.

  • Certified Personal Trainer.

  • Certified Nutrition Coach.

  • Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist. Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs

  • Digital Storytelling Graduate Certificate.

  • Marketing Management and Digital Strategy Graduate Certificate.

Publications

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