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How to Take Viagra for Best Results

Jill Johnson

Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 11/17/2022

Viagra®, which contains the active ingredient sildenafil, is a highly effective oral medication for treating erectile dysfunction, more commonly known as ED. 

Like other prescription medicines, Viagra and sildenafil work best when they’re taken in the right conditions. From your mental state to your eating habits, a large range of different factors can all influence the effectiveness of drugs like Viagra.

Understanding the right conditions for taking Viagra can not only help you to get better effects -- it could also reduce your risk of experiencing unwanted side effects.

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

We’ve also shared some other options for treating ED, including other ED medications, that you may want to consider if you’re affected by this common form of sexual dysfunction. 

How to Take Viagra for Best Results

Not getting the results you’d like from Viagra? Haven’t used this medication before and want to know how to get started? It’s common and very normal to have questions about using Viagra to treat ED, especially if you’re new to using erectile dysfunction medication.

The good news is that Viagra is generally an easy medication to use, at least once you’re aware of the basics of taking it safely and effectively.

Below, we’ve shared six simple tips that you can use to take Viagra and generic sildenafil more effectively and get the best possible results from every tablet.

Take Viagra 30-60 Minutes Before Sex

Viagra generally takes 30 to 60 minutes to become fully active in the body and start producing a noticeable effect on your ability to develop and maintain an erection.

The precise amount of time required for Viagra or generic sildenafil to start taking action varies based on a variety of factors, from your diet to your personal drug metabolism.

If you take your ED medication too soon before sex, it might not become active quickly enough and you could be left with an awkward situation where the drug isn’t quite fully active when you need it most. 

Simply put, it’s always best to be prepared. If you expect to have sex, make sure you take your recommended dose of Viagra ahead of time. This not only ensures it will be active and effective -- it can also act as a useful confidence boost for men.

However, be sure not to take your Viagra tablet more than three or four hours before you plan to have sex, because the effects of Viagra can also wear off. 

On average, Viagra lasts for around four hours, after which it may no longer help you to get and maintain an erection. This means that if you take a Viagra tablet in the morning for your evening date, you might be out of luck by the time you’re ready to have sex.

To hit the sweet spot in terms of effectiveness, try to take Viagra approximately one hour before the time you plan to have sex. This way, the medication will be fully active in your body and able to provide its optimal effects on blood flow to your penis and sexual function. 

Related post: Does Viagra Keep You Hard After Coming?

Try to Avoid Heavy, Fatty Means Before Taking Viagra

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid fatty meals on the days you plan to take Viagra, sildenafil or other forms of ED 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.

It’s okay to have some fat while using ED medication, but an extremely high-fat meal such as a fatty steak, burger, lasagna or omelet should generally be avoided. 

Instead, try to focus on eating relatively lean, low-fat meals when you’re first getting started with Viagra or other types of ED medication. Over time, as you get used to how long it usually takes for Viagra to start working, it’s okay to adjust your eating habits appropriately. 

If you can’t resist a satisfying, high-fat meal, try to have it for your breakfast or lunch rather than dinner. If you plan to have sex in the evening, this will give your body enough time to digest and absorb the meal, preventing it from affecting your ability to use Viagra or generic sildenafil. 

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

Viagra comes in a range of different doses and requires a prescription for a reason. If you take Viagra or generic sildenafil and don’t notice any effect following sexual stimulation, you may be inclined to panic and assume that your ED issues are permanent. 

Luckily, this usually isn’t the case, and it’s very likely that you’ll still be able to treat your erectile dysfunction. 

ED can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s caused by physical issues, such as heart disease or hypertension (high blood pressure). These conditions can reduce blood flow to your penis, making it more difficult to get and stay hard during sex. 

Sometimes, erectile dysfunction is primarily a psychological problem, with a mental health issue such as major depressive disorder (MDD) or sexual performance anxiety affecting your ability to feel sexually aroused and maintain an erection.

Viagra works by making it easier for blood to flow to your penis. This means that while it’s great at treating erectile dysfunction that’s caused by physical issues, it might not be totally effective if you feel anxious, stressed or depressed during sex. 

If Viagra doesn’t work for you the first time you use it, don’t panic. Instead, try taking Viagra the next time you plan to have sex and see if you feel more relaxed and capable of developing and maintaining an erection.

It may also help to take Viagra on a day you don’t plan to have sex, just to see if you’re able to get an erection when you don’t feel any pressure around your partner. 

If Viagra or generic sildenafil still doesn’t work for you, reach out to your healthcare provider to talk about what’s going on. They may recommend adjusting your dosage of Viagra or help you to change the way you use this medication.

Our full guide to what to do when Viagra doesn’t seem to work goes into more detail about the steps you can take if Viagra or similar ED medication isn’t effective for you. 

Before You Take Viagra, Check for Drug Interactions

Viagra is generally a safe and effective medication. However, like many other medications, it’s known to interact with certain other drugs, including several common prescription medications for heart disease and hypertension. 

More specifically, Viagra and generic sildenafil can cause dangerous interactions when they’re used with medications such as nitrates and alpha-blockers.

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, as well as recreational drugs such as poppers that are made using substances such as amyl nitrate, amyl nitrite and butyl nitrate.

Our guide to Viagra and nitrates goes into more detail about these potential issues, as well as what you need to know if you’re prescribed this type of medication.

If you currently take any type of medication, it’s important to let your healthcare provider know before you use Viagra or any similar type of medication to treat ED. 

Viagra belongs to a class of medications called PDE5 inhibitors, or phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors. These medications work by inhibiting an enzyme that regulates blood flow through certain blood vessels in your body, including those that supply your penis. 

These medications can also increase blood flow through other arteries in your body, including those near your heart and lungs. 

Other PDE5 inhibitors include tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®).

It’s important not to use Viagra with other PDE5 inhibitors, as these medications may cause a significant drop in blood pressure that may affect your health and wellbeing. 

As always, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider and inform them about all medications, recreational drugs and other substances you use before taking Viagra. 

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Be Aware of the Side Effects of Viagra

Viagra is safe for most healthy men, but like with any medication, there are possible Viagra side effects. Most of these side effects are mild and transient, meaning they’ll fade away as the level of Viagra in your bloodstream drops, but some may be persistent and/or bothersome.  

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

These side effects only occur in a small percentage of men who use Viagra, and are generally mild side effects that improve as this medication exits your system. 

Although rare, Viagra and sildenafil can cause more serious side effects, including chest pain, sudden vision loss and loss of hearing.

In rare cases, Viagra and similar medications for erectile dysfunction may cause priapism -- a type of painful, long-lasting erection. Priapism is a serious medical emergency that can, if it’s left untreated, cause permanent damage to the tissue inside your penis.

If you develop a painful, long-lasting erection after using Viagra that doesn’t seem to go away, it’s important to seek emergency medical attention. 

Although these issues may sound alarming, it’s important to keep in mind that they only occur in a tiny percentage of men who take Viagra. For most healthy men, Viagra is a safe, effective and convenient medication that produces real improvements in sexual function and quality of life.

Our list of Viagra FAQs goes into greater detail about common worries related to Viagra, as well as how you can use this medication for best results. 

Treat ED With a Healthy Lifestyle, Not Just Medication

Erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra, generic sildenafil and others are generally safe and effective when they’re taken as prescribed. However, it’s also important to live a healthy lifestyle that reduces your ED risk factors and symptoms in the first place. 

ED can be caused by a range of physical health issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. In many cases, ED corresponds with an unhealthy lifestyle or habits that can affect your wellbeing, such as smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.

While ED medications like Viagra can make getting and maintaining an erection easier on their own, you’ll almost always get better results by combining medication with good habits.

These include keeping yourself physically active, eating a healthy, nutritious diet, getting plenty of sleep, performing pelvic floor exercises and maintaining healthy sleep habits. 

Sometimes, even a small improvement in your weight, blood pressure, general fitness levels or diet can have a huge positive effect on your health and sexual performance.

Our guide to naturally protecting your erection shares numerous healthy habits that you can use for better cardiovascular wellbeing and sexual function.

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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. 

To get the best results from Viagra, try to take it 30 to 60 minutes before sex, avoid eating foods that are high in fat, and don’t panic if your medication doesn’t work the first time you use it.

It’s also important to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle while using Viagra, as simple habits such as exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet and getting sufficient sleep can also have a positive impact on your sexual function. 

Viagra isn’t the only medication that can give you improved erections. Other options for treating ED include tadalafil, the active ingredient in Cialis, and Stendra, a newer medication for ED that contains the active ingredient avanafil.

We offer these erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

Interested in learning more about dealing with ED? Our complete guide to treatment options for erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about how you can get longer-lasting, more consistent erections, from medication to psychotherapy, exercises and more. 

2 Sources

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.

  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

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.