Does Alcohol Affect Sports Performance? A Scientific Review

That is the question! Let’s think about the races that involve drinking a beer after (or even during)! Many running and athletic groups also get together for drinks together – is there anything wrong with this? A friend of mine in college who ran track would swear by not drinking prior to a race. Not that he was of age but that’s besides the point 😉 So what’s the verdict? Is there a link between alcohol and sports performance?

Let’s look at the science:

Kristen Ziesmer - Does Alcohol Affect Sports Performance - A Scientific Review

1. Have you noticed after drinking an alcoholic beverage you have to pee more? That’s because alcohol acts as a diuretic. Losing fluid is not ideal when it comes to sports performance as it decreases the body’s ability to distribute nutrients to working muscles 🙁

2. Alcohol can decrease reaction time (remember this from driver’s ed?), Reduce grip strength, speed, hand-eye coordination and makes you fatigue faster 🙁

3. Alcohol decreases testosterone levels = decrease strength and muscle gains 🙁

4. Increases cortisol (can lead to fat gain) and decreases human growth hormone 🙁

5. Alcohol decreases REM sleep cycles. Poor sleep = poor performance 🙁

6. Obviously alcohol can lead to weight gain – ANY alcohol can cause this. One shot of liquor / 5 oz wine / 12 oz light beer is an extra 100 calories. Craft beers can have 200 calories or more! Mix your 1 oz of liquor with 8 oz orange juice and now you’re looking at 250 calories or more! Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram- that’s almost double the amount in carbohydrates and protein! Plus it’s just packing on fat, which can decrease your weight to power ratio 🙁

7. Too much alcohol can lead to nutritional deficiencies, especially with B vitamins. If you’re not aware, B vitamins help turn food into useable energy 🙁

8. Alcohol actually slows recovery time from illness and injuries. Drinkers take twice as much time as non-drinkers to recover 🙁

9. Let’s not forget about diseases that over-consumption of alcohol can lead to- liver disease, heart disease and anemia are just a few.

What’s the takeaway?

So, it looks like my track athlete friend was on to something… even in college! What’s the take away here? It’s ok to have one drink here and there. Yes, beer and wine do contain some health benefits. Antioxidants anyone? However, when you get into having multiple drinks in one sitting or one day it’s no bueno! Bottom line is there is a link – alcohol can negatively affect performance. I don’t know about you but I want my workouts to count and I will certainly be thinking twice before I have that glass of wine or beer.

How important is performing well for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Would you decrease or even up alcohol to perform well?

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