Effects of alcohol consumption on Sport Performance & Training
Alcohol is part of many peoples lives, whether you have a glass of red wine at night or a couple of beers over the weekend. The majority of us consume alcohol in a social environment.
One sip of an alcoholic beverage will stay in your body for about 2 hours. Once alcohol enters the bloodstream through your stomach it will make its way to nearly every organ in your body. Your liver will then do most of the work breaking down the alcohol.
So ever wondered what effect alcohol will have on your sport performance or training?
Alcohol interferes with muscle recovery and regeneration. To recover properly from your workouts it is important to replenish glycogen stores, stimulate muscle synthesis (MPS) and restore fluid balance. Alcohol can interfere with many aspects of the recovery process. It lowers the rate of protein synthesis and this has an direct affect on muscle recovery.
Alcohol is a diuretic, drinking too much can lead to dehydration. Exercising soon after drinking alcohol can make this dehydration worse because you sweat as your body temperature rises. Sweating and the diuretic effect of exercise make dehydration much more likely. You need to be hydrated when you exercise to maintain the flow of blood through your body, which is essential for circulating oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Dehydration leads to reduced performance. Hydration also helps control your body temperature so you’re more likely to overheat if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
Alcohol interferes with the way your body makes energy. Research has shown that even small dosses of alcohol ingested prior to exercise led to a decrease in endurance performance. The body preferentially metabolizes alcohol, thereby altering the metabolism of carbohydrates ad lipids (fats), which are the preferred energy sources during endurance exercise.
Alcohol can negatively affect sleep. Athletes need adequate sleep to aid in recovery and to be able to perform at their best, both physically and mentally. Consumption of alcohol before going to bed may help induce sleep, but has been shown to disrupt restorative sleep (Deep and REM Sleep) cycles throughout the night, decreasing the quality of sleep. This can have an effect on your energy levels and thus make your workouts much harder. Growth hormone helps with the growth and maintenance of tissues, including muscle and collagen. More specifically, growth hormone stimulates protein turnover and MPS during and after exercise. In addition, this hormone helps to regulate the metabolism. Growth hormone is predominately secreted during the early sleeping hours of the night. Because alcohol tends to disrupt natural sleep rhythms, it can decrease the amount of growth hormone released.
Alcohol has also been shown to increase the stress hormone cortisol, which can reduce the levels of growth hormone.
Sports performance is also impaired when you drink after you’ve had an injury. You’ll be out of action for longer because the recovery process slows down. Alcohol has been shown to limit the inflammatory response by increasing the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and decreasing in pro-inflammatory molecules. Alcohol also acts as a vasodilator (widening of blood vessels) thus increasing blood flow to the injured area, which could possibly increase the severity of the injury and prolong the recovery.
Alcohol has no nutritional value. It is what we like to call empty calories. It is energy dense consisting of about 29 kJ (Kilojoules) per gram. If you mix it with a sugar based beverage the energy content of an alcoholic drink rises even higher. The calories from alcoholic beverages can add up fast and contribute a significant amount of calories to an athlete’s overall caloric intake. Additionally, behaviors associated with heavy drinking, such as irregular eating patterns and increased consumption of unhealthy foods, may lead to increased caloric intake. Over time, this combination can affect an athlete’s body composition. Heavy intake of alcohol can also lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Image: Estimate of Calories per drink (Convert calories to kJ = calorie x 4.2)
The effects of alcohol vary dramatically from person to person and the quantity that is being consumed. The impact of food and drink on achieving training goals can’t be overstated. While the key to any successful long-term training program and nutritional plan is moderation. In conclusion try and stick to 1-2 drinks not more than 1-2 days in a week and if you can try and avoid alcohol as much as possible to reach those fitness goals especially before a race or competition.