Alcohol and Athletic Performance


It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and what better subject for this week’s blog post than the affects that green beer you’re gonna drink has on athletic performance.

Whether it’s a drink to celebrate a holiday, a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer during the game, we’re all prone to indulge. But, as athletes, we must be aware of how alcohol affects our performance. And although it may not be realistic to eliminate the use of alcohol altogether, it’s a good idea to regulate its consumption—and not just because of all the empty calories. Alcohol has been described as a “performance-impairing drug,” and like a drug it can affect us in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the areas affected.

1. Alcohol can affect performance in many ways including impaired reaction time and decreased hand-eye coordination up to several days after consumption. Alcohol also interferes with lactic acid breakdown and can result in increased muscle soreness after exercise and decreased muscle recovery.

2. Alcohol is a powerful diuretic that can cause severe dehydration and serious electrolyte imbalances. While dehydrated, an athlete is at greater risk for musculoskeletal injuries including cramps, muscle pulls, and muscle strains. Dehydration leads to decreased appetite and the loss of muscle mass—a loss of muscle mass results in a decrease in strength and performance, causing fatigue.

3. Alcohol can dramatically decrease serum testosterone levels. Decreases in testosterone are associated with decreases in lean muscle mass, muscle recovery and overall athletic performance.

4. Alcohol can affect fat storage. Alcohol is stored much like fat in the body. Alcohol also breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat. As a result, alcohol consumption adversely affects fat storage.

5. When it comes to nutritional health, alcohol can have serious effects on the body. Fatty liver, fibrosis, and cirrhosis (irreversible liver damage) are common side effects of chronic alcohol use. Intestinal cells fail to absorb micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which can lead to electrolyte imbalances and vitamin deficiencies.  Alcohol consumption impairs the body’s mechanisms that control blood glucose and may result in hypoglycemia: a common cause of low energy.

6. Alcohol has a disruptive effect on sleep, the quality and duration of sleep, and on daytime attention. Sleep problems are common with excessive alcohol consumption.

7. Alcohol has been shown to slow the healing.

It becomes pretty obvious; alcohol can prevent an athlete from reaching their ultimate potential. Don’t let excessive alcohol use be the reason you don’t perform at your best.