Why Alcohol Can Impact Your Athletic Performance
Posted 7/9/2018 by UHBlog
If you rev up for a big race with a cold beer – or reward yourself with one after – you’re draining your training. Talk to us about proven methods for achieving your fitness goals.
Many sports events are sponsored by beer, wine and liquor companies, but imbibing before, during or after a competition can negatively affect your performance and recovery.
“The research is clear about how alcohol affects us, whether or not we are athletes,” says physical therapist Bethany Willis, PT, DPT, MS, CCI. “Our dietary habits, including alcohol consumption, may affect our ability to achieve fitness goals and optimal performance.”
Current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are for woman to limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day and for men to not exceed two drinks a day.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines should be followed first and foremost for our health,” Ms. Willis says.
Alcohol's Effects on the Body
Athletes should abstain from alcohol altogether, she says, because alcohol:
- Causes dehydration
- Inhibits muscles' absorption of glucose and amino acids, which are needed for energy
- Interferes with metabolic processes
- May trigger poor food choices, thus increasing the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies and slowing muscular recovery
- Can lead to sleep disturbances, which can hinder recovery
- May result in a hangover, which can decrease aerobic capacity by 11 percent
- May lead to injury because of impaired judgment
Instead of reaching for a cocktail after exercising or competition, Ms. Willis advises drinking plenty of water before, during and afterward.
Alcoholic drinks such as beer don't contain enough electrolytes or carbohydrates to replenish glycogen, promote protein muscle synthesis or rebalance fluid – all of which are necessary components of recovering from exercise, she says.
Drinking alcohol post-workout is never recommended. But if you insist on drinking right after a race, Ms. Willis says it's important to:
- Consume a sports drink, or drink water and eat salty food before reaching for a cocktail
- Limit alcohol consumption to a very small amount
Bethany Willis, PT, DPT, MS, CCI, is a physical therapist at University Hospitals Outpatient Rehabilitation Services and Sports Medicine at UH St. John Medical Center and UH Westshore Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Willis or any other health care provider online.