Alcohol and Its Effects on Fitness – Analysis of alcohol and muscle recovery revealed that alcohol consumption can cause significant setbacks in gaining muscle and accomplishing fitness goals. Studies have shown that alcohol consumption reduces muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which reduces the possibility of gaining muscle. It has also been revealed that alcohol negatively modifies hormone levels and decreases the body’s metabolism, meaning the capability to decrease body fat becomes delayed. There’s also the problem for some who just can’t drink alcohol in moderation.
Is alcohol bad for muscle recovery?
Not the drink of champions – Alcohol ingestion after sport and exercise worsens all major aspects of post-exercise recovery. Alcohol slows down the repair process of exercise-induced muscle damage by inhibiting the functions of hormones that usually aid this process (such as testosterone). After the final siren of the state of origin game 1, the nation watched as the players were handed cans of beer; XXXX Gold for Queensland and Tooheys New for New South Wales, with the colour of the can matched perfectly to the respective jersey. Screenshot from 9now This indirectly slows down the restoration of energy stores in muscle.
For those of us trying to shed a few kilos, alcohol is also a bad choice considering it’s highly energy-dense, with little nutritional value. But if athletes are dehydrated, isn’t drinking something better than nothing? Alcohol is actually a diuretic that promotes fluid loss and contributes to dehydration.
Read more: Health Check: what happens to your body when you’re dehydrated? In one study, when drinks containing 4% alcohol were ingested following exercise, there was an increase in urine output and a delay in the recovery rate of blood volume. Drinking nothing at all would be better.
- Alcohol consumption is also known to decrease sleep duration when consumed after a rugby match, either directly through alcohol’s negative influence on falling asleep and staying asleep, or indirectly as a result of a late night on the town.
- With poor sleep, impaired muscle repair, energy restoration and delayed rehydration, it’s not surprising drinking alcohol immediately after exercise significantly impairs recovery of both strength and power in the following days.
And we can assume the impact of a hangover on a training session would also be dire. Read more: Got a hangover? Here’s what’s happening in your body
Will 2 beers ruin a workout?
by Tessa McLean December 30, 2018 You diligently go to the gym and lead a generally healthy lifestyle, so you deserve a glass of wine at the end of the day, right? After all, endurance athletes seem to swear by beer as a post-race recovery drink, Here, we explore the effect alcohol has on your fitness progress.
- It’s an odd pairing, sure, but indulging in a 16-ounce IPA probably won’t negate all that hard work you just put in.
- If your goal is increasing performance and strength, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake after working out, even if you don’t eliminate it entirely.
- Alcohol can slow your protein synthesis, the process in your body that aids muscle growth, and can increase dehydration.
If you’re indulging in heavy drinking after working out, like the men in this 2014 study, the ill effects on protein synthesis can be pronounced. But studies have shown moderate drinking, usually defined as one drink for women and two drinks for men, showed almost no difference in recovery.
- It also may depend on how physically fit you are, how hydrated you are, how often you normally drink and whether you’re a man or a woman,
- As for the myth about drinking beer post-race because it has carbohydrates, you can forgot that one,
- Beer doesn’t have enough carbs or electrolytes to make any measurable difference.
While alcohol might not totally ruin your athletic performance, it could be prohibiting your weight loss. If you’re imbibing in multiple drinks several times a week, you’re adding loads of empty calories to your diet that are also hard to track. Mostly, this type of drinking can encourage other bad habits like opting for those late-night nachos or skimping on much-needed sleep.
For maximum recovery, it might be better to wait to have your cocktail until you’re done properly rehydrating and refueling on protein. If you’re only indulging occasionally, it could be what you’re drinking that’s the problem. Typical cocktail ingredients like juice and soda are high in sugar, upping the calorie count of each beverage.
Drinking Alcohol is KILLING Your Gains!
Choose a light beer or a vodka and soda water with a squeeze of citrus, instead. And make sure to have a full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed. If you’re going to indulge post-race or workout, this study recommends drinking equal to or less than 0.5g/kg bodyweight, a rate they determined is unlikely to impact most aspects of recovery.
How bad is alcohol for athletes?
Alcohol use is widespread in the realm of sports. Consumption ranges from the weekend warrior guzzling a beer after completing a 5-k run to elite athletes popping champagne in the locker room after a championship win. Alcohol is often used as a means of celebration or relaxation, and athletes frequently consume drinks without much thought of the acute and chronic effects on performance and health.
Alcohol’s path to oxidation is complex, and both short- and long-term use affects most systems of the body. Factors such as genetics, gender, amount of alcohol ingested, body mass, and nutrition status help explain the large variance in effects that alcohol has within and across individuals (1,4). From an athletic performance standpoint, the acute use of alcohol can influence motor skills, hydration status, aerobic performance, as well as aspects of the recovery process; consequently, influencing subsequent training and competitions (2,9).
Chronic alcohol use can lead to difficulty in managing body composition, nutritional deficiencies, and depressed immune function, resulting in increased risk of injury and prolonged healing and return-to-play (2,17). While the acute and chronic effects of alcohol are largely dose-dependent, chronic and heavy intake can increase one’s risk of long-term health effects such as cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and cancer (4).
- The drinking habits of athletes, as well as the effects of alcohol, are highly variable, making a one-size-fits-all recommendation difficult and impractical.
- Furthermore, current research on the effects of alcohol on athletic performance is limited due to ethical concerns.
- This article will discuss the available evidence related to alcohol and athletic performance.
Blood alcohol concentration increases upon ingestion of alcohol. Soon after, the acute side effects begin to take place, which can result in depression of central nervous system activity. While the effects are dose-dependent, this can lead to compromised motor skills, decreased coordination, delayed reactions, diminished judgment, and impaired balance (3,9).
- These effects on the body may not only contribute negatively to athletic performance, but may also increase an athlete’s risk for injury.
- The effects of low to moderate doses of alcohol on anaerobic performance and strength are equivocal, but an aid to performance is not evident (9).
- Conversely, research has shown that even small doses of alcohol ingested prior to exercise led to a decrease in endurance performance (10).
It appears that alcohol may affect aerobic performance by slowing the citric acid cycle, inhibiting gluconeogenesis, and increasing levels of lactate (12). Additionally, the body preferentially metabolizes alcohol, thereby altering the metabolism of carbohydrates and lipids, which are the preferred energy sources during endurance exercise (12).
- Although alcohol may have been viewed as an ergogenic aid in the past (likely for psychological reasons), the scientific evidence shows that alcohol hinders athletic performance, and ingestion prior to training or competition should be avoided.
- Alcohol is currently a banned substance for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rifle competitions, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibits alcohol consumption during air sports, archery, powerboating, and automobile competitions on the basis of it being considered an ergogenic aid (11,18).
The ingestion of alcohol prior to or during exercise is not very common. However, the intake of alcohol following an event is a much more likely scenario. To recover properly from exercise, it is important to replenish glycogen, stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), and restore fluid balance.
- Alcohol and the behaviors associated with intoxication can interfere with many aspects of the recovery process.
- Beverages containing greater than or equal to 4% alcohol can increase urine output, ultimately delaying recovery from a dehydrated state (15).
- Beer has been plugged as a post-workout recovery beverage because it contains carbohydrates and electrolytes, but in actuality, the typical beer does not contain nearly enough carbohydrates or electrolytes for proper recovery from a long workout with a large sweat loss.
It is reasonable to conclude that the negative effects of alcohol consumption after a workout outweigh any potential beneficial effects. To adequately replace lost fluids, it is important for athletes to drink rehydrating beverages such as sports drinks, or consume water with salty foods, prior to alcohol consumption.
If immediate alcohol intake is inevitable, athletes should strive to only consume small volumes of alcohol. Replenishing glycogen stores is another essential component to recovery, especially when the turnaround between training and competition is short. It is unclear if alcohol consumption after exercise directly affects glycogen synthesis; however, alcohol can indirectly displace carbohydrate and protein intake (5).
When protein-rich foods are displaced with alcohol during the post-exercise recovery period, MPS is not optimally stimulated, which can potentially inhibit muscle growth and repair. Furthermore, there is evidence for a direct effect of alcohol on MPS.
Researchers have found that alcohol significantly decreases MPS even when adequate protein is consumed (13). This effect has been investigated on resistance exercises, as well as exercises commonly carried out in team sport training (6). Overall, when an athlete chooses to fill up on alcoholic beverages during the recovery period they are less likely to follow optimal nutrition guidelines for recovery, resulting in a prolonged recovery period, inadequate recovery before the next training session or competition, or lack of desired muscular adaptations.
Beyond the energy storage and MPS implications, alcohol can also negatively affect sleep, recovery from injury, and the production of hormones associated with muscular growth (2). Athletes need adequate sleep to aid in recovery and to be able to perform at their best, both physically and mentally.
Ingestion of alcohol before going to bed may help induce sleep, but has been shown to disrupt restorative sleep cycles throughout the night, decreasing quality of sleep (7). To compound this, when athletes enjoy a night out drinking, they may stay out later than normal, reducing their duration of sleep.
These two factors combined may impact recovery, energy levels, and performance in upcoming training and competitions. When athletes experience soft tissue injuries, the body employs an inflammatory response. Alcohol has been shown to limit the inflammatory response via an increase in the production of anti-inflammatory molecules and a decrease in pro-inflammatory molecules (2).
In addition to an imbalance of the inflammatory response, alcohol also acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to the injured area, which could possibly increase the severity of the injury and prolong the recovery (2). Therefore, consumption of alcohol is generally not recommended if an injury has recently occurred.
There are a number of hormones that affect muscle growth. For example, cortisol stimulates protein breakdown while testosterone increases protein synthesis. In recreationally trained athletes, research has found that high doses of alcohol intake after resistance exercise increased cortisol levels and decreased the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio, which can interfere with the adaptive process of long-term resistance training (8).
- Additionally, alcohol decreases testosterone secretion; therefore, excessive intake during the recovery period should be avoided for athletes striving for muscular hypertrophy or for those with hormonal imbalances (4).
- The effects of alcohol do not simply wear off when signs of intoxication are gone.
Heavy drinking can lead to an array of symptoms commonly referred to as a hangover. Athletes are not immune to hangovers, which can influence their training and competitions. The hangover symptoms produced by alcohol have many intra-individual variances.
- However, the main effects of hangovers include electrolyte imbalance, hypoglycemia, gastric irritation, vasodilation, and sleep disturbances (14).
- These effects cause an array of physical symptoms, which may leave an athlete feeling drained and unable to train as hard as normal.
- Research has shown an approximate 11% decrease in aerobic capacity in those exercising with a hangover (12).
Effects of a hangover on anaerobic performance remain unclear, but overall it is probable that athletes training or competing without a hangover will enjoy a competitive edge over their hungover opponents. There is evidence supporting health benefits from moderate alcohol consumption, but regular heavy consumption and binge drinking can take a toll on the body.
- Athletes are susceptible to the health effects associated with excessive alcohol consumption, which can also affect performance.
- Alcohol is calorically dense, providing seven calories per gram, with a standard drink in the United States containing 14 grams of alcohol (16).
- If other substances are present, such as soft drinks and sugar-based beverages, the caloric value of an alcoholic drink rises even higher.
As a general reference, the following are common drink sizes and their average alcohol content: 12 oz of beer (5% alcohol), 5 oz of wine (12% alcohol), and 1.5 oz of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol) (16). 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.
Athletes require a sound nutrition plan to promote optimal athletic performance, and may already be at a higher risk of nutritional deficiencies than their non-athlete counterparts due to the physical demands of training. Alcohol affects absorption and utilization of many nutrients.
- Excessive alcohol intake can reduce the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients such as vitamin B12, thiamin, and folate.
- Additionally, liver cells can become inefficient at activating vitamin D and the metabolism of alcohol can destroy vitamin B6 (4).
- Nutritional deficiencies present many different problems to athletes and can have serious health and performance implications.
In addition, long-term misuse of alcohol is associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and cancer (4). It can also compromise the immune system and increase susceptibility to illness (2). Overall, the effects of alcohol vary dramatically from person to person with many different contributing factors.
The effects of alcohol on athletic performance vary depending on quantity, demographics, and type of exercise. Therefore, it is difficult to determine specific recommendations, but it is suggested that athletes follow the same recommended guidelines for safe and responsible drinking as the general public.
Binge drinking is never recommended due to the side effects that interfere with desired athletic adaptations. The cumulative effects of binge drinking episodes may leave an athlete unable to perform at the expected or desired level. After an athletic event, athletes should be encouraged to follow recommended nutrition and hydration guidelines for recovery prior to alcohol consumption.
- This article originally appeared in NSCA Coach, a quarterly publication for NSCA Members that provides valuable takeaways for every level of strength and conditioning coach.
- You can find scientifically based articles specific to a wide variety of your athletes’ needs with Nutrition, Programming, and Youth columns.
Read more articles from NSCA Coach »
Why alcohol is bad for athletes?
By SCAN Registered Dietitians Despite being more of a target for education programs, as compared to their non-athlete counterparts, collegiate student-athletes have been found to drink more and do so more often than the general collegiate student population.1 Neither the education efforts directed toward nor the competitive motivation of student-athletes seem to deter use.
So what exactly is the harm of alcohol use for a student-athlete? The facts: Alcohol, otherwise known as ethanol, is defined as “a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.2 The standard serving sizes for alcoholic drinks are: 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor.3 When consumed in excess, often referred to as binge drinking, the social and physical repercussions can be especially detrimental to student-athletes.
Binge drinking is considered five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within a two-hour period.4 The internal process: Digestion of alcohol begins in the mouth, moving through to the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. While alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream quickly, simultaneous food consumption can help slow the process.
Once alcohol has been digested and absorbed, the body’s goal is to process it via one of two pathways: metabolize it for energy or convert it to fat for storage. Due to its effects on the central nervous system (CNS), alcohol is also considered a drug, and its overuse can lead to impaired judgment and slurred speech, among other CNS side effects.3,5 The performance risks: For the collegiate student-athlete, alcohol consumption can result in a huge detriment to athletic performance.
Excessive alcohol use can lead to loss of balance and coordination, reduced reaction time, and increased appetite.2 The decline in cognitive function can lead to an increase in sports-related injuries. Furthermore, studies have shown that regular consumption of alcohol can depress the immune system and slow the body’s ability to heal.6 Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common in those who excessively drink alcohol, further compromising the immune system.
Alcohol can interfere with adequate nutrient intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals, be destructive toward vitamins in the body, and cause higher nutrient losses through urine. Common nutrient deficiencies are calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and B vitamins, all of utmost importance to athletes.7 Alcohol has a diuretic property that can lead to rapid dehydration and decreased athletic performance.
Dehydration can cause increased core temperature, rapid heart rate, nausea/vomiting, and a general feeling of fatigue; all of which can be detrimental to performance. These side effects can begin to set in with a water weight loss of as little as two to three percent of total body weight.5 Dehydration and alcohol toxicity can also lead to a hangover, which has been reported to decrease aerobic capacity, by 11.4%.6 The common practice of drinking after a big win or competition can also negatively affect recovery.
- Muscle glycogen synthesis and storage may be decreased, and gluconeogenesis may be stunted, potentially leading to hypoglycemia and impairing future performance.6 Post-activity nutrition should focus on replenishing depleted glycogen stores with nutrient-dense carbohydrate sources.
- Athletes who consume alcohol after competition or practice are less likely to consume adequate carbohydrate, thus compromising performance in the next exercise bout.5 Alcohol consumption also affects sleep quality, a major component of recovery.
Alcohol has been shown to help one fall asleep faster (e.g., reduced onset sleep latency); however, an increased disruption in sleep throughout the night has been observed. A delay in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep onset and decreased total amount of REM sleep are especially evident with moderate and high levels of alcohol consumption.8 Also related to athletic performance is the effect of alcohol on body composition.
- Alcohol is often mixed with high-calorie accompaniments such as soft drinks, juices, and sugary toppings.
- These extra “empty” calories, along with the potential for alcohol to be converted to and stored as fat, can lead to less than optimal body composition for an athlete.
- For male athletes specifically, alcohol may lead to a reduction in testosterone production.
This reduction in testosterone can, in turn, decrease the ability to gain muscle mass – again negatively affecting body composition and ultimately performance.6 As a general rule, abstaining from alcohol 48 hours prior to competition can be beneficial for athletic performance, and making it a priority to properly rehydrate and consume food after activity will help facilitate recovery (See the Alcohol and Athletic Performance fact sheet for more information).
Can I drink alcohol after lifting?
Rehydration Is Key – After a rigorous workout or sports competition, your body needs to refuel, rehydrate and rebuild muscle. Alcohol does just the opposite. It promotes dehydration, which can hinder recovery. In fact, rehydrating after one alcoholic drink can require up to twice as much water, says Kelli Santiago, at University Hospitals.
And that doesn’t include the amount of water needed to rehydrate from the exercise. “The more alcohol you drink, the more dehydrated you’ll become, which can have serious consequences on recovery and overall health,” Santiago says. “A light beer or drink with a lower alcohol content may have less of an effect on this than a drink made with hard liquor.
But that doesn’t mean you can drink an unlimited amount of light beer,” says Santiago. “Alcohol in any amount can have an detrimental effect on hydration, recovery and performance.” Drinking one low-alcohol beverage after a light workout is not likely to be detrimental.
Is it OK to drink while bodybuilding?
Alcohol is specifically detrimental to bodybuilders, or any athlete, in that it can interfere with recovery, protein synthesis, hydration, motivation, and nutrient intake.