Alcohol and Sports Performance
Alcohol seems to be an ingrained part of not just our culture, but within sports themselves in many games in Australia. A beer after the match, or a few drinks for team bonding is something we regularly hear about.
Whilst I am all for having a good time, there are a few things to consider in relation to alcohol, and the impact it can have on your sports performance.
Alcohol can reduce muscle protein synthesis. What does this mean? Alcohol gets in the way of your muscles being able to repair and rebuild themselves effectively if consumed after physical activity; essentially this means worse recovery, and reduced muscular adaptations to training (1).
Alcohol is high in kiloujoules, containing 29kJ per gram of alcohol. Only fat has more kiloujoules per gram. Excess consumption of alcohol can make it difficult to maintain body composition, as the extra energy being consumed will often result in increased body fat.
Hydration status is also impacted by alcohol intake. It is a diuretic, meaning it promotes the production of urine. It also dilates the arteries, which causes more fluid to be lost in sweat. Both these factors result in increased risk of dehydration. Furthermore, alcohol also impacts on neural function and temperature regulation (2).
Finally, alcohol impacts your sleep. More frequent waking, night sweats, nightmares and headaches are all associated with drinking alcohol before sleep. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends avoiding alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime (3). Poor sleep is linked with poorer sports performance (4).
Over consumption, or poorly timed consumption of alcohol can have a significant impact on your ability to perform well, and recover well.