Alcohol Consumption and the Athlete

Sorry it’s taken so long to get this post up…It’s been a long day. One that I characterize as a “some days the dragon wins” sort of day. Anyways…
So we all know getting drunk can be fun. But what happens to your body when you drink? It is important to understand the consequences of our actions especially as athletes. So lets talk about. I am going to address this subject from an athlete’s point of view and direct it at athletes.
I’ve made a little list of things that happens to your body when you drink and what alcohol does when it enters your system. I’ve included some of the links that I got my information from. I did my best and I didn’t make this stuff up.

Alcohol use can cancel out the gains or benefits of your workout.
– for days after use it can impair reaction time, mental acuity, and hand-eye coordination.
– It is a toxin and travels via the bloodstream to all organs and tissues.
-Long term use diminishes protein synthesis resulting in decreased muscle build up and short term use can impede muscle growth.
-Consumption causes dehydration (more on this below) and slow’s your body’s ability to heal. (Remember, speeding up recovery of sore muscle and injuries is integral to optimal performance)
-It prevents muscle recovery: Because alcohol effects sleep, your body is robbed of HGH (Human growth hormone) which is super important for normal muscle building and repair processes. Consumption of alcohol can decrease HGH secretion by up to 70%. Furthermore, when alcohol enters your system, it triggers the production of substances in the liver that are directly toxic to testosterone (which is important for development and muscle recovery). Decreases in testosterone are associated with decreases in lean muscle mass, muscle recovery, and overall athletic performance. (This is one of the reasons we do crossfit ladies and gentlemen. testosterone increases. Testosterone, it’s not just for men anymore.) Decreases in testosterone can also cause testicular shrinkage, breast enlargement, and decreased sperm development in males. In females, it can cause increases in a form of estrogen (estradial) which may increase your risk of breast cancer. Sources
– Alcohol depletes your energy source. It also disrupts water balance in muscle cells and alters your ability to produce ATP (muscle’s energy source).
– Alcohol can also inhibit glucogenesis in which glucose is formed from substances other than glucose.
Glycolosis is impaired and large amounts of lactic acid are produced resulting in decreased energy, decreased muscle recovery, and increased soreness.
– Alcohol is stored a lot like fat (the bad kind). It destroys amino acids and stores them as fat as well.
– Alcohol inhibits the absorption of nutrients including…
– Thiamin (Vitamin B1) which is involved in metabolism of protein and fat and the formation of hemoglobin. It is also essential to performance and metabolizing carbohydrates.
– Vitamin B12: helps maintain healthy red blood and nerve cells
– Folic Acid: Part of coenzyme involved in the formation of new cells
– Zinc: essential to energy metabolic processes.

Long term effects on athletic performance:

-impairing the cardiovascular response to exercise
-causes nutritional deficiencies from alternations in nutrient intake, digestions, absorption, metabolism, turnover, and excretion of nutrients.
-causes myopathy, or muscle damage, wasting, and weakness, in various muscles, including the heart
-changes the bodys hormonal environment, making it less conducive to increasing muscle mass and strength

-alcohol is a strong diuretic that can cause severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Dehydration can require up to a week for full recovery. While you are dehydrated you are at a greater risk for cramps, muscle pulls and strains. It also leads to decreased appetite and muscle wasting and a decrease in muscle mass can lead to decreases in strength and performance.

Mental effects:
– your brain’s ability to learn new information is inhibited because it compromises the hippocampus.
– It reduces your brains ability to learn and retain information. Even drinking up to 6 hours before sleep can disrupt sleep cycles.

Alcohol and Injury:
– Athletes who drink at least once per week have an elevated risk of injury
– regular consumption depresses immune functioning and slows the healing process for sports-related injuries

It’s pretty easy to find some awesome stuff about alcohol and athletes (and non-athletes) on the internet. If you are seriously interested in this stuff I would recommend checking it out further.

There’s nothing good about drinking and training hard. (I really don’t give a s**t if you tell me that drinking a glass of red wine is good for your heart and blah blah blah…I’ve been there. I used to collect red wine with my dad and I used to tell myself the same thing. IT’S NOT. There are better things you can drink or eat that are better for your heart. It’s choosing the better of two evils and it is making ourselves feel better about our bad habits.) Now, I am realistic and don’t expect anyone who reads this to stop drinking. I am just providing you with information and the reasons behind why I don’t drink (there are others). I used to be quite the party animal in my day. I worked at a club in Miami for gosh sakes. (I’m not sure if thats how you say it) so I don’t need to hear about how it hurts your social life and how it relaxes you or whatever… I’ve been there and I honestly don’t care. You will do whatever you want to anyways and I don’t intend on trying to stop you. HOWEVER, if you are serious about being a competitive athlete or doing well in competitions, I would strongly urge you to take a look at your drinking habits.

Two sources for this stuff:


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