Effects of alcohol on training & performance.

If you’re anything like I used to be, a bunch of beers followed by quite a few spirits on the weekend was a regular occurrence. Did it affect my performance as an athlete? It was hard to tell sometimes. I once won a grand final still hungover from 2 nights before (not my finest hour or smartest thing I’ve ever done). I also played my best game of social touch footy after a few pints… which however did not end that well afterward.

I will preface this by saying I don’t drink a great deal these days, mostly because it is toxic for your body and I enjoy a lot of other things a lot more than a hangover. Last week I listened to an interesting podcast from the guys at Barbell Shrugged on the effects of alcohol and training. Check it out HERE. So how bad is it exactly?

Well, the key points were:

  • It doesn’t necessarily reduce strength or performance initially, but it will increase recovery time and you won’t recover as well. Meaning you can’t train as much or as hard afterward which is not ideal for any athlete.
  • Chronic consumption leads to less androgen receptors. For the men out there, these regulate genes, contribute to skeletal maintenance and very importantly, directly effects testosterone. Less testosterone = less gains and less sex.
  • Training after alcohol will lead to absorption of less than optimal nutrients into the muscle fibres. Absence of exercise however prolongs hangovers. Therefore, probably best to get out and do something, but nothing too strenuous or damaging.
  • Mixed drinks and beer are marginally better due to the sugars and antioxidants
  • Darker spirits tend to have more methanol in them generally cause harder hangovers. Methanol has a quick and profound effect on the body. The body transforms methanol into formaldehyde and formic acid, which does serious damage to your central nervous system. (I might stay away from the Rum & Coke from now on)
  • If you’re going to have a drink, make sure you eat with it, specifically some protein as its better at controlling the blood alcohol level.

So next time your dad or pop says ‘back in my day, we used to just drink beers after games and it didn’t affect us’, you know he’s talking rubbish.

Key points

For the everyday Joe hitting the gym 3-5x per week, the 3 beers or wines you have after work or with dinner are minimising your gains, not to mention toxifying your body plus adding unwanted poor quality calories to the daily intake.

If you’re a professional athlete, its pretty obvious you should be steering clear as much as possible. It isn’t serving you and it is hindering your ability to make a living. As for the weekend punter, a couple of beers after the game probably isn’t the defining reason for poor performance. And for the young guys out on the drink every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday nights, you’re pretty much destroying your ability to do anything to the best of your ability.

At the end of the day, its the choices you make which define who you are. If that’s having a few drinks every now and then, that’s fine, just make sure you understand the effects it is having, then your decision will be the right one for you at the time.