Effects of alcohol on sport performance

 As parties are on a rise today, so is the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol overall has en-number of negative health effects. Apart from drinking at parties there are quite a few who drink when they are stressed, while few others are social drinkers. The stress drinking today invariably ends one to become an alcoholic.


Overall, consumption of alcohol is detrimental to sports performance due to 2 main reasons

  • Alcohol is a diuretic and drinking too much of it leads to dehydration as it causes the kidney to produce and excrete more urine.
  • Alcohol interferes with the way your body produces energy.


  • As we all know dehydration is not good as the fluid content of the body goes considerably low. When you exercise after consuming alcohol, it makes your body more prone to dehydration as you shall sweat during exercise and your body temperature goes high.
  • Combined sweating and diuretic effect of alcohol and exercise can aggravate the dehydration.
  • It is highly essential to be hydrated all the time but it is of utmost important to be hydrated during exercise because when you exercise, you are already losing water in the form of sweat.
  • For your normal flow of blood and proper circulation it is essential to be hydrated.
  • “Dehydration leads to reduced performance,” says Professor Greg Whyte, an expert in sports performance. “Hydration also helps control your body temperature so you’re more likely to overheat if you’ve been drinking alcohol.”
  • When you’re metabolizing, or breaking down alcohol, the liver can’t produce as much glucose, which means you have low levels of blood sugar. Exercise requires high levels of sugar to give you energy. If your liver isn’t producing enough glucose, your performance will be adversely affected.
  • “If your body is forced to run from your supplies of fat rather than blood sugar, you will be slower and have less energy and won’t be able to exercise as intensely,” says Professor Whyte.
  • Both of these effects are immediate which is why it’s not advised to exercise or compete in sport soon after drinking alcohol.
  • Take our Alcohol Self-Assessment test to find out if you’re drinking too much.


Exercising the day after the night before

Drinking alcohol on the night before workout influences your performance in a negative manner.

Sports dietitian Jane Griffin says: “It’s not possible to perform at your best if you’re feeling any of the effects normally associated with a hangover such as dehydration, a headache and hypersensitivity to outside stimuli, such as light and sound.”
It is not necessary to have symptoms of a hangover; elite sports nutritionist Matt Lovall adds that “exercising the day after drinking alcohol can mean you have an all-round lower quality training session or sporting activity.”

The strength in you will be diminished and it will not be possible for you to make split second decisions and your body shall feel more tired.
Your body shall not be able to efficiently clear the lactic acid produced during exercise.  “This is because your liver will be working harder to get rid of the toxic by-products of alcohol in your system,” explains Lovall.

For all of these reasons, experts suggest avoiding alcohol the night before exercise whether you’re due to go for a heavy session at the gym or compete in a team game. However, if you do decide to drink, both Lovall and Griffin advise sticking to just one drink with food.
“I would say with whether you have a drink the day before a training session or workout – you make the choice. But definitely think twice before drinking the day before a competition or match,” says Griffin.

Drinking after exercise or competition is not advisable unless you have consumed enough water to replace all the fluid loss during exercise.


Longer-term effects

Alcohol which is an empty calorie product as it contains no nutritional value can lead to weight gain as it contains high levels of sugar.

“If your aim in the gym or through exercise is weight management, then it seems paradoxical to consume ‘empty’ calories in liquid form,” says Professor Whyte.

Drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. Getting rid of alcohol products take a priority and all the other activated are neglected.

Alcohol can disrupt sleep patterns and growth hormones, vital for muscle growth, which are released while you’re in deep sleep. It could also reduce the amount of testosterone – a hormone you need to gain muscles – which you have in your blood.


Alcohol and your heart rate

Drinking alcohol elicits a depressive effect on the body.

Heart rhythm gets altered when an individual drinks on a regular basis. This is a risk which significantly increases during exercise up to two days after heavy alcohol consumption.

It’s because the activity itself already increases your heart rate and with a lot of alcohol in your system, you put extra stress on the organ. Over-consumption of alcohol can slow heart rate and respiration and depress blood pressure so much that you may experience sleepiness or even a loss of consciousness.

Other long-term impacts of alcohol such as heart disease, cancer and liver disease, could stop you taking part in exercise and sport altogether.

Drinking alcohol while recovering from a sports injury

Sports performance is also impaired when you drink after you’ve had an injury. You’ll be out of action for longer because the recovery process slows down. “It’s difficult to quantify how much you have to drink but we know that alcohol causes the blood vessels to the skin, arms and legs to open up,” explains Griffin. “The increased blood supply makes an injury bleed and swell even more.”




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