Alcohol is one of the biggest drug problems we face today, but it is culturally acceptable for many and deeply fixated within societies – so i guess it is ok, right? Well, not if you value your physical and mental health or exercise progression and performance.
Excessive drinking, binge drinking, weekend sessions – many of us have done it, and we have also felt the full effects of it with an insane hangover. In terms of the effects on athletes and exercisers alike, this kind of drinking can seriously affect performance, recovery and progression in a chosen sport or activity.
Some key points about excessive alcohol intake and exercise performance:
Poor body composition
Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram, which is almost twice the energy provided by carbohydrates or protein. Calories from alcohol are often referred to as ‘empty’ as it provides insignificant amounts of vitamins and minerals – so if you are cutting other nutrients to make room for alcohol in an attempt to avoid weight gain then you could be seriously harming your health and performance. Alcohol also interferes with the absorption and utilization of several vitamins and minerals, further adding to potential de-conditioning of the body. Alcohol is often consumed in addition to the usual diet, since alcohol provides 7 calories per gram these extra calories add up fast – increasing body fat.
Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to create and use energy effectively, which leads to slower reaction times, poor concentration, reduced endurance and stamina. Again your risk of injury is also increased. I’m sure you are already well aware that alcohol can cause nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness for many days after consumption – all interfere with athletic performance.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes increased passing of urine – maybe you experience an amplified number of trips to the lavatory on a night out? Becoming dehydrated can cause large electrolyte imbalances and it can take days to get yourself back to a full recovery, meaning your weeks training schedule can be seriously compromised and gains impaired. Your risk of injury is also massively increased.
Lowered testosterone levels
Large drinking sessions (binge drinking) decreases blood testosterone levels. The effects of this include decreases in lean muscle mass, strength, aggression (a vital ingredient for physical sports) and recovery.
Dangers of long term alcohol abuse
The dangers here include damage to the heart, kidneys and liver. In addition to this the brain and nerve functions get damaged. In fact, long term binge drinking can damage just about every organ in the body – this applies to people of all condition, super fit athlete or not.
Questions to ask yourself…
Whether you are an athlete or an avid exerciser you need to make a decision about the way you use alcohol. For an athlete you need to decide if you want to be an athlete or not – because to achieve great things it takes a certain amount of sacrifice. Think about the following questions: How important is my sport or chosen activity to me? How important is drinking or partying to me? How important is it that I perform to the best of my ability and do all i can to win? How will drinking affect my ability to perform? How will my body feel if I drink? How will I feel if I don’t drink? How will I benefit from my decision to drink or not to drink? Do i want to achieve great things?
Get support from family, from team mates, from friends and go achieve great things – i wish you all the luck in the world.