Many of my clients, especially those that are college-aged ask me about alcohol. Specifically, they want to know does alcohol negatively affect their athletic performance and/or body composition. The simple answer is yes. We’ll talk about why and how below. But first, let’s talk about alcohol in general.
Personally, I drink alcohol, socially. At this point in my life I have one or two drinks a couple nights a week; whether it’s trying a new beer with my husband or a night out with girlfriends. What is it about alcohol that is so intriguing? Many use it as a reward or a way to unwind after a long day at work. Others like the way it allows them to let loose and forget about their worries for a while; while others very much enjoy the taste of specific drinks (Moscow mule, anyone). For the general public, sitting down with a glass of wine a couple nights a week is perfectly acceptable. In fact, some research suggests that regular consumption of moderate amounts of wine may protect against certain health conditions.
But what about athletes or people that have specific body composition goals? What role does alcohol play? Even for athletes, alcohol can be part of a well-chosen diet for social interactions; but where athletes run into trouble is when alcohol misuse becomes an issue. Here are some of the immediate effects athletes will feel with overuse of alcohol:
Overall recommendations: alcohol can be part of a balanced lifestyle; however, athletes should avoid alcohol during their training season; especially post-exercise when recovery and tissue repair are of the upmost importance.
Barnes, M. J. (2014). Alcohol: impact on sports performance and recovery in male athletes. Sports Medicine, 44(7), 909-919.
Burke, L. M., Collier, G. R., Broad, E. M., Davis, P. G., Martin, D. T., Sanigorski, A. J., & Hargreaves, M. (2003). Effect of alcohol intake on muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 95(3), 983-990.
Lourenco, S., Oliveira, A., & Lopes, C. (2012). The effect of current and lifetime alcohol consumption on overall and central obesity. European journal of clinical nutrition, 66(7), 813-818.
Parr, E. B., Camera, D. M., Areta, J. L., Burke, L. M., Phillips, S. M., Hawley, J. A., & Coffey, V. G. (2014). Alcohol ingestion impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis following a single bout of concurrent training. PLoS One, 9(2), e88384.
Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528.
Allison Tropf, MS, RD, CSSD
Allison is a Sports Dietitian in Michigan. She enjoys helping others reach their nutrition and fitness goals through reliable and trustworthy recommendations.
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