Does Alcohol Have an Impact on Training and Recovery?

Many of us know that alcohol has adverse effects on the body, especially if you drink too much. It is less widely known by athletes how alcohol impacts their performance short term or long term. Understanding these impacts is the first step towards improving performance and avoiding those effects leading up to important events. This isn’t to say that an athlete can never drink, but one should be mindful when leading up to races and know the implications of drinking. It is important to note that these effects will vary from person to person depending on genetics and tolerance. 

Slows Muscle Growth:

Alcohol slows the rate of protein synthesis within the body. This is important for building and strengthening muscles within the body, and with slowed protein synthesis, you will see fewer results from the training you are putting in.

Dehydrates the Body:

Alcohol is a very powerful diuretic that increases water loss through the body via sweat, urine, and breathing. For every gram of ethanol consumed, it has been found that there is an increase in urine output by upwards of 10mL. This increase in dehydration can lead athletes to have more frequent cramps and see a possible increase in muscle strains or pulls. 

Prevents Muscle Recovery:

Due to alcohol’s negative impact on sleep, researchers have seen a decrease in Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is responsible for repairing and growing muscles, especially during rest. 

Decreases Energy Levels:

Alcohol also plays a role in disrupting our body’s water balance. Alcohol is absorbed by the intestines and then the cells, displacing water, which is essential for ATP production. ATP is essential for cells to produce energy for the body, and a decrease in production can lead to a decrease in overall energy.