After making the game winning catch, a leaping single-handed snatch with just a few seconds left on the clock, its time to celebrate and drinks are on the house.
Before you reach for that second (or third) drink, read this: drinking alcohol can interfere with muscle growth and delay recovery from training. In a recent study, men completed a leg workout followed by cycling at a moderate pace for 30 minutes and a set of 10 intervals (the study design was developed to mimic playing a team sport). Immediately and 4 hours post exercise they consumed whey protein, whey + alcohol or whey + carbohydrate. Alcohol plus whey protein reduced rates of muscle protein synthesis (muscle protein synthesis correlates with muscle growth over time) by an astounding 24% compared to drinking the whey protein without any alcohol. When alcohol was consumed without protein (as is often the case when athletes go out and party after a game), there was a 37% reduction in muscle protein synthesis. So what’s the bottom line? Alcohol interferes with muscle repair and recovery.
Here’s a breakdown of what alcohol can do to your performance and recovery:
- Alcohol interferes with the muscle growth and repair.
- Drinking alcohol can affect the way an athlete eats after a workout or game. Think about it – how often do you make healthy food choices after you’ve had a few drinks? “I’ll have another Long Island Iced Tea alongside the chicken and steamed vegetables platter with a side of mashed sweet potatoes.” Yeah right.
- Alcohol decreases blood testosterone levels in men in a dose dependent manner. The more you drink the more your testosterone decreases.
- Alcohol makes you dehydrated. That pounding headache you woke up with the last time you drank too much? Part of that is the result of dehydration.
- Alcohol impairs memory, focus, reaction time, accuracy and fine motor skills.
Drinking alcohol before a competition certainly won’t help your performance. And, by affecting your fine motor skills, alcohol can increase your risk for injury (poor motor patterns = greater likelihood of getting injured). Drinking alcohol after a training session or game can also impair memory, which may affect the way that you remember training strategies or game plans.
Overall, drinking alcohol before or after exercise is not a good idea. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes avoid alcohol 48 hours before a game or performance. Additionally, they recommend drinking plenty of water and eating well after a game. And though it’s tempting to go out and party to celebrate, think before you drink and drink responsibly.
Bianco A, Thomas E, Pomara F, Tabacchi G, Karsten B, Paoli A, Palma A. Alcohol consumption and hormonal alterations related to muscle hypertrophy: a review. Nutrition & Metabolism 2014;11(1):26.
Parr EB, Camera DM, Areta JL, Burke LM, Phillips SM, Hawley JA, Coffey VG. Alcohol ingestion impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis following a single bout of concurrent training. PloS one 2014;9(2):e88384.
Kozir LP. ACSM current comment: Alcohol and athletic performance. American College of Sports Medicine. Internet: http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/alcoholandathleticperformance.pdf?sfvrsn=5 (accessed 13 November 2014).