Drinking is cool! until you try to improve as an athlete, increase performance and maximize your athletic potential. Society makes it look cool but science is there to give you the reality check nobody will. Binge Drinking is used by athletes and the general public with the purpose of social bonding, stress relief or just for fun. Hopefully through understanding its effects on athletic performance, readers can make better choices regarding excessive intake.
Here at EasyEndurance we researched the topic and came up with a list of possible side effects of over-drinking alcohol and their repercussions on athletic performance. It’s significantly important for vulnerable populations like teenagers and college student athletes, who are for the first time, experiencing regular drinking and free access to alcohol, to educate themselves and make smart decisions.
- Diuretic/Dehydration- This is a chain reaction effect. Alcohol is a diuretic which basically means your body will be loosing a lot of fluids because your kidneys produce more urine, creating an electrolytes imbalance. The result will be dehydration which we know is a terrible performance impairment and makes you susceptible to cramping, muscle pulls and/or strains. Subsequently your thermoregulation mechanism will suffer as severe sweating will kick-in harder to avoid overheating thus worsening the problem.
- Blood sugar levels- Alcoholic drinks -specially beers- are high in sugars, this makes your liver work extremely hard as it tries to produce enough glucose as an energy source for vital organs like the brain. This is done by exacerbating insulin release whenever you eat, which could produce a reactive hypoglycemia.
- High calories – Most alcoholic beverages have a high caloric index, wich stimulates higher fat storage and overweight issues in the long-term.
- Sleep patterns – You might fall asleep faster while influenced by alcohol but the duration, sequence and quality of your sleep cycles will be greatly compromised.
- Muscle Growth – By sleeping less you’ll experienced lower protein synthesis. This is because they are released while in deep sleep. High alcohol volumes decreases segregation and production of Human Growth Hormones (HGH) like Testosterone, diminishing your body’s muscle growth and muscle fiber adaptation capabilities, neglecting any hard your you put up in the gym. Lower testosterone levels also means less lean muscle mass and If you still don’t know how important this is to high athletic performance please revisit the FLOYD LANDIS case.
- Memory /Cognitive Function- Ethanol reduces cerebral activity and impairs functions of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals with memory. This is critical in our ability to be reasonable beings. In a nutshell, if memory is affected you are reducing your ability to learn new things and process information as we mostly learn from experience.
- Recovery/Healing capacities- Without getting some quality sleep come a lot of other problems. One of them is the decrease of a chemical called HGH (human growth hormone) secretion by up to 70%, wich is responsible for muscle tissue build and repair. Alcohol is also a suppressant of the CNS (central nervous system) and immune system which delays your body’s self-healing properties.
- Balance/Coordination/Reaction time – There is a reason why DUI charges exist and you can’t drive while intoxicated. No difference in sports, specially on events with a hight technical and difficulty degree like (gymnastics, boxing , swimming, and cycling) your performance will be compromised to say the least. Additionally, the chance of injury increases as other fine motor skills could be lacking. All of this effects could last up to 72hrs after excessive alcohol ingestion.
- Less energy – Alcohol affects your body’s (cells) water balance which impairs its abilities to absorb nutrients from food (vitamins, minerals) and create the ATP we all need as a primary muscle fuel. The substances required for absorption are now being used to clear alcohol out of your system through urine, creating deficiency of fundamental nutrients like folic acid, zinc, vitamin B12.
- Unusual heart rhythms – Ethanol increases your heart rate and blood pressure, combined with exercise which also stresses your system, this could put too much load on your heart muscle increasing the risk of Cardiovascular failure during physical activity.
Trying to compete or participate in any athletic event the day after you have consumed more than 5 regular size drinks is a very precarious move. With the symptoms of the common hangover you increase your risk of injury . Also hung over athletes have shown decreased strength, power and aerobic performance by up to 11% because they can clear lactic acid effectively. The best advice would be to skip the event completely but, If your unable to stop drinking and still want to do exercise you can follow the following GUIDELINES.
By now you should’ve figure out why you’re slacking in training and your performance is going downhill faster than Lindsey Vohn on skies in an alpine. If you really want to improve and feel unable to control your alcoholic duties please seek help. You can still go fast, just not with booze inside your bike bottles or fuel belt. Stay positive; be smart, you can do it!