Many athletes enjoy a cold beer or drink after a long workout or on the weekend after a long work/training week. The acute, short term effects of these alcoholic drinks are well established, but new research is looking into the impact of alcohol on hydration levels, future athletic performance, and recovery. Alcohol effects all of our body systems and has a strong impact on future athletic performance. Authors have established higher risks of injury, slow healing, and delayed return to sport among frequent alcohol users (Volpe et al. ACSM. 2017). Of course many of alcohol’s effects are dose dependent but research shows even small amounts of drinking prior to exercise leads to changes in our body’s physiology and utilization of energy and oxygen. These changes lead to decreased endurance performance across many athletic disciplines.
Conversely, post exercise consumption of alcohol is more common among both amateur and professional athletes. Research has shown post exercise alcohol use interferes with the body’s ability to recover from exercise training. Specifically, disrupting necessary muscle repair and protein synthesis in the tissues even if adequate meals are eaten concurrently. In addition, drinking after exercise can disrupt the sleep cycle leading to a poor quality of sleep. These cumulative effects explain the higher rates of injury among athletes who frequently drink compared to those who do not. As in many other areas of life, moderation may be the key to limiting these acute and chronic effects on performance.