Alcohol – we drink it to celebrate, to cool off in the summer heat, or to calm down in the heat of the moment, by the pool, in the stadium, on the deck, near the tailgate, while enjoying nearly any genre of music or entertainment, with food or without. It’s pretty much everywhere, especially when it comes to athletic events, for spectators and athletes alike. There are many hard lines drawn in the sand for typical alcohol consumption, but they get a little hazy with regards to athletes.
It’s now well known (or should be) that alcohol and athletic performances don’t mix well. Alcohol negatively affects performance in a variety of ways: dehydration, impaired motor skills, faster fatigue time, reduced glycogen resynthesis (the ability for the body for to replace glycogen, the form of carbs used during exercise), reduced immune responses to inflammation, decreased sleep quality, and more. Plus, it has no nutritional benefit and contains empty calories.
Buuuuut, you love a good stout, pinot grigio, whiskey on the rocks, or martini.
How can you combine alcohol and the athlete? First, come to terms that if you want a good race time, leave the Sam Adams behind. Not only will it make a mess of your performance, but pre-competition alcohol consumption may be banned by certain sport and race organizers – particularly by the U.S. National Governing bodies and WADA. Then, consider when your next training or race day is. The science seems to agree on a 48-hour window in between consumption and competition to avoid the deleterious effects. Lastly, set yourself up for success with alcohol. Stay hydrated, keep your belly full of food, and make sure you budgeted your drink in your daily calorie counts (if you’re watching them).