No doubt, alcohol is a part of day-to-day life (for athletes of age).
This can be wine with dinner, beers after a big game, or margaritas by the pool on a day off. Seems fun at the time, but how are these drinks affecting your athletic performance?
According to research, alcohol can negatively affect athletic performance in numerous ways.
We will cover a few ways and also discuss in further detail how alcohol negatively affects the absorption of nutrients you eat.
Alcohol and your body
Alcohol has been found to inhibit muscle growth and can negatively affect protein synthesis.
Alcohol increases your chances of injury by causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it will dehydrate you and can lead to increased cramping, muscle strains and muscle pulls.
It can also lead to a delay in recovery from sore muscles.
Once in the cells, alcohol will disrupt fluid balances at the cellular level causing a decreased production of ATP, which is the cells’ fuel.
This can negatively affect energy levels and even decrease endurance. Alcohol also negatively affects normal sleep patterns.
Since rest and sleep are disturbed while alcohol is present, the release of human growth hormone is decreased by almost 70%.
This hormone is released at night while sleeping. The result of decreased HGH will be less muscle growth and recovery.
Chronic alcohol consumption can also lower serum testosterone levels, which aid in lean muscle mass and muscle recovery. As if this isn’t enough to show the negative effects of alcohol on the body for the athlete, there is more.
Less nutrient absorption
The most worrisome bit of research found including alcohol and the way it affects athletic performance was the way it inhibits nutrient absorption.
Say you are putting in the work, being mindful of what you eat, consciously eating good nutrients to build the strongest body possible, and you ruin it all by chronic alcohol consumption.
This is far too common and unfortunate. Alcohol alone has no vitamins or nutrients. So, it’s not the smartest drink of choice post workout/game.
Post-workout, focus on glycogen storage by focusing on eating carbohydrates and protein.
Alcohol not only has zero nutrients, but it also can inhibit nutrient absorption from the foods you eat.
Some key vitamins and minerals needed for protein synthesis are blocked by alcohol.
Here are the big players that are blocked from being absorbed:
- Thiamine (B1): is involved in metabolizing or breaking down the food we eat (mainly carbohydrates) to use it for fuel. Essential for optimal performance and fuel generation.
- B12: helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells (RBC). RBCs are responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Oxygen is used to generate ATP, which is the fuel needed in your cells. If there are fewer RBCs, there will be less oxygen, it will show as anemia.
- Folate: is also involved in RBCs. Folic acid is the coenzyme that helps generate new RBCs. Folic acid deficiency would result in decreased VO2 max, which will negatively affect endurance.
- Zinc: plays an important role in energy metabolism. It also has many other roles in the body including immune function.
These are mainly B vitamins that are negatively affected when drinking. This can result in lower amounts of energy to perform at your best.
Let’s face it, the likelihood that we never have a drink while playing is low. So, what can you do?
- First, try to not drink directly after post-workout.
- Prioritize hydration, carbs, and protein post-workout.
- Prioritize hydration before, during, and post-drinking.
- Hydrate with water and electrolytes. Try and limit drinks to a lower amount; avoid binge drinking.
- Lastly, do everything in your power to avoid alcohol a few days leading up to a game, a start, or an outing. Alcohol can put your body out of whack for a few days.
Looking for more information on how to fuel your body as a baseball player? Read another article from Nutrition Coach Ashley Edwards here.
*Data and statistics included in article from NSCA.com.