Work parties, birthdays, weddings, stress, depression, or just simply because… all of those events are causing people to have an alcoholic beverage, or two, three, and even more. But is it worth it, especially when you are an athlete? How does alcohol really affect your mind and body?
Consider this: consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in just one night can affect your brain and physical activities for up to three days. The effects of alcohol on a person depend on the amount consumed and individual tolerance. Some studies show that a small amount of certain kinds of alcohol (namely red wine) may have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system, but even a few drinks can nullify your hard work by erasing the effects of your workouts, reducing your endurance, and compromising your mental fortitude.
Let’s look at how alcohol affects your muscle development and recovery:
1. Impairs muscle growth
Ø Long-term alcohol use diminishes protein synthesis, resulting in a decrease in muscle growth. Even short-term alcohol use can affect your muscles.
2. Dehydrates your body –
Ø If you want to optimize your athletic performance, then you want your recovery from sore muscles to be as fast as possible. Alcohol has been shown to slow muscle recovery because it is a powerful diuretic that can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. When dehydrated, an athlete is at a greater risk for cramps, muscle pulls, and muscle strains.
3. Prevents muscle recovery
Ø Getting enough rest is essential to building stronger and leaner muscles. However, because drinking alcohol negatively affects your sleep patterns, your body is robbed of a chemical called human growth hormone, or HGH, when you drink. HGH plays an integral role in building and repairing muscles, but alcohol can decrease the secretion of HGH by as much as 70 percent.
4. Depletes your energy - After alcohol is absorbed through your stomach and small intestine and moves into your cells, it can disrupt the water balance in your body. An imbalance of water in your muscle cells can hamper their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the fuel that is necessary to help your muscles contract. A reduction in your body’s ATP can result in a lack of energy and loss of endurance.
5. Affects your nutrition
Ø Alcohol has lots of calories (about 7 per gram), but your muscles are unfortunately not able to use these calories for fuel. Alcohol calories are not converted to glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrates, and are consequently not a good source of energy for your body during exercise. Your body instead treats alcohol as fat, converting the sugar from alcohol into fatty acids. As a result, alcohol consumption increases fat storage and can adversely affect your percentage of body fat. Alcohol consumption prevents your body from absorbing important nutrients like thiamin, vitamin B12, folic acid and zinc. These nutrients help in the formation of new cells, boost your immune system, and aid in the metabolism of proteins and fats.
If you’re physically active, consider how drinking will affect your athletic performance. Large amounts of alcohol have proven to be detrimental to athletic performance and recovery. If an athlete wants to optimize their performance and get the most out of every workout, alcohol should be avoided. Jane Griffin, a world renowned sports dietician says that “It’s not possible to perform at your best if you’re feeling any of the effects normally associated with a hangover such as dehydration, a headache, and hypersensitivity to outside stimuli, such as light and sound.” Ultimately, athletes should be highly cautious of alcohol ingestion pre or post exercise, especially high-intensity exercise like CrossFit. So do yourself a favor, avoid it altogether. As hard as it is, say NO! Alcohol and performance do not mix. Choose wisely. Think longevity. Your health is in your hands.