Alcohol and athletic performance

All the hard training and countless hours put into becoming an elite athlete can be compromised with a single night out on the town. Alcohol not only affects sport performance at the time of consumption but also continues to affect the body for up to 72 hours. The effects that alcohol can have on sports performance include:

· Increase risk of muscle cramps: during exercise, muscles produce lactic acid. Too much lactic acid leads to muscle fatigue and cramps. If alcohol is consumed 24 hours prior to physical activity it can contribute to larger build up of lactic acid and increased the risk of cramps.

· Increase risk of injuries and complications: alcohol is a natural blood thinner. It increases bleeding and swelling around soft tissue injuries (sprains, cuts, bruises etc.).When profuse swelling after an injury occurs, recovery time is made longer.

· Decrease treatment time: Alcohol can mask pain; fast treatment leads to a speedy recovery. Also if an athlete can’t feel the pain then they are less likely to tend to the injury with the possibility of causing further damage also slowing down recovery time.

· Reduces endurance: the liver produces the sugar that the body needs for energy into the blood stream. Alcohol consumption 48 hours before activity reduces the body’s ability to produce this sugar. This means less energy and less endurance.

· Reduces reaction time: alcohol is a sedative. Some athletes feel they have less tension and increased relaxation as a result of alcohol. The actual result that makes athletes feel this was is poorer hand-eye coordination and slower responses. Alcohol can affect the performance for up to 72 hours after the last drink.

· Causes dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic causing water loss. If there is a significant amount of water lost in the body it causes dehydration. Hydration is important because the body uses water in its cells, organs and tissues to help regulate temperature and maintain other bodily functions.

· Causes vitamin and mineral depletion: water loss caused by alcohol consumption involves the loss of important minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and zinc. These are vital to maintain fluid balance, nerve/muscle action, and coordination.

· Affects Testosterone levels- when alcohol is consumed on a regular basis is can cause a decrease in testosterone serum levels. Decrease in testosterone can cause a decrease in lean muscle mass, muscle recovery time, aggression, testicular shrinkage in males. Decreased testosterone serum levels affect female athletes as well. The decrease in testosterone can cause an increase of estradiol, which can increase the risk of breast cancer.

· Reduces aerobic performance: Alcohol reduces the body’s ability to convert food to energy and reduces carbohydrate/blood sugar levels. These effects, together with lactic acid build-up and dehydration all combine to reduce aerobic performance.

No matter how much training and conditioning you put into sports performance, drinking alcohol within 72 hours before activity will take the edge off fitness levels. Alcohol not only affects sports performance but if the athlete is under the age of 21, or with people under the age of 21, consuming alcohol can have legal ramifications as well. Along with the federal and state laws, many colleges have an alcohol policy that has to be abided by or student may face disciplinary actions, including, but not limited to removal from campus housing and/or expulsion. Be sure to be familiar with the rules and regulations of your institutions if you make the choice to consume alcohol. Also, please drink responsibly and NEVER operate a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.


The link below is the Wright State University Athletic Code of Conduct

The link below is a brochure from Princeton University about the effects of alcohol on collegiate athletes. It also provides educational material for individuals that may be struggling with excessive alcohol consumption.

The link below has information of how alcohol affects women and youth in athletics.

The link below is from UC San Diego and has information about how alcohol affects the body nutritionally. There is information about how alcohol causes fat storage and how is can affect levels of testosterone.

The link below talks about alcohol and the effects it has on the body during exercise.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s