Each year, about 10 liters of pure alcohol (ethanol) are consumed per capita in the United States.(1) And indeed, athletes like to relax with an occasional glass of wine or beer. But do alcohol and exercise go well together? Here are seven important rules you should follow if you don’t want your drinking to hurt your athletic performance:
1. Moderation is the name of the game
Athletes and recreational athletes are also “allowed” to consume alcohol, if enjoyed in moderation. There is no scientific consensus on where to draw the line between healthy alcohol consumption and the point at which it affects your training.(2) However, we know that women should drink less. Due to low body mass, high fat percentage, And with less enzyme activity (alcohol dehydrogenase), the female body digests less alcohol than the male body.
General recommendations for moderate alcohol consumption without health risks:
- 10 grams of alcohol (⅛ wine) for women.
- 20 grams per day for men (¼ wine or 0.3 L of beer).(3)
Generally, it is advised to avoid daily alcohol consumption while doing sports.
2. Keep track of calories
Alcohol is often an underestimated source of calories. 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, compared to 1 gram of fat with 9 calories. So, 0.5 liter of beer contains 200 calories. To “work off” that beer, you need to go for a 30-minute run. Calories that we don’t burn get stored in the body. Cocktails that contain cream, sugary syrups or cordials are especially high in fat and sugar – they are calorie bombs in alcoholic drinks.
3. Stay hydrated
Alcohol stimulates the excretion of water through your kidneys. This can cause rapid dehydration of your body, thereby altering your mineral balance (eg potassium, magnesium, zinc). If your muscles lose those minerals, their performance will decline! Rule of thumb: one glass of water with every glass of beer or wine. It won’t make you drink less alcohol, but it will help you save calories. And remember, you need to replenish the electrolytes and fluids you lose when you sweat during your workout. It works best with isotonic drinks – drinks with the same salt composition as your body fluids. Because of this characteristic, they are perfectly suited for rehydrating and remineralizing after a workout.
4. Avoid alcohol during intense training and competition phases
Scientists have found that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce muscle strength. In one study, men consumed 1 gram of vodka with orange juice per kg of body weight after exercise. For the average man, this corresponds to 6 shots of vodka. Then, 36, And again after 60 hours, They had to prove their strength when compared to a control group. The study revealed that the strength values of the alcohol-drinking test subjects were significantly lower than those of the control group, even though both groups were given the same amount of time to recover.(5) This means you should do without alcohol, especially during intense training sessions. And make sure you avoid (or have minimal) alcohol in the last 48 hours before competition.
But what if you accidentally overdo it?
We’ve got tips on what to consider while you’re there Exercise with a hangover.
If you want to build muscle, combining alcohol and exercise is not a good idea. Studies show that drinking after exercise reduces muscle protein synthesis, which slows recovery and inhibits muscle growth.(6)
5. Improve recovery and prevent injury
There is no clear limit to what amount of alcohol will negatively impact your recovery. However, alcohol consumption is often associated with cramping, increases susceptibility to injuries, and slows the healing process. To be on the safe side, opt for an alcohol-free version during intense training sessions or when your training requires high mileage.
6. Get plenty of shut-eye
Excessive alcohol and the nights you spend on the dance floor affect your mental focus, endurance, coordination and therefore your overall performance. Too little sleep and alcohol consumption can stress your body. Make sure you find enough time to recover!
7. Alcohol-free beer – a good alternative
Beer is hailed as an ideal drink to replenish minerals and carbohydrates after a competition. It is definitely essential to get the minerals and carbohydrates you have lost and burned. However, the alcohol in beer slows down the process of replenishing your body’s stores, which are a prerequisite for recovery and longer training sessions. So, opt for an alcohol-free alternative! Most non-alcoholic beers are isotonic, making them perfect for getting the electrolytes and fluids you’ve lost. But keep in mind that even alcohol-free beer contains 0.5% alcohol. Try it with orange juice next time! The American College of Sports Medicine found that OJ contained 4 times the potassium and 3 times the carbohydrates of beer. Compared to good old orange juice, you’d need to drink 11 glasses of beer to reach the recommended daily intake of B vitamins.
An occasional drink in moderation is not a problem – even for athletes. However, if you’re looking to improve your performance, build muscle, or train for a run, stay away from the bottle.