Does Alcohol Affect Sports Performance? A Scientific Review

Alcohol and sports performance – does one have an effect on the other?

That is the question! Let’s think about the races that involve drinking a beer after (or even during)! Many running and athletic groups also get together for drinks together – is there anything wrong with this? A friend of mine in college who ran track would swear by not drinking prior to a race. Not that he was of age but that’s besides the point πŸ˜‰ So what’s the verdict? Is there a link between alcohol and sports performance?

Let’s look at the science:

Kristen Ziesmer - Does Alcohol Affect Sports Performance - A Scientific Review1. Have you noticed after drinking an alcoholic beverage you have to pee more? That’s because alcohol acts as a diuretic. Losing fluid is not ideal when it comes to sports performance as it decreases the body’s ability to distribute nutrients to working muscles πŸ™

2. Alcohol can decrease reaction time (remember this from driver’s ed?), reduce grip strength, speed, hand-eye coordination and makes you fatigue faster πŸ™

3. Alcohol decreases testosterone levels= decrease strength and muscle gains πŸ™

4. Increases cortisol (can lead to fat gain) and decreases human growth hormone πŸ™

5. Alcohol decreases REM sleep cycles. Poor sleep= poor performance πŸ™

6. Obviously alcohol can lead to weight gain – ANY alcohol can cause this. One shot of liquor/5 oz wine/12 oz light beer is an extra 100 calories. Craft beers can have 200 calories or more! Mix your 1 oz of liquor with 8 oz orange juice and now you’re looking at 250 calories or more! Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram- that’s almost double the amount in carbohydrates and protein! Plus it’s just packing on fat, which can decrease your weight to power ratio πŸ™

7. Too much alcohol can lead to nutritional deficiencies, especially with B vitamins. If you’re not aware, B vitamins help turn food into useable energy πŸ™

8. Alcohol actually slows recovery time from illness and injuries. Drinkers take twice as much time as non-drinkers to recover πŸ™

9. Let’s not forget about diseases that over-consumption of alcohol can lead to- liver disease, heart disease and anemia are just a few.

What’s the takeaway?

Kristen Ziesmer - Does Alcohol Affect Sports Performance - A Scientific Review

So, it looks like my track athlete friend was on to something…even in college! What’s the take away here? It’s ok to have one drink here and there. Yes, beer and wine do contain some health benefits. Antioxidants anyone? However, when you get into having multiple drinks in one sitting or one day it’s no bueno! Bottom line is there is a link – alcohol can negatively affect performance. I don’t know about you but I want my workouts to count and I will certainly be thinking twice before I have that glass of wine or beer.

How important is performing well for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Would you decrease or even up alcohol to perform well?

Are you a runner, triathlete, cyclists or swimmer looking to gain a leg up on your competition? Check out my program The Sustainable Sports Nutrition Academy, which provides a sustainable approach that’s based on science.

Ready to take your performance to the next level but are struggling with following through on your nutrition and training goals? Schedule a free 15-minute consultation, so we can discuss your particular situation and goals!


To get started and learn more, click HERE to schedule your FREE no obligation consultation! I’d love to talk to you and find out more about your goals and show you how I can help you get better at your sport and /or get healthier. Virtual Consultations available in the comfort of your home!

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