Sunday, November 10, 2013

Alcohol and Athletic Performance

Cheers Mate!
As we approach the season of "joy and merriment", 
I thought I would highlight some of what SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition) and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) have outlined regarding alcohol and its effects on athletic performance.
Alcohol, according to Merriam-Webster, 
is defined as a "colorless, volatile, flammable liquid."
Sounds scary, doesn't it?
After reading that, if you still choose to drink, it's good to keep in mind serving and portion guidelines. The number of servings per day for men should not exceed one to two, and the number of servings per day for women should not exceed one. As for portion sizes "one" drink equals 12 oz of beer or a wine cooler (about 150 calories), 5 oz of wine (about 100 calories), and 1.5 oz of 80 proof liquor (also about 100 calories). Binge drinking is considered 5 or > drinks for men and 4 or > drinks for women within a two-hour period.
Once ingested,
alcohol is quickly absorbed into the blood stream.
This is why when you drink on an empty stomach, you feel its effects quickly. Alcohol is then metabolized either for energy or stored as fat ...ech. Since alcohol suppresses the central nervous system, it's also considered a drug. That's why drinking alcohol can slow reaction time, hand-eye coordination, accuracy, balance, judgment, focus, stamina, strength, power and speed for up to 72 hours, or three days, which could also lead to sports injuries.
Regular consumption of alcohol can 
depress the immune system 
and slow down the body's ability to heal. 
Alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to absorb B vitamins, like Folate and B12, as well as vitamin A and Calcium. These are important micronutrients because they help the body maintain healthy cells, help muscles contract, and aid in muscle repair. Sometimes drinking alcohol will interfere with eating nutritious foods - this could lead to poor magnesium, iron, and zinc levels - which are really important for athletic performance.
Drinking alcohol also causes you to pee.
An all too familiar sight!
Yup, alcohol is dehydrating - i.e., the dreaded hangover headache. When dehydrated, athletic performance tanks. Dehydration can cause an increase in core temperature, heart rate, and contribute to fatigue - all hurting athletic performance. It doesn't take much, either - athletic performance can decrease by 11.4% just by losing 2-3% of your body weight!
What about post race celebrations and all those post race beer gardens?
I love a good free beer post race. 
The key is to not go crazy overboard because drinking after a race can affect recovery by affecting blood sugar levels, and muscle energy synthesis and storage. This could hurt you in future races. After a race, decreased muscle energy (glycogen stores) should be replenished with nutrient dense carbohydrates and some protein (like chocolate milk). The protein can also help with muscle repairs.
And let's not forget sleep ...
Alcohol interferes with sleep, especially REM sleep. Even though you may fall asleep faster, or rather ... pass out, staying asleep can be a problem with even just a few drinks.
And what about body composition?
Alcohol can be mixed with sugary sodas, juices, or even topped with whipped cream. Sounds yummy - but drinking empty calories could lead to an increase in body fat accumulation. For males, drinking alcohol could result in reduced testosterone production, which could affect the ability to gain muscle mass, compounding the effects alcohol has on body composition and performance.
I hate to be a kill joy - so here's a plan ...
As a rule of thumb, 
athletes should sustain from drinking alcohol at least 48 hours prior to competition, with the ideal being 72 hours before competing. So, if you are going out to eat, or catching up with friends before a race, plan ahead. Maybe you can be the designated driver.
Share your goals with family and friends. 
The other day, I was at work and one woman, who lost 50 pounds, told me she did it by going vegan. Sitting next to her was a co-worker, who was eating pizza. This co-worker shoved the pizza under the vegan's nose, and said, "Loooook, mmmm, smellll! This is what you are missssssing...." I scolded the pizza-eater, "That's just wrong."
My point:
 Recruit positive support from everyone around you.
Seek out those who will support your goals.
'Cause that's what friends do!
Pace yourself. 
If you're going to have a drink, or two, alternate alcohol with non-alcohol beverages. Start with water. Re: Alcohol is dehydrating. It's not uncommon to feel thirsty and wind up drinking more than you planned. Take small sips to slow down how much you drink, and drink one drink at a time - this way you won't lose track of how many you've had. This also helps you drink at your own pace - not someone else's. 
My personal fave:
Don't drink on an empty stomach!
Eating before drinking will slow down the rate alcohol enters your blood stream. Also, eating while drinking can slow down your drinking pace.
And last, but not least,
end the evening with water.
Cassidy Phillips, the founder of Trigger Point (TPTherapy), believes that most sports injuries occur because the athlete is dehydrated.
So drink up ... but make it a water! 
Do you have any tricks to slow down or limit the number of drinks you have at a party, celebration or holiday?
Train Smart Today!
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