Alcohol has been an integral part of our culture and many others for centuries. Whether at festivities, religious ceremonies, events or for personal enjoyment, alcohol is almost ubiquitous.
Beer, wine and schnapps have become indispensable in our modern society. If we overdo it once and drink beyond our so-called thirst, we know the next day that we have done nothing good for our body and mind. "Never again," a voice then tells us. However, this usually only lasts until the next birthday party among friends.
But what about small amounts? A cocktail, a beer after work, a glass of wine with dinner? Does this have negative aspects? And does a little alcohol harm your athletic success? Let's take a closer look!
Alcohol is especially in sports under Fans and also very popular among athletes. Therefore, we put the focus in our consideration exactly on it.
Does alcohol affect our fluid balance?
Alcohol deprives the body of water; in addition, there is a risk that alcohol consumption after exercise replaces the water intake and the fluid balance is not optimally supplied as a result. Water is the most important performance-enhancing substance and a lack of it can lead to a significant drop in performance. This reads simple, but is actually a serious issue. Because many athletes drink basically too little water and torpedo their water balance even further.
In the calm lies the power
It has also been shown that muscle soreness is more painful after alcohol consumption and that the body generally takes longer to recover. Jump height and maximum strength 24 hours after a workout are significantly lower with alcohol than without. This is relevant when there is little time for recovery. For example, one often has in the Soccer Training and game on subsequent days. For professional athletes this is again particularly interesting.
In experiments, protein synthesis, i.e. muscle formation, decreased by 75% during acute high alcohol intake. Here, the breakdown of alcohol inhibits growth factors. I think this information is very valuable for anyone who wants to build or maintain muscle mass. Just think how hard you have to fight for every gram of muscle.
Every moment of your regeneration is precious and alcohol is unfortunately an opponent.
Where to put all that energy?
We must not forget, alcohol also provides an enormous amount of energy. Our body must also process this. Alcohol consumption directly after sports unfortunately slows down glycogen synthesis. The energy provided by the alcoholic beverage often replaces some of the nutrients from the food we consume. This results in an inadequate intake of carbohydrates.
It has also been shown that alcohol delays the replenishment of muscle stores. Only after 24 hours the same value is reached as without alcohol. Again, this is relevant if you have little time for recovery or if you train regularly and have competitions. You cannot be energetically replenished for the following day in the same way as after abstinence from alcohol.
Does coordination and concentration weaken?
While small amounts of alcohol often give one the feeling of approaching something more calmly and this is also the case for people with hand tremor during fine motor movements, moderate or especially higher amounts are already negative here again. Also the reaction time is already reduced from the first sip. With regular alcohol consumption, brain mass is also degraded and difficulties with executive functions and impaired action control become apparent. Simply put, "learning a complicated new skill" is inhibited.
Only we have to do this in sports on an ongoing basis! We learn new techniques and try to store them while we sleep, among other things.
Alcohol before training and competition
Alcohol consumption before athletic performance rarely occurs, yet it is important to mention at this point that even a small amount directly leads to decreased endurance performance. Also with Sprint, strength and high-intensity exercise, small to moderate amounts already reduce performance. In addition, alcohol reduces the blood supply and thus the oxygen supply to the muscles by constricting the vessels. This can also increase the severity of an injury. Chronic alcohol consumption has even been shown to reduce muscle protein, which is associated with muscle cramps, among other things.
The Stamperl before the competition to calm the nerves thus moves into a whole new light.
Fall asleep better, but sleep through the night worse
It is now evident that alcohol in all doses, even small amounts, reduces sleep quality, especially in the REM phase. Sleep is not only the basis for athletic performance, but can also be directly linked to the risk of injury. Soccer players with poor sleep are far more likely to have muscle strains, muscle weakness injuries, meniscus injuries, knee and ankle sprains, and shoulder dislocations. In addition, players with poor sleep quality had to sit out longer after injuries. In general, alcohol consumption is associated with muscle cramps at night and thus may also be a cause of sleep deprivation.
Many athletes use alcohol to fall asleep more easily. Even if this is possible in principle, the quality of sleep suffers. This means that you do sleep, but do not get into the regenerative deep sleep phases as often and for as long. However, these are particularly important for recovery and growth. The same problem arises from taking sleeping pills and THC. Without these drugs our sleep is qualitatively better and we can use all the benefits such as regeneration, healing and growth.
Sleep is the most important pillar of our recovery. So regular or excessive consumption of alcohol gets in the way of performance in the long run.
How does your mineral balance react to alcohol?
Alcohol has a significant effect on the mineral balance, which can manifest itself with night cramps, for example. In older people, alcohol also has a negative influence on bone density. Lower bone density is an important risk factor for bone fractures, which are rather unpleasant in old age.
Paradoxically, an opposite effect has been observed in young, active men, with low alcohol consumption leading to higher bone density in the thigh. This can be attributed to an altered hormonal balance.
A little alcohol is healthy, right?
In recent years, the voices have grown that alcohol in small doses has a health-promoting effect. This may be true for individual components such as resveratrol in red wine, but this could not be proven for alcohol itself in current studies.
In some regions of the world you can see that people live almost forever in spite of alcohol consumption. Sardinia in Italy or Ikaria in Greece for example, belong to the so-called bluezones. Compared to the rest of the world, a larger proportion of the inhabitants in these regions live to be over 100 years old.
It is important to look at the whole picture here. These people intuitively use other health-promoting factors to reach such biblical ages. They don't have a gym in town, nor a sophisticated diet plan. Rest and plenty of exercise in the fresh air, muse for their work until old age and full social integration in society. These factors are considered particularly important for maintaining general health. A glass of wine with a meal thus stands in a completely different light.
It should not be ignored that alcohol consumption, even in small quantities, can have harmful effects on health. According to studies, alcohol can trigger cancer from the first sip. High alcohol consumption is also the most common cause of high blood pressure, responsible for one-third of all heart failures, and increases the risk of heart attack.
All in all, alcohol is detrimental to performance. If you drink in the evening, you may not be able to perform at your best the next day and may be at increased risk of injury.
This does not mean that a life of abstinence is necessary, but it does encourage us to question our basic acceptance and openness to alcohol in everyday life. In the end, it's the quantity that makes the poison, and you should definitely enjoy a social evening with friends or family. There should be some balance to everything. Being teetotal for life and therefore avoiding parties or not going out is the wrong way to go. Healthy social behavior has as much weight in disease prevention as diet or exercise. Enjoy your time! But maybe from now on with a little more consideration for your health and athletic performance.