Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Athletes and Alcohol - A Bad Mix

Athletes train hard and compete in order to achieve their dreams. These dreams may be impossible to achieve if athletes choose to drink alcohol. Consuming alcoholic beverages, even days before or after an important practice or competition, can erase the beneficial effects of training and ruin their chances of achieving optimum performance.

Alcohol use is of particular concern with collegiate athletes. Shockingly, a national study of college student drinking found that student-athletes have significantly higher rates of heavy drinking than non-athletes.  "Heavy drinking" is defined as 5 or more drinks consecutively for men, 4 or more for women.

In addition to the health and safety concerns of excessive alcohol consumption,
here are the Top 10 reasons why athletes should avoid alcohol consumption:

  1. Drinking alcohol after a training session or practice can negate the benefits of your hard work, because it can decrease muscle protein synthesis, impairing muscle growth and canceling out the gains from your workout.
  2. Alcohol causes dehydration, even many hours to days after its use. Dehydration leads to headaches, fatigue, impaired balance, and a host of other problems that significantly impairs performance and recovery.
  3. Alcohol use can inhibit the secretion of Human Growth Hormone, a hormone naturally produced in our body which is important in muscle growth and recovery.
  4. Alcohol is a toxin, and it can disrupt normal cell function and impair the ability of muscles cells to produce ATP, the main energy molecule in our cells. This can deplete your energy significantly, resulting in loss of endurance.
  5. Alcohol is high in calories, low in nutrients, and the body treats it like fat. This can lead to unwanted weight gain in the form of fat storage, which can hamper athletic performance.
  6. Alcohol consumption may inhibit the absorption of some important vitamins and minerals like thiamin, zinc, folic acid, and Vitamin B12. These nutrients are extremely important for energy metabolism and new cell growth, such as muscle cells and red blood cells.  
  7. Alcohol use affects and disrupts your sleep-cycle, reducing your ability to learn and retain new information, such as learning new plays, studying films, and applying strategy during games. 
  8. Alcohol consumption provides only "empty calories" and may displace valuable nutrient-dense beverages important to athletes, such as milk or 100% fruit juices.
  9. Heavy drinking can negatively affect brain and body activities for up to 3 full days.
  10. Two consecutive nights of heavy drinking can negatively impact an athlete's body and brain for up to 5 days!!!
Is a night of drinking worth all of these negative effects on your sports performance? For the serious athlete in training, with serious goals, a resounding "NO" should be the answer.  Enjoy the party and time with your friends, but volunteer to be the designated driver instead.  

Fuel wisely to reach your dreams. 


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