Alcohol and Athletics – How Much is Too Much?
Alcohol and athletics. Athletics and alcohol. Strange bedfellows, but they have such a long history together that the association has become a social norm. Many of us don’t feel meeting up with teammates after a tough workout to down a few or celebrating personal or team victories by raising a glass or two warrants concern – and, for most of us, drinking in moderation doesn’t pose any serious threat to our health or physical ability. However, for the serious athlete, alcohol awareness is not limited to understanding what constitutes alcohol misuse and abuse. The serious athlete needs to take alcohol awareness to another level.
The serious athlete physically trains his or her body for high-level performance. These athletes educate themselves as to the benefits of particular training regimens and follow those regimens religiously. Serious athletes also educate themselves about and follow specific nutrition programs designed to support and enhance physical performance. It is equally important for serious athletes to educate themselves as to the potential impact and risks of alcohol consumption on athletic performance
Serious Athletes Often Experience High Levels of Stress
The idea of consuming alcohol to calm performance related anxiety can be tempting. However, alcohol is actually a depressant – and becoming depressed does not ease anxiety. As a matter-of-fact, this is why one drink taken in the attempt to relieve pre-game anxiety can turn into misusing alcohol. The first drink or two can actually serve to reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, if one continues to drink the opposite often occurs and the drinker becomes anxious and/or depressed. Wanting to recapture the sense of relaxation those first drinks brought, more alcohol is consumed.
The effect of alcohol consumption on performance is not limited to when the athlete is actively drinking. After effects include delayed reaction time, as well impaired balance and coordination. Alcohol consumption also has a negative impact on endurance. Research indicates that one night of excessive drinking can result in impairment for up to three days. Additionally, alcohol causes dehydration. Athletic performance causes the athlete to become dehydrated; consuming alcohol afterwards further deplete the body of fluid, along with minerals and vitamins necessary in order for the body to recuperate.
Deciding How Much is Too Much
This all begs the question “How much alcohol is too much for the serious athlete?” In some respects the answer is determined by just how serious a particular athlete is. A professional athlete will certainly want to avoid any alcohol consumption while in training and for the duration of their particular sports season. A non-professional athlete dedicated to their sport would want to do the same. In both of these cases any perceived benefit of consuming alcohol is outweighed by the potential to negatively impact performance level.
On the other hand, athletes who seriously train but do not seriously compete, may consider remaining within the recommended definition of moderate drinking (one to two drinks per day) as this represents an equally moderate risk to their level of performance.