Alcohol & Sports Performance

It goes without saying that alcohol is more likely to affect your physical performance for the worse and that any serious athlete will avoid alcohol during training or sporting events. Whilst occasional drinking is acceptable, consuming alcohol in conjunction with physical activity is rarely recommendable.

Positive Effects of Alcohol in Sport

There are some perceived psychological and physiological benefits to alcohol consumption to aid performance in sporting activities, although most are considered purely psychological. Alcohol disinhibits you and so can increase your self confidence, helping tackle and reduce performance anxiety. It also decreases your pain sensitivity, meaning that some injuries might be considered by you quite minor when usually they could interfere with your performance. The best known and most widely seen use of alcohol in a sport is both in reducing anxiety and in reducing hand tremor – this kind of consideration might be important in darts or shooting.

The positive effects of alcohol should come only with minimal consumption, any excessive use increases your chances of being affected negatively by the drug and potentially without even realising it.

Negative Effects of Alcohol in Sport

Although widely used as well as being considered socially acceptable, alcohol is still a drug and so will affect your body and your behaviour. The long term effects of excessive alcohol consumptions can cause permanent damage to organ tissue. The behavioural problems associated with alcohol consumption include but are not limited to: disinhibition, aggression, intolerance and rowdiness. None of these behaviours are conducive to a successful performance in sports.

The chemical effects of alcohol can affect your body physiologically. The fine motor movements which require mental acuteness, such as balance, are negatively affected by alcohol. After a night of average alcohol consumption you anaerobic performance can decrease by anything up to 25%. Alcohol also suppresses appetite, preventing you from adequately providing yourself with enough nutrition, and also dehydrates you. It also reduces the quality of your sleep meaning you are likely to feel tired and poorly rested rather than invigorated and ready to exercise. All these effects contribute to an unhealthy diet which, if the surface effects of alcohol aren’t enough already, will damage your physical performance.

Sensible Alcohol Consumption in Sport

The key thing to remember with alcohol from a sporting perspective is that you need to plan your alcohol consumption in relation to when you will be participating in sport. The ‘best’ time to consume alcohol is the day after you have been exercising, or at least 2 days prior to any planned physical sporting activity. Also make sure your body is rehydrated and replenished with carbohydrates before you start drinking alcohol. Be sensible with how much you drink; the medically recommended alcohol limit for men is 21 units a week and 14 for women, this equates healthily to about 2-3 drinks on a single night out.