Most people enjoy a couple of drinks once in awhile. Humans have been chugging alcoholic beverages made from fermented fruits, grains, or honey for thousands of years. So, with such a long historical track record behind frolicking and festivities, is drinking alcohol a bad thing for athletes? We’ll discuss the pros and cons of alcohol consumption here.
Benefits of Alcohol
The greatest benefit that alcohol provides is its ability to relax the drinker and relieve stress. Herds of people head to the bars and lounges after work or on the weekends to forget about the craziness of the week and the trying obligations of the job. They have a few drinks and unwind. Chilling out with a group of friends over a couple of drinks is a great way to enjoy your social circles, let your hair down, and laugh away the stress.
According to Mayo Clinic, another plus of drinking alcohol is its blood thinning action that has been shown in some studies to reduce the risk of heart attacks and ischemic strokes.
However, it must be emphasized that any benefits of alcohol consumption come from moderate drinking, which is defined as a 5 ounce glass of wine, 12 ounce beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled liquor that is no more than 80 proof.
Risks of Alcohol
The risks of drinking alcohol far outweigh any benefits it may have. Alcohol can cause families to be torn apart, careers ruined and shame piled high, not to mention a host of diseases and even death attributed to its abuse. Due to its destructiveness, alcohol consumption is stressed as being in moderate amounts by health officials.
Consuming extensive amounts of alcohol has numerous risks. It quickly crosses into the brain and has negative effects on rational thought, emotions, and motor functions. After only a few drinks, thinking becomes clouded, emotional faucets are engaged, and getting up a flight of stairs becomes a chore. Alcohol is also a depressant and can lead to various psychological problems as well as alcohol addiction.
Alcohol and Athletes
Alcohol can have a severe detrimental effect on an athlete’s performance and career. Alcohol can last from between 25 and 48 hours afterwards, which can drastically interfere with practice, competitions, or games.
Therefore, if you need to perform athletically within that time period after drinking 3 or more alcoholic beverages, you can expect to experience some or all of the following:
- Sleep disruption
- Impaired motor skills (balance, reaction time, eye/hand coordination)
- Decrease in energy and increase in fatigue
- Higher blood pressure
- Depletion of important vitamins and minerals
- Interference with cellular repair
Alcohol can be a good method for socializing, having fun, and relieving stress as long as it is consumed in moderation (1 to 2 drinks per event). However, if it is ingested in more quantities than this, it can have some serious effects on your body, mind, health, and athletic career.
If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you drink to a point where it is affecting your athletic training and performance, reduce the amounts and frequency, either yourself or via professional assistance if needed.
However, should you choose to drink occasionally, do so with strict moderation, don’t drink within 2 days prior to practice or training days and, if you are serious about winning, avoid any alcohol consumption whatsoever during periods of competitions and games.