Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Drug Free Sport Staff Writers

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Effects of Alcohol on Athletic Performance

Many of us know that excessive amounts of alcohol can negatively impact our health. The dangers of liver deterioration, dementia and cancers of the mouth, throat and lungs have been stressed to us for most of our lives. Alcohol is toxic to the body and only provides empty calories. For collegiate, professional and recreational athletes, there is also a direct effect of alcohol consumption on performance, often for days after an episode of drinking. This includes not only competition, but effects on practice, strength training and conditioning sessions as well. Still many athletes do not understand the full effect it has on the body. In a survey conducted by the NCAA, over 60 % of student-athletes continue to believe that their use of alcoholic beverage has no effect on athletic performance or on their general health.

Negative Effects on Performance

Generally, alcohol does not increase performance in sports and it has many harmful effects associated with its use. The detrimental effects of alcohol on athletic performance are very well documented and include impairment of the following:

•Complex and fine motor skills
•Balance and steadiness
•Reaction time
•Memory and information processing
•Alters temperature regulation during prolonged exercise in the cold or heat
•Ability to get a good nights rest (Drinking excessively can cause you to toss and turn and wake up tired instead of well rested.)
•Drinking can also delay muscle recovery by reducing the production of growth hormone, testosterone and IGF.

Furthermore, its diuretic effect may lead to dehydration and depletion of key electrolytes (potassium and sodium) as well as minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc, that are vital to nerve and muscle coordination. For an athlete who drinks moderately heavy or heavily one night, dehydration can last a few days, especially since few athletes drink water between alcoholic beverages or drink enough the next day to make up for the water loss. When an individual drinks heavily and does not consume water or sports drinks, they have a good chance of developing a hangover. Hangovers often are characterized by nausea, headache, body ache pain and fatigue following a night or day of drinking. Athletes that experience hangovers have been known to perform poorly on tests, in practice or games, or even injure themselves.

Potential negative Effects on Life

Drinking lowers inhibitions. Decision making is impaired and can cause you to engage in behaviors that you may not do sober, including:

•Beer Pong and other drinking games
•Strip Poker
•Driving while intoxicated
•Going home with a total stranger
•Having unprotected sex
•Fighting (this includes friend and family members)

Some of these can lead to injury (physical and mental), jail, hospitalization and death.

Alcohol and its effect on other nutrients

Alcoholic beverages are high in calories, anywhere from 80-800 calories per drink, calories that you may not consume otherwise. Also, alcohol may promote fat storage in the body as the body stores harmless fat and burns the alcohol as fuel. This can lead to a “beer belly”. After a night of drinking, many people choose to eat high fat foods to excess causing weight gain. Excess fat weight can slow down an athlete.

Alcohol does not contain proteins, vitamins or minerals and it may actually interfere with the absorption of key vital nutrients such as folic acid, zinc and thiamin. These nutrients are involved in the metabolism of fat, proteins and the formation of hemoglobin. The lack of these vitamins can lower energy and oxygen carrying capacity and thus negatively affect endurance sports.

Be responsible

Everyone responds differently to alcohol based on gender, body weight and metabolism. So keep in mind that a 6’4” 325 lb. offensive lineman who drinks regularly, more than likely will drink more than the 5’4” 137 lb. sprinter who drinks occasionally. Don’t be pressured into drinking contests with peers your same size and age, other factors must be accounted for.

Develop rules for yourself inside and outside of competition. For example, choose not to drink in season and always limit the amount consumed in one sitting. Try alternating alcoholic beverages with water when you are out with friends. Don’t drink on an empty stomach and plan out snacks or meals ahead of time to avoid eating high fat foods later on. Refrain from participating in drinking games that increase the speed and amount of drinks you consume.

Being aware of how alcohol affects your performance can help you make informed choices on if and when to drink. The next time you plan on going out, think back to two-a-days, summer workouts, the goals you set for the season, and your teammates.

Once you’ve done that take these facts to the bar:

•Consuming 5 or more alcoholic beverages in one night will affect brain and body activities for up to 3 days.
•Two consecutive nights of binge drinking will affect brain and body activities for up to 5 days.

Additional references:

The National Center for Drug Free Sport: www.drugfreesport.com
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America: http://www.drugfree.org/Portal/
Mothers against drug driving: http://www.madd.org/
RADD - the entertainment industry's voice for road safety RADD was( formerly known as Recording Artists, Actors and Athletes Against Drunk Driving): http://www.radd.org/
Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/index.cfm?Media=PlayFlash
Teen New Drivers' Homepage provides useful tips for safer driving. www.teendriving.com
For information on peer-based collegiate alcohol abuse prevention programs, see www.bacchusgamma.org
National Motorists Association www.motorists.org
Women for Sobriety Encourages emotional and spiritual growth 1-800-333-1606 www.womenforsobriety.org
United States DUI Laws dui.drivinglaws.org
Sports Nutrition for Coaches, Bonci.
Nutrition: Concepts and Controversies, Sizer and Whitney.


  1. Tragic example of alcohol consumption and a young athlete. http://nky.cincinnati.com/article/AB/20100409/COL03/4100369/1082/spt/Doc++Kids+test+boundaries

  2. It's too bad they have this story as just a free abstract and that you have to pay for the whole article.

  3. Dying to see some reviews of this, looks really interesting, never seen anything quite like it!
    <a href="www.medicineinanswers.com/what-are-the-effects-of-alcohol-consumption www.medicineinanswers.com/what-are-the-effects-of-alcohol-consumption</a>