How Alcohol Affects Your Athletic Performance


The life of an athlete is admittedly stressful. So, it is no surprise that many try to loosen up and relax by using alcohol. Unfortunately, this is not the best choice for someone in such a career. To show why we say so, let’s look at how alcohol affects your athletic performance.

Increased risk of cramps

The first way alcohol affects your athletic performance is by causing cramps. You burn sugar and produce lactic acid in your muscles when you exercise. This, in turn, causes burning pain if allowed to build up. It also makes your muscles more sensitive and likely to get hurt. What alcohol does is ramp up all these side effects. For up to twenty-four hours, alcohol will boost lactic acid buildup and its ill effects. If you proceed with intense workouts in this window of time, you are far more likely to end up with a cramp, which can result in days of pain and inhibited performance. Even as a complete laic, you do not need to learn more about the life of an athlete to understand why this would be horrible.

Slower recovery

Alcohol does not reduce the production of one but two hormones critical to the success of any athlete. The human growth hormone and testosterone have massive effects on the recovery process of the human body. They are a vital part of the repair processes going on inside you. So, another negative aspect of how alcohol affects your athletic performance is making it take longer for you to recover from any exertion. For an athlete, who often goes from one competition to another with limited recovery times, this can be lethal for their career. Of course, there are solutions to both alcohol addiction and these side effects, one being inpatient treatment as an option with many upsides. However, it would still have very adverse effects on the career of the affected athlete.

Lower reaction speed

Alcohol is, by its very nature, an effective sedative. It is why so many athletes rely on it to “calm their nerves” and deal with anxiety before important matches or performances. However, a fundamental way alcohol affects your athletic performance is by lowering your reaction speed, including crucial metrics such as hand-eye coordination. You will be clumsier, have a harder time processing external stimuli, and have difficulty responding to them promptly. This can translate to stumbling, missing a ball, fumbling your shot, or even running into an obstacle in severe cases. The worst part is that these symptoms persist for up to seventy-two hours after you’ve ingested the alcohol. 

Worse endurance

There are two reasons why alcohol makes your endurance worse after a night out drinking. First, it affects the absorption of necessary nutrients such as zinc and vitamins B1 and B12. These are essential for metabolism, energy production, and even oxygen transport. It should be obvious, but lower oxygen intake has disastrous effects on athletic performance since it makes it much harder to regulate one’s breathing and rhythm properly. Alcohol also negatively impacts the production of adenosine triphosphate, an essential source of your muscle’s energy and strength. Without it being produced in satisfying quantities, you will feel weaker and capable of strenuous activity for much shorter periods.

Risk of dehydration

Everybody knows how important it is for athletes to stay hydrated. It is impossible to avoid having your body overheat during strenuous physical activity. Which, in turn, results in tons of water loss through sweating. If an athlete was already mildly dehydrated before participating in a sports event, they are likely to suffer the harmful effects of dehydration. They can faint, feel dizzy and nauseous, or even straight up pass out. Now, remember that alcohol is considered a ‘diuretic.’ This means it effectively eliminates fluids from your body by forcing it to flush them out. Your bladder, kidneys, and liver will actively be working against you. So, instead of calming your nerves with alcohol, consider trying out some of the favorite foods of the world’s best athletes instead! 

Less effective exercise

There are a few ways in which alcohol impacts exercise negatively. First is the fact that alcohol has no nutritional value. In fact, it increases weight gain and makes it harder for you to keep fit. Then, there’s the fact that it inhibits hormones and even the absorption of valuable nutrients and vitamins that promote muscle growth. This is why advises quick action to help people struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction overcome their problems, especially if they are also in physical therapy for an injury or surgery. Finally, long-term alcohol abuse also impacts bone growth and the body’s ability to repair body tissue, leading to permanent ill effects. An athlete recovering from a severe injury must avoid all alcoholic beverages.

Impaired performance

The final way alcohol affects your athletic performance is by directly making it worse. You can suffer from several conditions if you engage in strenuous physical activity post-drinking. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches

Admittedly, none of them are impossible to overcome and still do well. However, These symptoms will make it unlikely for you to give your best showing. Not to mention that they make it much more likely that you will suffer from one of the common sports injuries that can happen even to perfectly healthy and prepared athletes. An athlete’s body is the primary tool and treasure, and it makes no sense to risk it senselessly for drinks, especially when there are so many non-alcoholic options to choose from!

Final comment

Now that you understand how alcohol affects your athletic performance, you should also understand why, as an athlete, you need to avoid it. There are better ways to de-stress than to drink something that can threaten your career!


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