How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Athletic Performance

From Fitness Republic

Reaching a cold beer or a glass of wine after the game may come naturally to many of us, but before enjoying a second or third brew, you may first want to think about the various effects alcohol may have on your body. We all know that alcohol isn’t exactly good for us, but how big of an impact does regular boozing really have on your physical health and athletic performance?

As with most things in life, moderation is key. And just like everything else, too much of a good thing can have disastrous results.

Here are some of the effects of alcohol on athletic performance and how it can hinder your fitness goals. If you find yourself plateauing and struggling with your fitness regime, it may be time to take a look at your drinking habits and evaluate if it’s time to cut back.

Reduced Testosterone Levels

One of the more obvious effects of alcohol is how it tends to decrease testosterone levels. For athletes, this can be a huge hurdle, as testosterone fuels energy and competition. Furthermore, a decreased level of testosterone translates over time to a decrease in lean muscle mass. Other effects of alcohol include the imposition of a shorter memory span and damage to the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where all the learning takes place. This particular effect linked to alcohol can make it difficult for the individual to learn new techniques, moves and concentrate on the sport at hand. Furthermore, consumption of alcohol can wreak havoc on your hand-eye coordination; a bad scene if you’re a competitive athlete.

Insufficient Rest

Of the very many effects of alcohol, sleep disruption happens to be one of the most detrimental, yet unexplored. While it may seem like it’s easier to fall asleep after a night of drinking, alcohol often prevents the brain from going into its natural, deep-sleep REM cycle. So despite having “slept” for 12 hours, you may nonetheless wake up feeling exhausted. Drinking frequently will impair your sleeping ability on a rather recurrent basis, bearing a detrimental impact on the body’s ability to produce the human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is linked to the building and maintenance of muscles, which of course, are essential for athletic performance. Another possible consequence of sleep insufficiency could be mental unbalances disrupting the learning process, hindering the ability to learn new moves and techniques related to the athletics.


Another, very common effect of drinking too much alcohol is weight gain. Alcohol contains empty calories, meaning that they do not contain any nutritional properties whatsoever. Mind you, not all alcoholic drinks are created equal, so you’ll want to opt for lighter stuff (avoid sugary cocktails) and watch your consumption. One pint (around 140 to 180 calories) probably won’t kill your diet; but drink four pints at the bar, and before you know it, you’ve just consumed 730 calories — enough for two small meals.

Alcohol also intervenes with the way the body processes the mineral zinc. As zinc is important for building endurance, alcohol and athletic performance do not go well together.

Lastly, consumption of alcohol tends to go hand in hand with eating junk food. Whether you’re ordering pub grub (hello nachos!), or treating your hangover with greasy takeout, it’s almost inevitable that consuming too much alcohol may also lead to consuming too much of, well, everything else.


Alcohol happens to be a diuretic, and the dehydration it leads to can take several days in recovery if a substantial amount is consumed. Dehydration can be a losing deal for an athlete and hence the effect of alcohol pronounced by dehydration can take a toll on athletic performance.

When To Cut Back

Many of us tend to overdo it when it comes to alcohol, which can have devastating consequences on our health and fitness goals. Athletes who are serious about their sport will do well to consume in moderation.

Remember, alcohol and fitness do not have to be mutually exclusive; it’s all about finding balance and discovering what works (and what doesn’t) for you. If, however, you find that your game has been suffering or you’re drinking more than you used to, consider cutting back on your alcohol consumption. You may find that you have more energy, are more strategic in your games and can perform better when you drink less — so much so, you may not even miss it.
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How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Athletic Performance
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