Can Alcohol Consumption Affect Sports Performance?

Consuming alcohol reduces cognitive performance, which results in a slower reaction speed. In what other ways can it affect the performance of an athlete?
Can Alcohol Consumption Affect Sports Performance?

Last update: 11 August, 2020

Despite being a deeply rooted custom in society, alcohol consumption can be very detrimental to our health in several ways. For example, it can negatively affect our sports performance. This substance is also capable of producing metabolic changes and affecting the health of our organs.

One of the consequences of alcohol consumption can be a change in body composition. This will significantly reduce the athlete’s performance and multiply the risk of injury. We’ll delve a little deeper into this topic below.

Alcohol consumption and sports performance

Regular alcohol consumption can hinder muscle recovery. It also promotes inflammatory processes, as stated in an article published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Drinking alcohol can also have an impact on hormonal reactions, thus affecting the production of hormones such as testosterone, which is directly involved in muscle strength levels.

Therefore, alcoholic beverages increase the risk of muscle injury. Consuming them regularly is a toxic habit that contributes to increased damage for lean tissue, especially during periods of high competitive stress. This is something that directly increases the risk of suffering a muscle tear or rupture.

Alcohol consumption can also cause liver damage. The damage will reflect on the synthesis of endogenous cholesterol and its oxidation, which will, in turn, cause an increase in cardiovascular risk.

Mixing al alcoholic beverage

Dehydration caused by alcohol consumption

Another point to keep in mind regarding alcohol consumption is its ability to increase diuresis, and with it, dehydration. Ingesting this substance can increase the risk of suffering from problems related to our body’s water balance.

Remember that a one percent decrease in total body water can lead to drastic performance drops, according to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation.

Suffering large drops in our body’s water levels can also have a fatal outcome. For this reason, it’s advisable to avoid alcohol before and after sports practice.

The effects of alcohol consumption on our metabolism

Alcoholic beverages can also affect the metabolic flexibility of an individual. The sugars they contain increase insulin resistance. On top of that, the oxidative effects of alcohol also have an impact on mitochondrial oxidation.

Both of these processes result in the affectation of our metabolic health. This will cause inefficiencies in the use of nutrients.

Thus, an individual who consumes alcohol regularly isn’t able to use fat correctly to produce energy. This translates into a faster depletion of glycogen reservoirs, which will in turn have a negative influence on our performance and risk of injury.

As if this wasn’t enough, alcoholic beverages can also have a negative impact on our cognitive performance. This is a limiting factor in technical or team sports since it can severely decrease our reflexes.

Reaction speed is another parameter that notably diminishes right after consuming alcohol, or chronically in those who drink regularly.

A group of friends drinking beer, unaware of the effects that alcohol consumption has on their bodies

If you’re an athlete, don’t drink alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are bad for anyone. They produce negative effects on the body and increase the risk of illnesses in the medium and long term. Consuming them regularly affects organs such as the heart, kidneys, or liver.

On top of that, they have considerable effects on sports performance. First of all, they significantly affect the athlete’s body composition, with all the consequences that this entails.

Second of all, they can reduce the metabolic flexibility of the individual. This causes their body to be less efficient when using fat as its main fuel since it’s trying to save glycogen.

As if this wasn’t enough, regular alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of injury, especially when it comes to muscle tissue.

This substance is also capable of reducing the cognitive performance of the athlete. Diminished cognitive abilities lead to a decrease in reaction speed and lower performance in technical or team sports.

In conclusion, we highly discourage athletes from regularly consuming alcohol. Contrary to what people believed in the past, it doesn’t have any benefits for our health. All of the effects it produces are harmful.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Levitt DE., Luk HY., Duplanty AA., McFarlin BK., et al., Effect of alcohol after muscle damaging resistance exercise on muscular performance recovery and inflammatory capacity in women. Eur J Appl Physiol, 2017. 117 (6): 1195-1206.
  • Kim KB., Kwak YS., Dehydration affects exercise induced asthma and anaphylaxis. J Exerc Rehabil, 2019. 15 (5): 647-650.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.