Are you a sportsperson? Do you often enjoy a couple of beers after a game? You could actually be harming your body.
Although drinking alcohol after a sporting activity has become a social ritual among many Australians, drinking alcohol at a time when your body is meant to be recovering from the strenuous activity, is actually bad for your body.
Give Your Body a Chance to Recover After Exercise
Keep in mind that high intensity activities such as running and other sports create temporary muscle damage, tenderness and pain.
If you exercise long enough, the fuel stored in our muscles for energy (glycogen) is also depleted.
In hotter climates such as Australia, the body loses even more fluids. The loss of water due to sweating also reduces the blood volume and the electrolytes stored in the body.
The body will begin repairing itself after exercise and alcohol will not help this process, but rather hinder it.
How Alcohol Affects Your Body After Exercise
In an article on TheConversation.com the writer points out how alcohol consumption after sport or exercise makes the major aspects of post-exercise recovery worse.
Alcohol actually slows down the recovery process of exercise-induced muscle damage, hindering the functions of the hormones that usually aid recovery – including testosterone.
For athletes with a soft tissue injury, it’s even worse, as alcohol opens up the blood vessels and encourages swelling at the injury site.
It’s unclear if alcohol blocks energy storage in the muscles, but when athletes drink large quantities of alcohol, they tend to eat less nutritious foods (especially if they are sick the next day!).
This indirectly slows down the restoration of energy stores in muscle. For those of us trying to shed a few kilos, alcohol is also a bad choice considering it’s highly energy-dense, with little nutritional value.
But if athletes are dehydrated, isn’t drinking something better than nothing? Alcohol is actually a diuretic that promotes fluid loss and contributes to dehydration.
The writer also cites a study that shows that drinking alcohol with 4% alcohol after exercise increases urine output and delays the recovery rate of blood volume. The writer claims drinking nothing at all would even be better.
Alcohol consumption is also known to decrease sleep duration when consumed after a rugby match, either directly through alcohol’s negative influence on falling asleep and staying asleep, or indirectly as a result of a late night on the town.
With poor sleep, impaired muscle repair, energy restoration and delayed rehydration, it’s not surprising drinking alcohol immediately after exercise significantly impairs recovery of both strength and power in the following days. And we can assume the impact of a hangover on a training session would also be dire.
With all the negative effects on rehydration and recovery, it’s not surprising the American College of Sports Medicine recommends athletes should avoid alcohol altogether.
Remember, if you’re going to drink after strenuous activity, keep your alcoholic intake to a minimum, no more than 2 standard drinks and drink plenty of water.