We all love racing, and we also love post-race parties. Having a beer or two is refreshing and relaxing. But it isn’t necessarily healthy! How might we make alcohol and training compatible?
Alcohol: tasty… but not good
Some people will tell you that the correct answer is to not drink any alcohol. I don’t want to be a killjoy, but I will be honest. Alcohol consumption has the following effects:
- It affects breathing
- It accelerates the heart rate
- It compromises our energy stores
- It slows down our reflexes
- It also causes more prolonged muscle soreness
- It threatens or slows muscle repair
- And therefore slows down recovery.
In short, raising a pint makes it harder to lift your feet!
How does this happen?
Alcohol harms our physical fitness in many ways:
- It slows down the production of an important energy source when we are working out – glycogen. However, the liver not only produces glycogen, it also eliminates alcohol. These two mechanisms are in competition, so if you drink alcohol, the liver is less efficient at storing fuel.
- It disrupts blood sugar (blood glucose) up to 36 hours after consumption because the liver, which usually deals with balancing sugar levels, is busy managing alcohol. Therefore alcohol harms energy production, and subsequently physical and mental performance.
- It slows reflexes for up to 12 hours, as it disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses.
- It impairs hydration and the balance of mineral salts in the body.
- It increases stress in our body. Alcohol raises cortisol levels and lowers testosterone levels. This affects the development of muscles and can even lead to muscle loss.
- It decreases the levels of growth hormone. This hormone is critical to developing muscles, burning fat and recovering.
- It affects the quality of sleep, and therefore recovery.
- It weakens the immune system and thus increases the risk of getting sick.
So what do we do?
We prioritize. Depending on our objectives, we may decide to compromise. If pleasure comes first and the post-race is part of it, we enjoy – and with full justification – our beer. For alcohol to be less harmful, you can:
- Drink water before drinking
- Drink at least as many glasses of water as alcohol
- Eat before or at the same time as you drink
- Discover non-alcoholic drinks that are satisfying
- Drink moderately and occasionally.
Runners love beer. It’s the race itself that is opposed!
Translation : Caroline Beaton