Alcohol can affect your sport and exercise performance in two main ways. Directly, due to the effect of the alcohol or its breakdown products in your body. Or indirectly because of the effects on your sleep, diet, hydration levels, etc. Here's what can happen:
Alcohol's effect on energy and stamina
The blood sugar that your body needs for energy is produced by your liver - it releases glucose into the bloodstream. Alcohol keeps the liver too busy to produce this sugar efficiently. This means you have less energy and greatly reduces your aerobic performance.
A few drinks the night before can really take the edge off your fitness. No matter how much training and conditioning you've put in. When it's time to really 'dig deep' you might find you've nothing there.
Alcohol affects you even after you've finished drinking. It affects the central nervous system and slows down the brain's ability to process information. This, in turn, slows down your reaction time, hand-eye coordination, accuracy and balance. Even a couple of alcoholic drinks can affect your exercise performance and perception.
Alcohol and muscle cramps
While exercising, your muscles burn up glucose, producing lactic acid as waste.
Too much lactic acid leads to muscle fatigue and cramps. Alcohol that remains in your system contributes to a larger buildup of lactic acid. Therefore, your risk of cramping up increases dramatically. Even a moderate amount of alcohol can dull your exercise performance.
Dehydration will impair your exercise performance
I'm sure we've all experienced alcohol's diuretic effect after a big night. This extra fluid loss, in addition to sweat lost during exercise, increases the risk of dehydration.
Alcohol and the exercise performance of your muscles
Few people realise that consuming alcohol after a workout, practise or competition can cancel out any gains you might have received:
Short-term alcohol use can impede muscle growth and therefore impair performance in exercise
Long-term alcohol use diminishes protein synthesis, resulting in reduced muscle buildup.
In order to build bigger and stronger muscles, your body needs sleep to repair itself. Especially after tough and gruelling workouts. It is widely known that alcohol upsets sleeping patterns and sleep quality - your performance will suffer.
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