There’s something so refreshing about a cold beer after a hard ride or a long day of hiking. Every now and then we hear about studies that find health benefits from moderate drinking. Free beers are often included at post race festivities. But do you ever wonder if that post-workout brew is hindering your sports performance? While a beer (equivalent to a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1 ounce of hard alcohol) here and there won’t hurt your workouts, if you’re doing it regularly and excessively, there are some potential negative effects.
Here are some things to consider:
Alcohol provides empty calories.At 7 calories per gram of alcohol, it’s easy for the calories to add up. A typical beer has anywhere from 100-150 calories per 12 ounces, while some mixed drinks can clock in close to 500 calories (sorry, margarita lovers)! These are empty calories; they provide virtually no nutrients.
Alcohol is a diuretic.It’s no coincidence that you have to visit the bathroom more when imbibing. Alcohol is a strong diuretic, meaning it causes your body to lose water. Dehydration will definitely affect your sports performance, so be sure to drink water whenever you drink alcohol to help cut your losses.
Alcohol suppresses fat use as a fuel during exercise.If you’re an endurance athlete, you need to be able to use fat efficiently, and being unable to tap into those stores effectively could affect your performance.
Alcohol disrupts your sleep.Sleep is an important part of an athlete’s training because a lot of muscle repair occurs during sleep. Most athletes need more sleep than the average person, and alcohol can interrupt your deep sleep cycles, making recovery more difficult.
Alcohol increases the release of cortisol and decreases release of testosterone.This may affect protein synthesis and muscle repair.
Besides the potential negative effects on performance, it goes without saying that drinking the night before a hard workout or during intense training cycles is going to make the workouts feel awful, which could also affect your performance.
And don’t forget the general alcohol consumption recommendations for everyone: no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
Bottom line? I’m a big believer in balance and moderation. Sure, maybe a beer isn’t the most effective post-workout beverage, but life is short; if you like beer, go ahead and enjoy it in moderation. So if you just finished a hard race on a hot day and there’s a free beer coupon hanging from your race bib, go for it! Just make sure to drink plenty of water and properly refuel (read: eat carbs and protein) before indulging.
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Jen Sommer is a registered dietitian, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, a former NASM certified personal trainer, and a self-appointed mountain girl. As a cyclist, skier, hiker, and runner (among other things), she knows firsthand the importance of proper nutrition and training. She offers nutrition coaching and consulting through Peaks Coaching Group. Find more great tips, recipes, and articles at Jen's blog, Mountain Girl Nutrition and Fitness. Jen can be contacted through Peaks Coaching Group or at email@example.com.
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