What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Athletes in Sports?
At the college level, the average student athlete will consume in excess of 34 gallons of alcoholic beverages per year. Many athletes, even the pros, believe it is no big deal to drink as long as they don't do it before a game, competition or practice. But alcohol can remain in the body for up to three days, and after two consecutive nights of drinking, it can linger for up to five days.
Performance: Alcohol is toxic to testosterone. In male athletes, diminished testosterone affects aggression and, over time, lean muscle mass. Alcohol also slows reaction time and affects hand-to-eye coordination, both of which can result in poor performance. It affects the hippocampus, the part of the brain where learning takes place. Because it lingers in your system for days after you stopped drinking, alcohol can impair your ability to learn new plays or techniques in practice. Your attention span will remain shorter for up to 48 hours after you drink.
You might have no problem falling asleep after you've been drinking, but your body will have a hard time staying asleep and cycling through the stages of sleep naturally. If you drink on a regular basis and your sleep is frequently impaired, it will impact your body's production of human growth hormone, which is vital to build and maintain the strong muscles required to participate in most sports at a competitive level. Lack of quality sleep will also impair your mental faculties, making it more difficult to learn and retain information regarding new plays, rules and strategies.
Dehydration: Dehydration is one of the greatest dangers to drinking before a sporting event. Alcohol is a diuretic and if you drink enough, it can take your body several days to hydrate again after the binge. This puts you at greater risk for injury, and it impacts your body's ability to heal itself after you've sustained one.
Nutrition: Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram. If you drink a great deal regularly, this can easily result in additional body fat, even with the exercise you get playing sports. And the calories in alcohol do your body no good. They're empty. Your muscles can't use them for energy. Alcohol also affects the way your body processes zinc from foods. Your body needs zinc for endurance.
Aerobic Impact: While sports like football involve periods of intense activity followed by periods of inactivity, other sports, such as basketball, hockey, biking or rowing, require that you sustain aerobic activity for longer periods of time. Participating in these types of sports while suffering from a hangover can impact aerobic performance up to 11 percent.
UC San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics: Alcohol and Athletic Performance
University of Notre Dame Office of Alcohol and Drug Education:
Alcohol and AthletesESPN: Drugs and Sports --
AlcoholUniversity of Georgia Health Center:
Alcohol and Athletic Performance