Have you ever stayed for that extra pint at the brew pub after work on Friday, polished off the last glass in the wine bottle at Saturdayâ??s dinner party, or had one too many cocktails on the boat and then felt like a snail on your run the next day? Whether itâ??s St. Paddyâ??s Day, Friday night Happy Hour, dinner with friends, or other special occasions, alcohol is a regular part of socializing and celebrations in our culture. While alcohol, in moderation, has its health benefits, drinking can and does negatively affect athletic performance. Marc, Lauren and Anne will want to keep in mind their Bayshore goals and how they choose to celebrate this weekend (and leading up to the race) to maintain top form for their training programs.
Calories and Metabolism
Weâ??re pretty familiar with the fact that fat contains the most calories by weight; 9 calories per gram. For athletes or anyone aiming for a healthy weight, alcohol adds calories too, and at 7 calories per gram thatâ??s almost as energy dense as fat. For the runner, maintaining a healthy weight supports more speed and less injury. Besides being a direct source of calories, alcohol also acts as an appetite stimulant and reduces our ability to make healthy food choices, which can result in excess calories eaten.
Alcohol can lead to unwanted weight gain and affect exercise performance by more than calories alone; it also suppresses fat use as fuel, at rest and during exercise, resulting in positive energy balance and fat storage. As well as affecting the bodyâ??s ability to draw on fat stores for energy, it interferes with post-exercise recovery; delaying carb (glycogen) storage in the muscles and liver via impaired metabolism and influencing food choices that are short on the carb-rich foods needed for refueling. And as the liver works to neutralize alcohol in the body, it is not able to make glucose available to fuel the brain and muscles. All of these actions can affect the amount and type of energy available to muscles during running and other aerobic exercise and slow recovery and muscle repair after training.
Hydration and Temperature Control
A common way to celebrate a win or a job well done is with alcohol. But alcohol can put athletes at risk for dehydration and muscle cramping as it acts as a diuretic by increasing urine volume, which may further deplete electrolytes and interfere with rehydration efforts after training or an event. Alcohol can also impair the bodyâ??s ability to maintain its core temperature in the cold and dehydration can increase risk for heat illness. The risk is less in dilute drinks (2% alcohol) but those of 4% or more alcohol by volume (most beersâ?|) will result in overall negative fluid balance.
The aftereffects of alcohol can interfere with sleep patterns by cutting down the time we spend in deep, restful sleep, so we feel less alert and motivated to perform well. Not only does the hangover affect performance through general symptoms of headache, nausea, lethargy, and thirst, there are also negative effects on cardio function such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, before you even start exercising. And consumed during exercise, alcohol impairs mental and motor skills, negatively affecting performance by lowering focus. This effect can also increase risk of injury by increasing risk-taking behavior.
So how do the Three Amigos have fun and maintain a social life with compromising their Race to Bayshore training and competition goals?
- Choose to limit or avoid alcohol the day before a long training run or race
- Rehydrate with water or sports drinks and re-fuel with carbohydrates post-exercise before considering drinking alcohol
- When choosing to drink alcohol follow the guidelines of moderation: 1-2 drinks per day for men, 1 drink per day for women. One â??drinkâ?? equals 12 oz of regular beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor
- To keep alcohol and calories in check, spritz wine with sparkling water, mix vodka, gin or bourbon with club soda, for cocktails use whole fruit, fresh squeezed or 100% fruit juice and limit liquor to 1 shot (1.5 oz) per drink, or choose low calorie â??liteâ?? or dark beer over regular beer
- Eat before drinking to slow down the absorption of alcohol from the stomach
- Alternate alcoholic beverages with water or other non-alcoholic beverages every other drink
Consider working with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition for a meal plan that is personalized to your body, your sport, your stage of training, and your goals. Contact Miranda Monroe via email@example.com for a consultation to put the science of sports nutrition on your plate with a personalized plan and practical meal planning strategies to help you achieve your performance goals.