Alcohol and Exercise Don’t Mix: The Science Behind How Drinking Impairs Recovery


We won’t dwell on the obvious: drinking the night before will decrease athletic performance the next day due to a lack of restful sleep, being dehydrated, and possibly having a hangover. Clearly, getting a good night’s rest and eating well is the best way to make sure you are on top of your game.

However, many people don’t know that drinking after exercise can “cancel out” the workout by impairing the body’s ability to recover and build new muscle. In this post, we will take a look at what the science says about how alcohol can get in the way of getting the most from your workouts. (Caution: link may include science) If you are one of those people who chooses to drink (not all college students drink), it’s important to consider these 4 ways alcohol may negatively impact your body’s functioning.

  1. “Empty Calories”–“Empty Calories” is often a phrase used to describe alcohol, and is accurate to describe alcohol’s high calories, which are absent any other nutritional value. In addition to being devoid of any significant vitamins or nutrients, alcohol blocks the body’s absorption of usable nutrients by decreasing blood-flow to the pancreas. This interference with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients may hinder reaching peak physical performance and muscle recovery
  1. Protein–Much has been written on the importance of protein for building muscle, and rightly so. Protein is a crucial building block for many aspects of the body, and is important for  overall muscular health.  Alcohol has been proven to reduce protein synthesis in rats, which may mean that alcohol use in humans will prevent muscle repair and slow muscle growth after a workout.
  1. Hormones–Because alcohol impacts your ability to get restful sleep, it also hinders the release of Human Grown Hormone (HGH), which is a normal part of muscle growth and development. HGH, which is normally released in the beginning stages of sleep, can be reduced by up to 70 percent by alcohol use. Regular alcohol use can also lower testosterone, which causes in increase in fat storage and fluid retention.
  1. ATP–Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is a direct energy source for muscles, and alcohol can disrupt oxygen and water levels in muscle cells, which hinders the production of ATP, thus sapping muscles from the energy they need.

So in order to make sure you are getting the most of your workouts, make sure you keep tabs on your drinking, and thing twice about mixing alcohol and athletics.

Stay Healthy, Heels!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s