Whether you are celebrating a win, forgetting a loss, or catching up with teammates, there is a long-standing tradition in sport to head to the local pub for a drink after a match or training. Although this tradition is beneficial for team building, socialising and reviewing a game, it may not be so advantageous for recovery and subsequent adaptation. Lets take a look at some of the issues regarding post-exercise alcohol intake:
- After exercise you will most likely be in a dehydrated state, and alcohol consumption can cause further dehydration. Although you are consuming fluid, the alcohol component of a drink inhibits the release of AVP (arginine vasopressin), an anti-diuretic hormone that allows you to retain water and regulate fluid balance. Therefore, drinking alcohol has a diuretic (water loss) effect leading to further dehydration.
- Additionally, alcohol is a peripheral vasodilator, meaning that bloodflow is re-directed to the skin, causing further sweat loss and dehydration.
- Alcohol may suppress glycogen (carbohydrate stores in the muscles and liver) resynthesis, in turn delaying recovery and the restoration of muscle fuel stores.
- Alcohol can also suppress muscle protein synthesis (the process of muscle growth and repair) by blocking the pathways that activate this process, delaying muscle repair and indirectly amplifying muscle soreness.
- Consuming alcohol displaces other nutrients from the diet, such as protein, carbohydrate and water, which are significantly more important for recovery.
- Alcoholic drinks can be calorie dense, primarily due to the high carbohydrate content of some drinks. Additionally, a gram of alcohol is 7kcal as opposed to carbohydrate or protein, which are 4kcal per gram.
- The main focus of the early post-exercise period (1-2h after exercise) is to maximise recovery and promote adaptations to become fitter, faster, stronger or more economical.
- This is achieved by consuming a recovery meal or drink containing both carbohydrate and protein as soon as possible post exercise.
- Additionally, rehydrate as soon as possible post exercise, and attempt to establish fluid balance before consuming alcohol.
- Finally, make sure you enjoy the pub! Just recover first, as greater adaptation means you might be celebrating a win more regularly than forgetting a loss!
About the Author
Mark Funnell holds a BSc (Honours) degree in Sport and Exercise Science and an MSc in Sport and Exercise Nutrition from Loughborough University. He is currently working as a Performance Nutritionist for the England and Wales Cricket Board with both the England Women’s Academy and Midlands Regional Disability Cricket squads. Additionally, Mark is a graduate member of the Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr), an ISAK Level 1 Anthropometrist and a UK Anti-Doping advisor.