On Alcohol and Athletic Performance: The Good, The Bad, the Surprising

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On Alcohol and Athletic Performance: The Good, The Bad, the Surprising

Ah, alcohol. The nectar of the gods. The liquid courage that turns shy introverts into party animals. But what about its effects on athletic performance and exercise recovery? Is it a friend or foe to those of us who like to spend time at the gym? Let’s dive in and find out.

First off, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, alcohol can be really fun. But also, yes, it can have some negative effects on athletic performance and exercise recovery. It can affect your sleep, dehydrate you, mess with your coordination and balance, and decrease your reaction time.

In fact, alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on both sleep and recovery. While it is true that alcohol can initially make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it can actually disrupt your natural sleep cycle and lead to poor quality sleep. Alcohol can suppress REM sleep, which is the most restorative and restful stage of sleep. Without adequate REM sleep, your body may not fully recover from the physical stress of exercise, leading to decreased athletic performance over time. Furthermore, alcohol interferes with the production of a hormone called vasopressin, which helps regulate the body’s fluid balance. This can lead to increased urination and dehydration, which can disrupt sleep and leave you feeling fatigued the next day.

In addition to its effects on sleep, alcohol can also interfere with the body’s ability to repair and regenerate muscle tissue. When you exercise, your body undergoes microscopic tears in muscle fibers. The body then repairs these tears during periods of rest, leading to increased muscle strength and size. However, alcohol can interfere with this process by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, which can delay the recovery process and lead to decreased athletic performance.


But fear not! There is some good news for those of us who enjoy a boozy drink…or two. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have some potential benefits when it comes to exercise recovery. One study found that drinking beer after a strenuous workout helped reduce inflammation and muscle damage in athletes. So, cheers to that! And let’s not forget about the mental health benefits of a good old-fashioned boozy night out. Alcohol has been known to lower stress and anxiety levels, which can be beneficial for those of us who use exercise as a way to cope with those very same things.

So, what’s the verdict? Is alcohol a friend or foe to our fitness goals? Well, like most things in life, it’s all about moderation. If you’re going to have a few drinks, keep it to a minimum and make sure to stay hydrated. Remember to always listen to your body, if you’re feeling sluggish or off after a night of partying, maybe it’s time to take a break and focus on recovery. If you’re interested in digging even deeper into this topic, check out this recent episode of Huberman Lab on “What Alcohol Does to your Body, Brain & Health”.

Overall, alcohol can be a fun and enjoyable part of life, but it’s important to be aware of its potential effects on our health and fitness goals. So, go ahead and raise a glass to your well-being, but don’t forget to also raise your kettlebells and hit the gym. Cheers to a balanced and healthy lifestyle!

Who wrote this post...

Chris Tabush

Chris Tabush

Though he had been in and around the CrossFit community since 2013, due in large part to his 8-year service in the United States Army, Chris joined the Renew Crew in 2021 as a member looking for a new gym home after moving from Georgia to Austin. And in 2022, while pursuing his Masters in Business Administration at the University of Texas, Chris got his CF-L1 and officially joined the team as a coach! Chris is originally from Guatemala City, Guatemala, enjoys traveling and learning new languages, and outside of the gym you can find him paddleboarding on Ladybird Lake. Chris’ favorite benchmark workout is Murph, and when he’s short on time, Chelsea.

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