Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Effects of Alcohol on Recovery

The culture of having a beer after a footy match may well have been phased out of the elite level you will still see at any local club many players consuming alcohol immediately following a game. There is strong evidence to suggest that heavy intake of alcohol may interfere with post exercise recovery in a variety of ways.

The consumption of alcohol has been shown to significantly increase urinary losses during the post-exercise phase. The higher the alcoholic content the greater the urinary losses. When test subjects consumed alcohol as part of their post-exercise recovery they displayed close to 20% less net retention than those athletes who consumed no alcohol. During post-exercise recovery a 20% less retention of water can be extremely detrimental to an athlete, especially if they are intending on competing/training at a high level within the next 48-72 hours.

Most sporting activities are associated with muscle and soft-tissue damage, either as a result of physical activity or due to tackling and collisions in contact sports. Effectively the soft-tissue has been injured or traumatised and must heal. The standard first-aid for soft-tissue injuries is to apply vasoconstrictive techniques (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Alcohol is known to be a potent vasodilator and therefore has the potential to cause or increase undesirable swelling around damaged sites. This excess swelling and inflammation is then likely to impede the repair process.

Many experts agree however that the most detrimental effect of alcohol on athletes is loss of inhibition and impaired judgement. There are strong correlations between excess alcohol consumption and increased rates of drowning, spinal injuries, problems with recreational water activities and is a known major contributor to road accidents.

There are many issues associated with excessive consumption of alcohol post-exercise. In summary, the major impact of heavy alcohol intake post exercise is the failure of the athlete to follow guidelines for optimal recovery.

Burke L, Deakin V; Clinical Sports Nutrition 2nd Ed; 2000

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