Run For Beer: Alcohol and Performance

Will run for beer.  Will run for wine.  These little phrases grace hats, headbands, and stickers alcohol and performancenear race courses every weekend.  It’s a great premise, running to burn the calories you know you’ll be enjoying after your workout.  Unfortunately, alcohol does more than simply replace your now missing calories.

Dehydration.  We all know that hydration is an important part of being able to perform at peak levels.  Alcohol acts as a diuretic, each gram of alcohol we consume generates 10 milliliters of urine.  This can equate to lots of bathroom trips and serious dehydration.  Muscles are 75% water and leaving them thirsty can result in fatigue, weakness and electrolyte imbalances with as little as 2% dehydration having an impact on your athletic performance.

Muscle Performance.  Not only will thirsty muscles not be able to perform at their peak, they won’t get any stronger.  In addition to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, alcohol can reduce the protein synthesis required for muscle building through a steroid hormone called Cortisol.  Cortisol is released in response to low blood glucose levels that results from indulging in alcohol and works in opposition to the systems that build muscle.  Cortisol can even tear proteins apart, resulting in muscle atrophy and making you weaker instead of stronger.

Sleep.  ‘Passing out’ is not the restorative sleep any body needs, especially those looking to be active the next day.  While one or two beverages might help relieve stress and make hitting the way a bit easier, alcohol does interrupt your sleep patterns.  To feel like we get a good night’s sleep, we have to enter REM sleep, which alcohol prevents.  Poor REM sleep can lead to tiredness during the day, an inability to concentrate and an overall crummy mood.

Weight gain.  Most of us know all of the empty calories associated with alcohol can lead to weight gain.  What we need to know is how.  Ethanol (alcohol), like a carbohydrate, is processed by the human body as sugar.  When we load the body up with processed foods or booze, blood sugar levels spike, insulin resistance decreases and everything the body can’t immediately process is stored as fat.  To learn more, check out this video from P360 in San Diego.

Hangovers.  Not only will have a headache after a night of boozing, your coordination, reaction times and balance will all be suffering, too.  You’ll also be less motivated to actually get out there and exercise while simultaneously inclined to eat something greasy and unhealthy.

There’s nothing wrong with having a fun and enjoying a few cocktails, it’s a great way to celebrate setting a new PR or finishing your first marathon.  Make sure you don’t end up steering clear of your recovery workout the next morning, by including water in your drinking plan, having food with your fun and stopping alcohol consumption long before bedtime.

Coach Meredith

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