Why Alcohol and Exercise Don't Mix
Big-time boozing is the drug of choice for some athletes . But "don’t drink and drive” shouldn't just apply behind the wheel — it applies on the field, too. Alcohol can negatively impact what happens both on and off the court, impairing performance and strength even after there's been time to sober up  .
Boozin’ Blues — The Need-to-Know
To play up to par (or even birdie!), athletes need energy. But a few brewskies can cause us to lose that athletic oomph: Alcohol can't be stored as energy in the muscles (since it’s not a nutrient), so it's stored as fat instead . (Sup, beer belly?) Alcohol’s effect on the liver can also cause a shortage of oxygen, which interferes with the production of adenosine triphosphate synthesis (ATP) — a direct energy source for muscles .
Booze should also hit the penalty box for interference, since it gets in the way of metabolizing carbohydrates used for energy. Studies have (sadly) discovered drinking alcohol right before working out can inhibit the circulation of glucose, which the body uses for energy . (So don’t use margaritas for a mid-workout boost.) Sippin’ on gin and juice can cause the pancreas to secrete its digestive enzymes inside itself rather than sending them to the intestine to digest nutrients properly. (Yikes!) This can inflame the pancreas and halt transportation of key nutrients — like thiamin, folic acid, and zinc — to the bloodstream .
It’s no surprise that working out while dehydrated isn't ideal and — shocker! —alcohol can lead to dehydration. This can not only prolong muscle recovery (due to decreased blood flow in the muscles) but can also increase risk of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke    .
A third strike? Alcohol can also negate all that work in the weight room. While studies on humans have been harder to execute (most participants don't take well to the suggestion of chugging a few beers before hitting the squat rack…), alcohol has proved to diminish protein synthesis in rats, which stops muscle growth by preventing the repair of damaged muscles . Hitting the bottle may also decrease levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which helps the body build muscle . Our favorite cocktails may even interfere with protein digestion and absorption. Looks like post-workout protein can’t fix everything.
No Wine, No Whining — Your Action Plan
Survey says: It’s best to skip out on the drinks before working out. Alcohol can linger in the blood even after a good night's rest (and even after the "seal" is broken), so ban the booze at least a day before the big game. As for being intoxicated during exercise, that’s clearly a no (go) brainer: Alcohol affects judgment and coordination, making anything from completing a play to finishing a rep a difficult and dangerous task. Alcohol’s diuretic effect also increases the need to urinate, resulting in the loss of electrolytes. Sorry guys, but it looks like a beer mile is probably not the best idea. As for those beers to celebrate the big win, the biggest sacrifice is the quality of muscle recovery, which could hinder that next step up to the plate .
Still, it’s not all bad news. In moderation (the "one for women, two for men" drink rule works well), alcohol may be okay. Another study found that a small (think one shot or less) OJ and vodka had no negative effect on muscle recovery . And in general, some sips could increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind!), reduce insulin resistance to protect the heart, and even reduce stress  . So perhaps stick to a drink or two a few days before the big race, then refocus on carbo-loading without the beer.
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