How to increase race pace: tee-total training | 9 of 26 Marathon Series

Most of us like a drink, in fact the majority of UK adults like to drink too much, it’s in our culture and has been for a long time; but alcohol has a number of detrimental effects on training. By simply reducing your consumption or even better, going teetotal, you can boost your fitness very quickly.

Detrimental effects of alcohol

There are two elements to this; the long term detrimental effects of alcohol and the immediate effects that will directly impede your performance.

Short term effects

Obviously exercising whilst drunk or hungover is going to result in poor performance due to the following reasons:

  • Dehydration – you will more-than-likely have a headache due to brain shinkage you are more likely to overheat as well, your blood won’t flow around the body as well so Oxygen transfer will be slowed.
  • Reduced Energy – As your liver will be working hard to metabolise the Alcohol it will have less capacity to metabolise and produce energy from Glucose so you’ll be more tired and won’t be able to exercise as intensely.
  • Judgement Impairment – This applies more to exercising on alcohol, but also a certain extent to exercising hung-over. This can have a major effect on sports performance where good judgement and reactions are important (such as team sports & court sports).
  • Increased Lactic Acid build up – Again as the liver will be working to process the toxic by-products of alcohol, it will have less capacity to clear lactic acid from your muscles.

drink

Long term effects

This is where cutting out or at least reducing your alcohol consumption will have beneficial effects on your overall fitness and health; and therefore performance.

  • Excess Calories – Alcohol is pretty much dead calories (7 per gram) as the body will rarely use them when exercising so generally all of the calories you consume in alcohol will mean that other calories are stored as fat.
  • Weight and fat gain – As a result of the above you will gain weight and increase your body fat percentage.
  • Reduced Nutrient Absorption –  Due to the excess strain on the liver, your body will not absorb key nutrients as well and this will affect recovery and development.
  • Impaired Sleep – Alcohol interferes with sleep patterns, whilst it actually helps you to fall asleep, studies have proven that the quality of sleep when you have been drinking is much less and therefore muscle repair and development will be impeded.
  • Reduced testosterone – Some studies link alcohol consumption to a reduction in testosterone, which for guys in particular will mean reduced performance and recovery.

So seeing the above effects, it’s clear to see there are a good deal of benefits to be had from eliminating alcohol from your lifestyle; however for many of us this is difficult so if this is unrealistic then aim to implement the following measures for some performance and health improvements:

  • Reduce your overall consumption
  • Avoid alcohol within 24 hours either side of key training sessions
  • Avoid mixing drinks and drink plenty of water when you do consume alcohol to offset the dehydration
  • If drinking in the evening, then try to stop drinking at least an hour before bed to reduce the negative sleep patterns
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet

If you have any other questions or concerns about your alcohol consumption then visit the drink aware website.

Here is the next blog article in our marathon series:

10. Can music improve your run performance?

10

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Ryan has worked in the sports industry since 1999 and has a wealth of experience across most subjects. Ryan holds a BSc in microbiology and has studied sports physiology in great detail in his own time. His main areas of specialisation are: footwear construction, footwear technology, strength & conditioning and anatomy & physiology. He splits his 13 hours a week exercise between, Kickboxing, MMA, Crossfit, Rock Climbing and Running.