Alcohol: Impact on Sports Performance and Recovery in Male Athletes

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Abstract

Alcohol is the most commonly used recreational drug globally and its consumption, often in large volume, is deeply embedded in many aspects of Western society. Indeed, athletes are not exempt from the influence alcohol has on society; they often consume greater volumes of alcohol through bingeing behaviour compared with the general population, yet it is often expected and recommended that athletes abstain from alcohol to avoid the negative impact this drug may have on recovery and sporting performance. While this recommendation may seem sensible, the impact alcohol has on recovery and sports performance is complicated and depends on many factors, including the timing of alcohol consumption post-exercise, recovery time required before recommencing training/competition, injury status and dose of alcohol being consumed. In general, acute alcohol consumption, at the levels often consumed by athletes, may negatively alter normal immunoendocrine function, blood flow and protein synthesis so that recovery from skeletal muscle injury may be impaired. Other factors related to recovery, such as rehydration and glycogen resynthesis, may be affected to a lesser extent. Those responsible for the wellbeing of athletes, including the athlete themselves, should carefully monitor habitual alcohol consumption so that the generic negative health and social outcomes associated with heavy alcohol use are avoided. Additionally, if athletes are to consume alcohol after sport/exercise, a dose of approximately 0.5 g/kg body weight is unlikely to impact most aspects of recovery and may therefore be recommended if alcohol is to be consumed during this period.

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