Excess alcohol during periods of training can leave runners more prone to injury, according to a report from The Guardian.
While it notes that the odd glass of wine “won’t result in anything amiss”, it suggests that five or more drinks on a Friday or Saturday night could “wipe out” months of hard graft. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, alcohol disrupts your natural sleep cycle, which can reduce your body’s ability to store glycogen. Glycogen is crucial for endurance. A disturbed sleep cycle can also increase the levels of stress hormone cortisol, and as a result building and healing of muscle tissue is slower.
Alcohol leads to cramps, pulls and strains
While most of us know that alcohol is a diuretic, which leads to dehydration, less people know that while dehydrated a runner is at greater risk of suffering cramps, muscle pulls and strains. Also, as the report notes, “Your appetite will decrease, despite the fact that you still need to be consuming the same amount of food as before to fuel your body for training”. Alcohol also has an “enormous impact” on muscle protein synthesis, reducing it by “up to a third”.
Everything in moderation
It’s not all doom and gloom. Drinking certain types of alcohol in moderation can be beneficial. Red wine, for instance, contains a chemical known as resveratrol that reduces blood pressure. There have also been numerous studies that suggest beer in moderation is excellent for post-race recovery.
However, Professor David Cameron-Smith of the University of Auckland, who studies the effects of alcohol in athletes, argues that drinking alcohol for antioxidants is “an excuse – plain and simple”, going on to suggest that beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds can all be found in a whole host fruits and vegetables.