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No quirky titles here, as this is a topic I’m always very serious about.  I’m pretty ‘famous’ as a rare non-drinking rugby guy among my friends and colleagues.  Drinking seemingly always has had a significant role in rugby’s social culture, and I’m not going to preach about the ‘evils of drink’ like some 1920s Temperance lobbyist, but there are some facts which I think athletes need to know to allow themselves the best opportunity to heal themselves and actually gain the best from their workouts (and, yes, the match should be considered a ‘work out’ – you probably do more work in a game than in any gym session).

Now I’m no scientist, so you probably won’t believe me if I started spouting facts, so I’ll let some authoritative websites do my talking for me.  Enjoy!  😉

“Alcohol and Athletes”

“In order to build bigger and stronger muscles, your body needs sleep to repair itself after a workout. Because of alcohol’s effect on sleep, your body is deprived of a chemical called human growth hormone or HGH. HGH is part of the normal muscle building and repair process and the body’s way of telling itself your muscle needs to grow bigger and stronger. Alcohol however can decrease the secretion of HGH by as much as 70%.

When alcohol is in your body, it triggers the production of a substance in your liver that is directly toxic to testosterone. Testosterone is essential for the development and recovery of your muscles. As alcohol is absorbed through your stomach and small intestine and into your cells, it can disrupt the water balance in muscle cells, altering their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is your muscles’ source of energy. ATP provides the fuel necessary for your muscles to contract.

Speeding the recovery of sore muscles and injuries is integral to optimal performance. On occasion when an athlete is injured and can’t perform they may see this as an opportunity to use alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin that travels through your bloodstream to every organ and tissue in your body, causing dehydration and slowing your body’s ability to heal itself.”

  • Consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one night can affect brain and body activities for up to three days
  • Two consecutive nights of drinking five or more alcoholic beverages can affect brain and body activities for up to five days.
  • Attention span is shorter for periods up to forty-eight hours after drinking.
  • Even small amounts of alcohol BAC of .03 can persist for a substantial period of time after the acute effects of alcohol impairment disappear.

From:  Office of Drug and Alcohol Education – University of Notre Dame

http://oade.nd.edu/educate-yourself-alcohol/alcohol-and-athletes

“Alcohol and Australian Sport”

Short-term Effects

• Alcohol causes dehydration — Alcohol is widely reported as causing dehydration. This statement is true to a point, however it is largely dependent on the concentration of the alcoholic drink being consumed. Concentrated drinks such as spirits consumed in small glasses or shots, full-strength beers and wine will result in a net fluid loss. However low-alcohol choices such as mid-strength beers and spirits served in large glasses with a non-alcoholic mixer may actually assist athletes to rehydrate following exercise.
• Binge drinking exacerbates soft tissue injury — Soft tissue injury management requires reducing blood flow to the area in order to contain the injury. Consuming alcohol has the opposite effect.  It increases blood flow to the area, which is likely to extend recovery time following injury.
• Slower decision-making — It becomes fairly obvious that after a few drinks your ability to react and make correct decisions is impaired. This may increase your risk of serious injury from an accident or being involved in a brawl.

… having a night out with friends is a fact of life, but if nothing else you should be smart about having fun.  If you have picked up an injury, it should be avoided for the reasons cited above.  If you absolutely must, keep it to a minimum in the best interests of your own development and health to ensure you recover as best as possible.   Knowing this reality, the Aussies have some great tips on ‘surviving a night out with mates.’

From: Australian Institute of Sport

http://www.ausport.gov.au/ais/nutrition/factsheets/basics/alcohol_and_australian_sport

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