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Alcohol and exercise: 7 rules for athletes

Each year, about 10 liters of pure alcohol (ethanol) are consumed per capita in the United States.(1) And indeed, athletes also like to relax with an occasional glass of wine or beer. But do alcohol and exercise go well together? Here are the seven most important rules you should follow if you don’t want your drinking to impair your athletic performance:

1. Moderation is the name of the game.

If enjoyed in moderate amounts, alcohol is also “permitted” for athletes and recreational players. Yet there is no scientific consensus on where to draw the line between healthy alcohol consumption and the point at which it affects your training.(2) However, we do know that women should drink less. Due to low body mass, high fat percentage, and decreased enzyme activity (alcohol dehydrogenase), women’s bodies digest less alcohol than men’s bodies.

General recommendations for moderate alcohol consumption without health risks:

  • 10 grams of alcohol (⅛ alcohol) for women
  • 20 grams per day for men (¼ of wine or 0.3L of beer)(3)

In general, it is advised to avoid daily consumption of alcohol while playing sports.

2. Keep track of calories

Alcohol is often an underrated source of calories. 1 gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, compared to 9 calories with 1 gram of fat. So, 0.5 liter of beer contains 200 calories. To “work” this beer, you’ll need to go for a 30-minute run. Calories that we don’t burn are stored in the body. Cocktails containing cream, sugar syrup, or cordials are especially high in fat and sugar – these are calorie bombs in alcoholic beverages.

3. Stay hydrated

Alcohol promotes the excretion of water by your kidneys. This can cause your body to become dehydrated sooner, thereby altering your mineral balance (eg potassium, magnesium, zinc). If your muscles are deprived of these minerals, their performance will decline! Rule of thumb: For every glass of beer or wine, go with a glass of water. This not only forces you to drink less alcohol, but also helps you save calories. And remember, you need to replenish electrolytes and fluids lost through sweat during exercise. It works best with isotonic drinks – drinks with a salt composition similar to that of your body fluids. Because of this feature, they are perfect for replenishing water and minerals after exercise.

4. Avoid alcohol during intense training and competition phases.

Scientists found that even moderate alcohol consumption can reduce muscle strength. In one study, men drank 1 gram of vodka per kilogram of body weight with orange juice after exercise. For the average guy, that’s the equivalent of 6 vodka shots. Then, 36, And then 60 hours later, They had to prove their strength against the control group. The study revealed that the test subjects who drank alcohol had significantly lower strength values ​​than the control group even though both groups were given the same amount of time to recover.(5) This means you should go without alcohol during particularly intense training periods. And make sure you abstain from alcohol (or only in very small amounts) within the last 48 hours before the competition.

But what if you accidentally overdo it?

We’ve got tips on what to consider when you are. Exercising with a Hangover.

If you want to build muscle, combining alcohol and exercise is not a good idea. Studies show that drinking after exercise reduces muscle protein synthesis, thereby reducing recovery and hindering muscle growth.(6)

5. Improve recovery and prevent injury.

There is no clear limit to how much alcohol will negatively impact your recovery. However, alcohol consumption is often associated with pain, making you more prone to injury and prolonging the healing process. To be safe, choose an alcohol-free version during intense training periods, or times where your training requires high mileage.

6. Get enough shut-eye.

Excessive alcohol consumption and the nights you spend on the dance floor affect your mental focus, stamina, coordination and therefore your overall performance. Too little sleep combined with alcohol stress puts your body under stress. Make sure you have enough time to recover!

7. Alcohol-free beer – a great alternative

Beer is often hailed as the ideal beverage for replenishing minerals and carbohydrates after competition. Getting back the minerals and carbohydrates you lost and burned is definitely important. However, the alcohol in beer slows down the process of replenishing your body’s reserves, which is a prerequisite for recovery and further training sessions. So, choose an alcohol-free alternative! Most non-alcoholic beers are isotonic, making them great for replenishing your lost electrolytes and fluids. But keep in mind that even alcohol-free beer contains up to 0.5% alcohol. Try it with orange juice next time! gave American College of Sports Medicine It turns out that OJ has 4 times more potassium and 3 times more carbohydrates than beer. Compared to good old orange juice, you’d need to drink 11 glasses of beer to reach your daily recommended intake of B vitamins.


Occasional drinking in moderation is not a problem – even for athletes. However, if you’re looking to improve your performance, build muscle, or train for a race, stay away from the bottle.


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