The Impact of Alcohol on Health, Performance, and Recovery

You might have encountered this dilemma before: you want to enjoy some drinks with friends, but you’re worried that the alcohol and extra calories might negatively affect your training. It’s difficult to weight the pros and cons in this situation if you aren’t familiar with the ways in which alcohol can affect your body. In this post I’ll cover how alcohol impacts different aspects of your health, athletic performance, and recovery. Hopefully this information can help you to make more informed decisions regarding your drinking habits and behaviors.

Impact of Alcohol on Health

The truth is I can’t tell you exactly how alcohol consumption will impact your health because everyone is different. There are several factors which influence the way alcohol is metabolized in your body including genetics, biological sex, body mass, nutritional status, activity level, and amount/timing of consumption (Barnes, 2014). Here I’ll give you a general overview of the science behind alcohol metabolism and how it affects health.

Hydration

You probably already knew this one, but one of the most noticeable effects of alcohol is its ability to dehydrate you. Normally, a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) helps your body to retain water and keep your cells well-hydrated and functioning properly. However, ethanol, the type of alcohol in drinks, blocks the effects of ADH leading to excess urination and dehydration (Shirreffs and Maughan, 2006).