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).

It is time. It is Race Week. You are at the venue and you are ready to “ROCK THE SHIT” out of your race. Let me break down your week for you.

You are TWO days from your Ironman Triathlon! 

You are excited, hanging at the Expo and grabbing your Ironman Branded Gear. You start hearing what people are saying about their training and how many miles they done. You head back to the hotel. You get your T1 and T2 gear ready. Bike is ready. You sit with more athletes at dinner. They talk about the “war” stories of how much training they did. They pull out their phone to look at their data. You observe.

You are ONE day from your Ironman Triathlon! 

You eat a LARGE breakfast and realize you have to start tapering your food today. You head down to the bike drop off with your bike and TI/T2 bag. You start hearing MORE people discuss their training. You head back to the hotel. You jump on your social media. You see EVERYONE talking about Ironman this and Ironman that. People keep talking about the weather. Is it wetsuit legal? What do you do?

STOP EVERYONE…I am FREAKING OUT OVER HERE! 

This past week, I was in Boulder, CO at the Endurance Coaching Summit (ECS), that was put on by Training Peaks and USA Triathlon. I needed to get my CEC’s (Continuing Education Credits) for my USA Triathlon Level I and this knocks out 12 out of the 15 credits, I need to get every two years AND I was heading to Boulder, CO. Win. Win!

The conference was at the University of Colorado – Boulder. What an amazing venue, tons of coaches, along with Pro Athletes, Influencers and people wanting to learn about triathlon and how to improve as coaches, business owners and athletes.

The Man. Dave Scott. 6 x Ironman Triathlon World Champion. He was the first speaker and his talk really hit home.  He talked about technology now to technology back in the days that he won his Ironman Triathlons, especially his first Ironman Triathlon in 1980. Dave said this…

“The technology that I had in 1980 Ironman Triathlon was “Can I do this?”

Then, he pulled out his bike that he used for the 1980 Ironman Triathlon. No aerobars. No Power Meter. No Garmin, Polar or Tom Tom.

After Dave spoke, I took this thought with me throughout the whole conference and started thinking about my athletes, my coaching and my business as well.

During the conference, I learned about:

  • How to Grow a Racing Team
  • Strength Training & the Triathlete from a Strength & Conditioning Coach from UCB
  • Nutrition from the Gatorade Sports Institute
  • How to Grow my Coaching Business
  • Getting into the mind of athletes through Sports Psychology
  • How to Grow my Coaching Brand even more so!

As you can see, it was an AMAZING conference. As you know about conferences like this, you take in what you want to take in and how it applies to you and your business.

The final “Good Bye” was from the owner and co-founder of Training Peaks, Gear Fisher and Dirk Friel.

Gear’s talk was short and sweet but hit home and tied into Dave Scott’s talk very well. Gear said:

“The #1 need that a triathlete wants from their coach is feedback.”

As an athlete myself, I couldn’t agree with them more. I value the feedback that I receive from my coach.