We’re all familiar with those moments of celebration and relaxation that often come hand in hand with a glass of our favourite alcoholic beverage. But before you clink glasses and raise a toast, let’s dive into the world of how alcohol can influence your overall health, well-being, and sports performance.
I would like to emphasise that the goal is not to discourage alcohol use but rather to inform and guide you towards responsible drinking habits.
Guidelines for alcohol drinking in France are no more than 2 glasses per day and not every day (no more than 10 glasses per week).
THE HEALTH IMPLICATIONS
You may know the liver as your body’s detoxifier. It faces daily challenges in processing food and medications. Excessive alcohol consumption overburdens this precious organ, which may lead to fatty liver (excess fat in liver cells), hepatitis (liver inflammation), and cirrhosis (liver scarring).
Moving on to the heart, your vital organ that diligently pumps blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to the entire body. However, overindulgence in alcohol can raise your blood pressure, which can cause irregular heartbeats, and increase your risk of heart disease.
But it’s not just your physical health that’s affected. Your mood and emotions can also be impacted. It has been observed in many situations where excessive alcohol consumption leads to mood alteration that can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Beyond that, alcohol can play tricks with insulin regulation, potentially affecting blood sugar levels. This can be particularly concerning for individuals with diabetes or those at risk of developing it. It can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, potentially causing hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia. These blood sugar imbalances can have adverse effects on overall health, requiring careful monitoring for those with diabetes.
Lastly, in light of the growing emphasis on weight management as a key health indicator through BMI, it’s important to acknowledge that alcohol plays a role in weight gain. This calorie-dense substance not only promotes overeating but may also hinder metabolic processes, potentially reducing daily calorie burn, which is regrettable for those striving to maintain a healthy weight.
SPORTS PERFORMANCE AND RECOVERY
When exercising, your muscles rely on proper hydration, but alcohol can deceive your body, making your muscles thirsty and more susceptible to injuries. It’s advisable to not drink around training and competitions.
After an intense workout, your body undergoes a remarkable process to repair and rebuild muscles. Unfortunately, alcohol can be a roadblock on this path to recuperation. Excessive drinking may interfere with the secretion of growth hormones, potentially slowing down your muscle repair abilities. This means you might find yourself feeling less ready to exercise at your best, delaying your training progress and making your fitness journey a bit bumpier.
Quality sleep is indispensable for recovery and peak performance (as well as your overall health). Yet, alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns, resulting in less effective rest and recovery. So, that nightcap might seem tempting, but it could hinder your body’s ability to fully recharge and leave you feeling less than your best for the following day.
Essential nutrients such as B vitamins and minerals are vital for energy and overall health. Alcohol, however, can thwart your body’s ability to absorb these nutrients, further complicating your sports journey.
Alcohol can be an obstacle to your endurance during activities like running or cycling, it affects your body’s ability to transport oxygen efficiently, potentially leaving you gasping for breath sooner than you’d like. Additionally, it can weaken your muscles, negatively impacting your strength training efforts.
Maintaining balance and coordination is crucial for injury prevention in sports and exercise. After consuming alcohol, expect a decline in these vital skills. Your coordination may become less precise, and your balance may waver, making you more susceptible to sports-related injuries.
SOME TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE DRINKING
- Set limits for yourself and stick to them.
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated.
- Drink slowly to allow your body to process the alcohol.
- Avoid drinking before or straight after strenuous workouts or competitions.
- Pay attention to how alcohol affects your mood and overall well-being.
MODERATION IS KEY
By being informed and making conscious decisions, you can enjoy the occasional drink while safeguarding your health, well-being, and athletic performance. Remember, moderation is key, and your body will thank you for it.
Tristan Boetti is a sports nutritionist. Through his company Performance & Bien-Être Monaco, he works with professional athletes as well as recreationally active individuals to help them achieve their goals through customised nutrition plans and expert advice.
Photo source: Giovanna Gomes for Unsplash