I think it’s safe to say that advice on alcohol consumption prior to training sessions, games and competitions is a given…just don’t do it.
But what about after exercise, games and competitions when all the hard work is done? What are the recommendations with intake and its impact on recovery? Here’s what you need to know (Barnes, 2014):
1) Alcohol is expressed relative to your bodyweight. i.e. 1g/kg (80g for an 80kg athlete).
2) In the UK, one unit is 8g of pure alcohol (10mL).
3) Alcohol intake post performance has the ability to impair glycogen replenishment, rehydration and muscle repair/injury. It’s said that the amount of alcoholic drink you can consume is in relation to the next training session or event. I.e. when do you need to be at peak performance for?
4) In many sporting events, alcohol is often consumed immediately after with celebrations…meaning that the protein, carb and electrolyte shake required to accelerate recovery often gets missed.
5) From a rehydration standpoint, alcohol doses below 0.5g/kg doesn’t appear to impair hydration status when adequate fluid is consumed. If optimal rehydration isn’t a priority – more can be consumed (~1g/kg).
6) Interestingly, alcohol doesn’t seem to impair glycogen replenishment when adequate carbohydrates are consumed post exercise….up until 1.5g/kg of alcohol anyways.
7) With regards to soft tissue injury and immune function, alcohol impairs the initial inflammatory response and alters immune function – meaning that rehab will be slower and you’re more likely to become ill.
8) Alcohol also has a vasodilatory effect, meaning that increased blood flow to the injured site can further increase swelling and reduce rates of recovery.
9) Alcohol increases catabolic hormones and decreases anabolic hormones in higher dosages of 0.8-1.5g/kg which may have large implications on wound healing and muscle repair.
10) Alcohol appears to impact muscle protein synthesis, but not degradation. Even when optimal nutrition strategies are put in place post training, 1.5g/kg still negatively impacts recovery and adaptation.
11) In team sports, 1g/kg doesn’t appear to impair recovery of strength, speed, power and agility in the days after a simulated rugby match.
12) Alcohol negatively impacts sleep, and consequently worsens both physical and mental performance.
Ultimately, alcohol is a poison. Consuming 0.5g/kg post training, games and competitions doesn’t appear to overly impact recovery when adequate protein, carbs and fluids are consumed immediately post. I.e. get your recovery nutrition sorted first so alcohol has a lesser impact.
Higher amounts of 1g/kg should be avoided if you want to maximise muscle protein synthesis or have sustained an injury during competition.
By all means, this is purely from the perspective of muscle recovery…you still have other major issues surrounding other physiological and psychological harm.
More is not more.