Athletes and Alcohol: Can You Maintain High Performance Levels

Athletes treat their bodies like their own personal temples. They count every calorie and are exceptionally careful about what they eat and drink. After all, one wrong move could affect their performance during big competitions, and there are few things more heartbreaking for an athlete than to find that what they eat has prevented them from winning.

That brings us to the question of alcohol. Can athletes drink alcohol and still expect to perform at the highest possible level?

On one hand, the research suggests that they can’t. A Sports Medicine study, which was published in 2005, found that the rate of injuries among athletes who drank regularly more than doubled when compared to those who didn’t drink. The same study also found that those who had hangovers found that their athletic performance fell by over 11%.

It makes for bad reading for any athlete, but it also misses out one crucial factor. The study looked at those who perhaps drink to excess. After all, moderate alcohol consumption tends not to lead to the sorts of hangovers than could affect your performance.

Italian wine enthusiasts will always tell you that it’s all about appreciating the wine, rather than drinking as much of it as possible. But what about those people who enjoy other types of alcohol as well. A single glass of Italian red wine may not affect your performance, but the situation may change when you add beers and spirits into the mix.

So what is an athlete to do? Should you quit drinking entirely?

That’s an extreme solution to the problem. Instead, try following these tips on how to consume alcohol so that it doesn’t have a drastic effect on your athletic performance.

Tip #1 – No More Spirits

Before we get onto the subject of Italian wines, let’s take a look at spirits and liquors. A staple of many people’s drinking diets, spirits tend to offer high alcohol content, which is why we often consume them as shots, rather than in full glasses.

As you can imagine, this high alcohol content will lead you towards hangovers, which we’ve already established will affect you athletic performance. As a result, it’s best to avoid liquor and spirits entirely if you want to maintain peak performance. If you absolutely must drink spirits, stick with a clear spirit, such as gin or vodka.

One final point. Don’t drink your spirits with mixers. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar and calories, which will have just as much of an effect on your athletic ability as the spirits that you mix into them.

Tip #2 – Red Wine Instead of White

Now let’s get onto the subject of Italian wines. At the most basic level, you have a choice between red and white wine. So, which one should you go for?

Neither will have too huge an effect on your athletic performance, as long as you don’t drink to excess. A glass of either a day shouldn’t see your times drop, or anything like that.

However, you may not be aware that some wines can actually benefit your athletic performance. In particular, red wine is beneficial for a number of reasons. The primary one is the presence of something called resveratrol.

We’ve spoken about this interesting compound before. Researchers have found that resveratrol can improve your circulation, and prevent various ailments, particularly later on in life. Red wine also contains plenty of antioxidants, which serve a similar purpose.

White wine contains this compound too, but not in as high a volume as red. As a result, if you’re drinking wine with an eye towards maintaining a high level of athletic performance, you should choose Italian red wines over white.

Tip #3 – Drink Wine Regularly

To follow on from our previous tip, we should also point out that you need to drink red wine regularly, though not to excess, to enjoy the long-term benefits that it has to offer.

Furthermore, there are studies that show that red wine can protect from more common ailments, such as colds and the flu, that may affect you no matter how much attention you pay to your health.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggested that those who drink between eight and 14 glasses of red wine every week were 60% less likely to catch a cold.

That makes for two glasses per day, which may seem like a lot to you. It’s all about balance. If you find that two glasses leaves you with a hangover, drop down to a single glass per day. You’ll still give yourself protection from colds, without affecting your physical performance levels.

Tip #4 – Avoid Drinking to Excess

We’ve alluded to it a couple of times, but it’s best to make it clearer. Drinking too much alcohol will affect your athletic performance in more ways than one. The hangover issues has already been covered, but you have to think about more than that when you drink too much.

As you drink, you become less conscious of what you’re putting into your body. A couple too many can lead to a couple too many more, all of which is empty calories. You’ll have to work extra hard to shed those calories later on, and your hangover means that you won’t be able to train as hard as you would for a little while.

Alcohol also distorts your perception and equilibrium, which is why the study we mentioned at the top of the article found that athletes were more susceptible to injuries when they drink. If you do let the evening get away from you, we recommend holding back on your athletic activities until you fully recover. After all, it’s better to take a day off than to push yourself when your body isn’t ready.

The Final Word

So, can athletes drink and still maintain a high level of athletic performance? The answer is yes, as long as they’re in control of what they drink.

A glass or two of red wine per day will actually benefit you in the long run. As a result, some athletes may find that their performance even improves with controlled wine consumption.

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