Alcohol's Effect On... The Athlete
Alcohol will impair reaction time and mental acuity for up to several days after consumption. The delayed reaction time and reduced mental acuity is of severe consequence to the athlete.
Performance will be reduced and injury risk increased. Alcohol consumption will cause a decrease in hand-eye coordination and will impair judgment.
Alcohol also interferes with lactic acid breakdown and can result in increased soreness after exercise. Alcohol can also cause nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness for days after consumption.
Alcohol is a powerful diuretic that can cause severe dehydration and staggering electrolyte imbalances. Severe dehydration can require several days to a week for full recovery.
While dehydrated, an athlete is at greater risk for musculoskeletal injuries including: cramps, muscle pulls, and muscle strains.
Also, dehydration can lead to severe brain impairment and even death when coupled with extreme temperatures and intense practices (most notable during two-a-days). Dehydration leads to decreased appetite and muscle wasting (you lose muscle mass). A loss of muscle mass results in a decrease in strength and performance.
Decreased food consumption associated with appetite loss will result in fatigue and over training, which may further heighten injury risk.
From the standpoint of bodily health, alcohol can have deleterious effects on the body. Fatty liver, fibrosis, cirrhosis (irreversible liver damage) and gout are common side effects of chronic binge drinking.
Alcohol over stimulates cells in the lining of the stomach that produce acid. Increases in acid production are associated with heartburn and ulcer development. Intestinal cells fail to absorb micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), which can lead to electrolyte imbalances and vitamin deficiencies.
Alcohol consumption impairs the body’s mechanisms that control blood glucose and may result in hypoglycemia. This may cause serious injury even if it doesn’t last long because it causes the brain and other body tissues to be deprived of glucose needed for energy and normal function. Hypoglycemia is a common cause of low energy on the field and in the classroom.