Athletes misuse alcohol more than any other drug.  Even though they usually know the negative effects on the mind and body, athletes often reach for a drink after a hard workout — and they’re not the only ones.  People who exercise to achieve or maintain physical fitness often do the same thing.  You may think a cold beer will help you relax and unwind, but before taking that first sip, stop and consider the facts.

Drinking alcohol negates the positive results of a hard workout.  Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to process adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the primary energy resource for muscles.  It impairs restorative sleep, decreasing the body’s level of human growth hormone (HGH).  HGH helps the body build bigger, stronger muscles.

If that isn’t bad enough, alcoholic beverages are usually high in calories and sugar; both contribute to weight gain.  In 80-proof alcohols, there are about 100 calories in a 1.5 ounce drink — an average size shot.  One beer every night adds more than 1,000 calories per week, resulting in an additional 15 pounds of belly fat per year.  These “empty” calories have no nutritional value.  Worse still, alcohol slows down the body’s ability to burn calories while exercising, which can in turn result in packing on the pounds.  Alcohol diminishes the physical abilities needed to perform desired athletic feats.  It impacts coordination, cognitive precision, reaction times, balance, and hand-eye coordination.  It may also slow respiratory function, affect body temperature regulation, and increase the risk of dehydration.  The result is a significant decrease in rapid response, both physically and mentally, which is critical in athletic activities.

Drinking alcohol prior to any competition could negatively affect the end result.  Drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in one night can decrease cognitive function for up to 3 days.

It’s a personal choice to drink.  Weigh the benefits vice the consequences.  Consider whether having that drink is really worth it.  Do you want to forfeit all of your hard work?  Or, do you want to “protect what you’ve earned?”

For additional information, contact your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center.