Fitness General Health Physiotherapy

Alcohol, does it affect recovery?

Working in rugby, the social life that comes with it involves copious amounts of alcohol post game on a Saturday. It is not just a glass of wine, it is a yard of ale or 8 pints (obviously for the boys, not my standard glass of prosecco). But what amazes me, is that these guys don’t actually understand that, yes your body will be broken on Sunday because you played 80minutes of a contact sport, but you probably feel ten times worse because alcohol has just exacerbated all those symptoms. So just from having a read around the research out there, here are a few things to consider regarding alcohol.

  1. Alcohol can decrease the force production that should usually be developed when doing eccentric contractions.
  2. Post exercise consumption can exacerbate the loss of force production, and this can continue for 2-3 days after.
  3. Injury prevalence in players who drink alcohol habitually is 25% higher than those who do not
  4. Alcohol is a vasodilator (i.e. it opens your blood vessels to increase blood flow to parts of your body.) If you have an injury, research says you should follow the RICE protocol (rest, ice, compress, elevate). The ice is meant to vasoconstrict blood vessels to help with the inflammatory process. Therefore, if you consume alcohol, you are counteracting this.
  5. Alcohol alters your sleep cycle. If your sleep cycle is disrupted, then your body’s storage of glycogen (a form of energy used by the body). This in turn increases your cortisol levels (the stress hormone in your body) and then this affects your healing process.
  6. Increased cortisol causes a decrease in human growth hormone by up to 70%. Cortisol regulation is important for building muscle and repairing muscle tissue.
  7. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means in decreases the body’s water levels and increases urine output. A decreased level of water in turn effects the level of contraction produced by muscles.
  8. Finally, alcohol can inhibit protein synthesis by a whopping 33%.

Now I am 100% saying you should not drink. I, as much as the next person, enjoy a sweet cocktail, glass of prosecco or a glass of red wine. But it does emphasise the effect of alcohol on the body massively so. So maybe, when you are having that second or third pint, a sprinting thought may go through your mind, that you may just be undoing the gruelling 90 minutes you spent in the gym just the hour before.




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