Alcohol Awareness Week and how Abstaining Improves Athletic Performance

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This week is alcohol awareness week.

Personally last weekend was the first time I went out on a night out for the first time since last winter and it is no co-incidence that my results have improved no end.

Abstaining from alcohol has huge benefits for athletic performance. And as this poster shows, after so long of hard training and racing, there is nothing wrong with finally letting your hair down but no matter how fit you are, if as athletes we are going to have a quiet few drinks, it is important to leave at least a week before your next race as our reactions will not be the same for 72 hours after we have consumed our final drink.

For a start, alcohol can make you a lot more at risk of injury, and this can happen in a number of different ways. Alcohol alters the sequence of the different phases of your sleep cycle. Sleep is a hugely important part of an athletes training and recovery and alcohol consumption reduces our body’s ability to store glycogen – a crucial energy source that you need for endurance – as well as increasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As a result, this slows down healing and recovery of muscles after exercise.

And this is still true even if you stopped drinking six hours before you went to bed.

Cortisol substantially reduces the levels of human growth hormone by as much as 70%. This chemical is vital for both building and repairing muscle tissue, something you need more than ever when you’re putting your body under increased strain as you increase the intensity of your training.

Alcohol reduces your adenosine triphosphate, what your muscles need to improve and perform by a third, so the longer you abstain during training the more chance there is that you will improve. Alcohol is also a diuretic, so it is important to drink as much water the day after drinking as possible.

In general terms, 13.5% of 20-39 age group deaths the whole world over are alcohol related and 3 million deaths a year worldwide are as a result of alcohol misuse and harmful alcohol consumption.

5.1% of all global illness is brought on by alcohol consumption.

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