The effects of alcohol on athletic performance


The effects of alcohol vary depending on quantity, demographics, genetics, the type of sport or exercise that you’re involved in, body mass, gender, and nutritional status. There are both immediate effects and long term effects of alcohol on athletic performance.

The acute effects of alcohol –

  • Decreases motor skills (you become less coordinated).
  • Impair hydration status (more dehydrated).
  • Decrease aerobic performance (less fitness).
  • Impacts recovery (diminished protein synthesis).

The chronic effects of alcohol –

  • Impairs ability to manage your body composition (increasing body fat and decreasing muscle mass).
  • Creates nutritional deficiencies (vitamins and minerals).
  • Depressed immune system (increases risk of illness).
  • Increase injury risk.



Due to ethical reasons there is not a lot of scientific evidence for approriate recommendations specific to athletes. Although, follow the general guidelines is a good start – avoid binge drinking, and large quantities of alcohol. Any alcohol consumption is not necessarily bad, some alcohol consumption can be good. However, binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption that is the most damaging and impactful. Here are some things you can do that may help:

Eating prior to alcohol consumption – You can try to negate the side effects of alcohol by having a really good nutritious meal before you eat. A meal high in good quality lean protein, vegetables to top up your mineral stores, and good quality carbohydrates/fats to replenish those fuel cells that you might have lost from training or competition. This will help you promote recovery processes even when drinking (although, they will be diminshed compared to not drinking alcohol).

Replenish after alcohol consumption – Post a drinking bout, you need to replenish all the nutrients you have lost and top up you protein stores to promote recovery. Ideally this should be done as quickly as possibly, before you go to bed, this means you may need to have a few things prepared.

Focus on hydration – Re-hydrating is absolutely key, you can use Gatorade, Powerade or Aqualite. Drink a 600ml bottle prior to going to bed and another one the next morning. Water is ok but it doesn’t include the essential electrolites you need to re-hydrate.

Topping up vitamins and minerals – As mentioned above certain vitamins and mineral stores take a hit when you drink, so it’s important to replenish what you’ve lost. Cucumbers are awesome for this because they give you a two for one, They can increase your hydration status and they have a good profile of vitamin & minerals. Products like berocca are also a good option as they have lots of vitamins and minerals as well as water.

Eat Protein – Alcohol consumption also impacts protein synthesis which is your bodies ability to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Having extra protein before you go to bed and immediately in the morning, either via a protein shake or kind of protein source (eggs, bacon, beef, chicken, fish, tofu, beans).

These recommendations are not going to completely stop the effects of alcohol but it will have a better impact than doing nothing or even worse doing the opposite (dirty kebab, you don’t drink any water, you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t have any protein).