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Cobbled Coaching: Alcohol and Performance?

The effects of alcohol can differ from person to person depending on their tolerance, weight, amount consumed and many other factors. Today, we are going to be talking about the general effect of alcohol on your cycling performance.

Firstly, lets address hydration as being one of the most vital aspects of a successful performance on the bike. If you aren’t sufficiently hydrated, I can assure you that you will have a restricted performance. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it forces the body to urinate the excess fluid.

Things that happen when you are dehydrated:

1. It depresses the nervous system

2. The communication delays between the brain and muscles

3. Your reaction time slows down

4. Your motor control slows

5. Your ability to balance decreases

6. Muscle cramping.

(NEXT WEEK WE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT THE EFFECT OF DEHYDRATION ON SPORTING PERFORMANCE)

When you are drinking alcohol, the body prefers to use this as a fuel source rather than anything else (including the kebab or McDonald’s you ate on the way home). In addition to that, alcohol has a high calorific rate with a glass of wine or a beer being around 150 calories!

If you are consuming a lot of alcohol then you are consuming a lot of sugar too and unfortunately, the body can’t keep up with metabolising glucose into glycogen, so it goes straight to the fat stores. This is done because alcohol alters your metabolic processes by impairing glycogen synthesis.

In one study of healthy, non-alcoholic men, drinking 24 grams of alcohol (less than 2 beers) reduced their ability to burn fat by 73%!!

So, if you are trying to keep your body fat percentage low for that extra power to weight up the climbs… maybe alcohol isn’t the best thing for you.

If that wasn’t enough for you to put the bottle of beer down before tomorrows training session. We should talk about the fact that alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.

Some examples of this:

1. Zinc: Helps energy metabolism, alcohol depletes the zinc stores, and this can result in a reduction of endurance.

2. Vitamin B1: This is one of the main nutrients involved in protein and fat metabolism, and because it plays such an important role it is vital for optimal performance.

3. Folic Acid: A deficiency in this could lower oxygen-carrying capacity again resulting in the reduction of endurance.

4. Vitamin B12: Helps maintain healthy red blood cells.

One final disadvantage that I would like to address is how alcohol affects your sleep… BIG TIME! Yes, I know some of you will argue and say that after your evening wine you feel very tired, but while this is a lot of people’s way of ending the day it shouldn’t be yours. Consuming alcohol can lead to a decreased amount of sleep and more importantly a reduction of REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep). REM sleep is necessary to process your short-term memories into long term memories and is the key function to learning.

What does less sleep do?

1. Cortisol production increases – this can cause more fatigue

2. Testosterone production decreases – reduces muscle growth. It was found that men with very low levels of testosterone are more likely to suffer from bone fractures and breaks.

3. It limits the time of muscle recovery – meaning in decreased recovery and decline in overall performance.

+ much more.

(SLEEP CYCLES + WHY SLEEP IS IMPORTANT IS SOMETHING THAT WE WILL TALK ABOUT IN THE FUTURE)

The mental side is also something that isn’t addressed very often. Alcohol initially releases dopamine which leads to a feeling of euphoria, but then the body fills with Dynorphin which leaves the body in a depressed state. Unfortunately, just being in a depressed state isn’t where this ends… Anxiety is heightened due to the brain trying to process the cortisol and adrenal hormones that are produced by alcohol.

Having a positive and strong mindset is something that is needed in all sports. So… With a combination of all that’s stated above AND the added fact that alcohol can affect your mental well being, what are you drinking tonight?

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