& ENDURANCE Brooke Kobetz Alcohol use is common in the endurance training community. There’s a reason why most group runs take place at bars; nothing brings people together like a cold crisp beer after a hot and sweaty run. There is nothing quite as satisfying as cracking open a cold brew after completing a marathon or Ironman. After all, isn’t it well deserved? There is no problem with one or two celebratory drinks after you have a race. The problem arises when you consume alcohol daily or drink the night before a long training run. Anyone that has ever had a hangover knows how crippling the after-effects of alcohol can be. Now, imagine running 15 miles with a hangover. I’ve done it before on a Saturday morning after a night out at Festival International. Ill spare you the details, but it wasn’t pretty. That’s because the side effects of alcohol are detrimental to endurance. Alcohol consumption has a dehydrating effect and affects temperature regulation, impairs glucose utilization, nutrient absorption, and affects your heart rate. Anyone who has had to wring their soaking wet clothes out after a run in the summer heat and humidity can attest to the importance of proper hydration and electrolyte consumption during long runs. Alcohol acts as a diuretic by decreasing the amount of Anti-Diuretic Hormones in the body which the body uses to reabsorb water in the kidneys. This means that fluid builds up in the bladder and urination is increased expelling water and vital electrolytes. Aside from alcohol’s diuretic effects, it also acts as a peripheral vasodilator. This means that fluid loss is further increased through evaporation. A person’s core temperature is also affected. Alcohol consumption can inhibit central thermoregulatory mecha10
nisms. The chance of heatstroke or hypothermia is increased and work tolerance in hot or cold temperatures is decreased. A person’s core body temperature may rise as much as 6 degrees, which is dangerous especially to athletes exercising in hot weather. Ever feel sluggish after a night of drinking? That’s because alcohol impairs glucose metabolism. It produces a toxic byproduct which forces the body to abandon other crucial processes in order to expel the toxins. These processes include nutrient absorption, lactic acid clearance, and fat burning. Also, until the body processes the alcohol, the liver will not release glucose. Since the body uses glucose for energy, the lack of glucose may result in fatigue during training sessions and may result in hypoglycemia. Alcohol can also cause irregular heart rhythms. Since heart rate is increased while exercising and stays elevated during endurance training, extra stress is put on the heart. As a depressant, alcohol affects the central nervous system by slowing down nerve cell function, and can negatively impact coordination, agility, and balance all which are needed during biking, swimming, and navigating trails. The sleep cycle can also be disturbed. Adequate sleep has long been thought to have a positive effect on athletic performance. Chances are if you drink in moderation, not more than 1-2 drinks a day, then your endurance will not be negatively affected. However, if you binge drink the night before training, or constantly drink in excess, your performance will almost certainly be impacted. If you are serious about your training, skip alcohol and keep it for special occasions, like when you crush that next triathlon. I know I will.
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