Alcohol and sports are not a good mix

Do sports and drinking go together? How does alcohol impact performance, recovery and healing from injury? Why do some people think of sports as an opportunity to do some heavy drinking? The answers to these and other questions can be found in “Alcohol and Physical Activity,” the latest publication in the Éduc’alcool Alcohol and Health series, which examines the issue from a psychological, cultural and economic perspective.

“There is often a link between sports and alcohol. Many teams are sponsored by alcoholic beverages, and the excessive drinking associated with sports events even has its own vocabulary, such as the ‘19th hole’ in golf, or the ‘third half-time’ in football. Many studies also show that people who play sports drink a great deal of alcohol, and are more likely to drink excessively than those who don’t, so it seemed important to examine the issue,” said Éduc’alcool Director General, Hubert Sacy.

A little context

From a psychological perspective, some people are thrill-seekers, and are therefore more likely than others to be attracted by new and extreme experiences. Paradoxical as it may seem, the same thing that motivates someone to participate in ultra-marathons could also be responsible for that person’s tendency to drink abusively.

Culturally speaking, under the pretence of promoting team spirit and togetherness, we often encourage displays of power and prowess that value masculine behaviours associated with excessive drinking.

Furthermore, there is a long tradition associating sports with alcohol. Sports championships, from the Stanley Cup to the Tour de France to Formula 1 are invariably celebrated by popping a champagne cork or uncapping a beer. And the fans in the stands do likewise.

Before and during activity

People who engage in physical activity under the influence of alcohol have less endurance and are more likely to injure themselves.

Drinking before or during a sports activity also has an impact on performance, because of alcohol’s effect on the body’s thermoregulation processes. The impact is particularly detrimental when the temperature is high, since drinking alcohol tends to dehydrate you.

And when it comes to motor sports, not only does drinking increase the risk of accidents, in some cases it is simply illegal.

After activity

Many people have a drink after playing sports or participating in an event. But alcohol also affects recovery, which is as important as training when it comes to athletic performance.

Also, athletes who want optimal recovery have two other important reasons for drinking moderately: to ensure quality sleep and avoid a hangover.

Éduc’alcool therefore has the following recommendations for people who enjoy physical activity and want to have a drink:

  1. Don’t drink alcohol before or during athletic activity.
  2. Start with water or a hydrating drink right after the activity, and eat a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein.

Because for the physically active, as for everyone, moderation is always in good taste.