Who doesn’t like to celebrate a win with a few drinks?
The culture in most team sports involves consumption of large amounts of alcohol after training/competition.
In Australia, sports participants’ even report higher than average alcohol consumption rates compared to the non-sporting population, with a large proportion (~50–65%) consuming intakes above the threshold classified as hazardous drinking.
And while this behaviour is accepted as a part of team culture, the effect of such a practice on recovery processes – underlying protein turnover in human skeletal muscle – are largely unknown.
A recently published study by Evelyn B. Parr & John A. Hawley at the Australian Catholic University determined the effect of alcohol intake on rates of protein synthesis following strenuous exercise.
In a randomised cross-over design, 8 physically active males completed three experimental trials designed to mimic the activity profiles of many team sports:
- Resistance training (8×5 reps leg extension, 80% 1 repetition maximum), then
- Continuous training (30 min, cycling at 63%) then
- High intensity interval training (10 × 30s, cycling at 110%)
Immediately after exercise the subjects consumed either 500mL of whey protein, a carbohydrate energy drink, or 12 standard drinks vodka and orange juice. The alcohol dose in the study represented the mean intake of alcohol reported by team athletes during a drinking binge. Big night…
From the muscle biopsies taken at rest, 2 and 8 h post-exercise – these researchers found that muscle recovery & growth (protein synthesis) is impaired by 37% during the first 8 h post-exercise by alcohol consumption.
Even when consumed with whey protein, the intake of alcohol reduced muscle recovery by ~24%, representing only a partial ‘recovery’ compared with protein alone.
Don’t worry. The recommendation is not to stop drinking completely. Even though the research clearly indicates that alcohol has few training benefits…
However the results of this study does highlight the need to avoid high alcohol consumption immediately post exercise.
It has been difficult to find an educational message relating to alcohol consumption that has resonance with athletes. Perhaps the finding that moderation of alcohol intake will promote recovery after exercise will be able to alter current team culture.