Sportspeople warned: alcohol will affect recovery

Even a moderate amount of alcohol slows recovery from strenuous exercise, a new study has found.

The study featuring in The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (JSAMS), published by Sports Medicine Australia, investigated whether the consumption of alcohol post exercise has an effect on recovery.

It tested recreational sportsmen’s muscle performance after a strenuous exercise bout, followed by either a moderate amount of alcohol in juice or the same energy content in juice alone. Performance was measured 36 hours and 60 hours later.

Author of the study, Matthew Barnes from Massey University in New Zealand said the results indicate that alcohol detrimentally affects the rate of recovery.

“Performance was measured two and three mornings after the session. Results showed that when alcohol was consumed the loss of muscle performance was far greater – nearly twice as much,” said Mr Barnes.

“Normally you would expect to see weakness or loss in performance after this type of exercise but the alcohol greatly exacerbated it.

“This shows that if you drink even moderate levels of alcohol after you use your muscles you are impairing your ability to recover and I would say if you are serious about your sport, you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol in the post-match or recovery period,” said Mr Barnes.

A further study completed recently highlighted that alcohol impairs the normal recovery processes in already damaged muscle, not systemically weakening all skeletal muscles. Alcohol does not affect performance of the unexercised muscle.

“The study provides evidence that the management of alcohol use after strenuous exercise is as important, if not more important, than popular recovery modes if optimal recovery of performance is desired,” said Mr Barnes.

Sports Medicine Australia Chief Executive Officer, Nello Marino said both studies should be a wake up call to sports clubs whose post game routine includes the consumption of alcohol.

“These studies represent the drinking patterns of some sportspeople. That is, sports people are far more likely to consume large volumes of alcohol after undertaking strenuous exercise or competition than ever before, “said Mr Marino.

“Sports clubs should understand that if they want players to perform and recover well, then they should be encouraged to avoid alcohol intake after training or competition to ensure optimal recovery,” said Mr Marino.

Participants for the study were recruited to comply with ethical guidelines, and adhered to what is considered at the high end of safe drinking levels for men of this size, around six to seven standard drinks over two to three hours.