Bikes and Beer, there couldn’t be a better combination, right? Fort Collins has the most brewers and microbreweries per capita of any city in Colorado. Colorado is now ranked 2nd in country for most craft beer by production volume. We also have a strong biking tradition with one major brewery being all about bikes and beer. It certainly makes for a fun combination.
After a day of touring our local breweries on bikes I started to think about bikes, beer and sports performance. I wanted to understand how moderate drinking might help or hinder fitness.
We all know the guy or gal who can have a few drinks the night before a race or other sports event and still have the performance of their lives. Other’s who imbibe might find themselves with a splitting headache in the morning and barely be able to get out of bed.
We’ll start with the good news first. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming up to four drinks a day can have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system. These benefits include higher HDL or good cholesterol and improved insulin resistance. However, most researchers would tell you that the protective properties of wine and beer are not significant enough to be a good reason to start drinking.
Most people probably don’t drink for the cardiovascular benefits, most of us drink to kick back and relax. Anyone who has race anxiety might benefit from the relaxation properties of alcohol. Just don’t count on alcohol making you sleep better. It might help you fall asleep more quickly, but the sleep tends to be lest restful.
The truth is that if you are looking for increased sports performance, it’s best to stick to only having one drink. You might even consider abstaining up to 48 hours before a race. Here’s why.
Alcohol is extremely dehydrating. It is a diuretic and can deplete your electrolytes which are critical proper cell function. Not only can this impact your performance in hot weather, but it can impair your body’s ability to properly thermoregulate in cold temperatures as well. If you do choose to drink the night before an event or big workout consider alternating water with each drink.
Alcohol can also have a negative effect on your balance which can make any sport which requires dexterity such as trail running or mountain biking more difficult.
Unfortunately, the byproducts of alcohol digestion can negatively impact strength mainly because it inhibits the metabolic pathways that produce ATP which is the body’s primary fuel for strength training. It also causes the liver to release a chemical that impairs testosterone, which is a key hormone in muscle development.
As with most things in life, moderation is best. Don’t be afraid to occasionally have a drink or two and enjoy our fine local beers. But the night before a big event or workout you should consider abstaining altogether or just limit it to one drink.
See you out there!