Athletes and alcohol

Every athlete know that in order to excel in any sport a high level of commitment, responsibility and sacrifice is required. The body must be in peak condition both physically and mentally in order to perform at a high level of competition.

The effect of alcohol on athletic performance is often underestimated, but if one takes the time to examine how much it actually alters the body, it’s staggering.

Alcohol is a toxin.

It destroys the body’s ability to heal itself, erases any positive effects of working out and practicing proper nutrition and lessens brain function and mental capacity.

For example, according to a University of Notre Dame study, if one consumes five drinks in a given night, it would take three days for one’s body to fully recover. The 100-150 calories per drink is converted directly into fatty acid, comparable to three hamburgers from McDonald’s.

“I’ve talked to all of my players and they understand the negative effects [of alcohol] and how long it takes to leave your system,” said head coach of the women’s lacrosse team Lynn Orth, who implements a 48 hour no-drinking policy before game days.

The policy has clearly been working for Orth, who has coached her team to seven straight Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship games.

Most athletes should recognize that quick recovery time, whether post-injury or post-workout, is essential.

However, the consumption of alcohol, completely erases the benefit of training. The muscles’ source of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), is reduced, lowering endurance and making one weak and tired.

Protein synthesis also diminishes, resulting in impeded muscle growth. Testosterone and the human growth hormone (HGH), essential hormones in muscle growth and tissue repair, are decreased by as much as 70 per cent, not to mention the body becomes severely dehydrated.

“Our practices are so physically demanding that you don’t need the effects of alcohol compounded on top of that,” commented manager of football operations and head coach Gary Jeffries.

Not only is physical performance affected, but a player’s mental game is thrown off. Brain cells are killed; therefore, the ability to learn, store and retain information (such as plays) is altered. Sleep patterns can be disrupted as well, affecting one’s memory formation, among other things.

“You can probably only hit a 60 per cent performance level,” said Erik Kroman, captain of the men’s volleyball team. “It’s obviously detrimental to your performance when you’re hungover and tired from drinking.”

While some athletes flirt with a fine line between partying and competing, successful individuals and teams are ahead of the pack, outworking their competition and tweaking their bodies into top shape.

“Players know they’re not supposed to be drinking,” said fifth-year baseball player Elliot Shrive. “As a varsity athlete and a responsible adult, you should respect your teammates and want to play enough not to do it.”