Medicine Science in Sports & Exercise published, ”Alcohol and college athletes.” The study compared student-athletes drinking behavior with other students at their college. The researchers found that athletes drank more heavily than other students despite greater exposure to alcohol prevention efforts. As part of their conclusion, based on their research they felt that “Programs should also take advantage of motives of athletes for self-limiting alcohol intake.”
One thing that athletes are motivated by is performance. Strength coaches, sports performance coaches and nutritionists are hired to maximize the athlete’s abilities. It is important that all communicate well and that the athlete understands the deleterious effect alcohol has on their physical growth and development.
In the study, “Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training” investigators found, “In conclusion, the current data provide the novel observation that alcohol impairs the response of MPS (muscle protein synthesis) in exercise recovery in human skeletal muscle despite optimal nutrient provision.”
Looking at the physiology - The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTor) is a protein kinase that regulates protein synthesis and cell growth. Consuming alcohol antagonizes mTOR-mediated signaling and decreases protein synthesis. This blunts the anabolic or “building up” response to growth factors in skeletal muscle.
Alcohol intoxication can suppress muscle protein synthesis for at least 12 hours which greatly impairs the contraction- induced changes that an athlete works so hard to obtain. Vince Lombardi’s quote “Football is a game of inches and inches make the champion.” This quote depicts how little things separate athletes from each other and ultimately victory. Drinking alcohol during a social evening can limit or erase the effort, the development and the time invested, as well as the progress the athlete is trying to make that day by disruption of the muscle protein synthetic response.
Looking at supplementation - Athletes are encouraged to consume protein post exercise to ensure maximizing synthesis. A protein recommended supplement can be anywhere from 120 to 250 calories. This macronutrient, which is essential for building muscle mass can become problematic upon alcohol intake, as these additional protein calories are no longer promoting maximum muscular growth from the ensuing resistance training. Now many of these co-ingested calories can be thought of as excess energy and must be reallocated in the body.
Conducting alcohol-related interventions with intercollegiate athletes is important, an educational message about alcohol consumption as it relates to sports performance can be transforming. Players need to understand alcohol immediately negates their training progress even in the presence of optimal nutrition. This is evidence based, a motivating message, and should be addressed and understood by all that are trying to Get Strong or Get others Strong.