What Every Professional Athlete Should Know about Alcohol

Alcohol has many ill effects and they are even more detrimental for the professional athlete.

Here are a few studies to show this:


A February 1999 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that, compared with juice or water, having one alcoholic drink before a meal led to eating 200 extra calories, on top of the extra calories in the drink itself. Subjects ate faster, took longer to feel full, and continued eating even after they were no longer hungry. {‘Drink Less, Eat Less,’ Prevention magazine, Jan. 2001}

Alcohol is high in calories and devoid of nutrients, so it can contribute to a weight problem. Besides the issue of calories, alcohol consumption can make you overeat, since it anesthetizes your taste buds, makes your food less satisfying and can make you eat more than you would if you hadn’t imbibed.

{“Preventing Heart Disease,” The New Pritikin Program, 1998}

Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University and co-author of “Volumetrics” (HarperCollins, 2000) warns that having an alcoholic drink may also loosen your diet inhibitions. She says that once you get that first glass of wine, you may get to the “what the hell?” effect in which you would eat more than you otherwise would. Beverages provide psychological stimulation that leads to physiological stimulation which primes the body to salivate and anticipate food, says Richard Mattes, a professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. {“Watch What You Drink,” thirdage.com – Aug. 2002}

The Bullet Points:

  • You will eat more and eat faster
  • It is high calories and does not provide your body with anything an athlete needs


Even in small doses, alcohol can cause early sedation or sleepiness, awaking during the night, and suppression of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is the dreaming stage of sleep, however, when REM sleep occurs near wakefulness, it can cause hallucinations. {“Alcohol Effects on the Brain,” Alcohol Research Center, LSUHSC – Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, August 2002} Fatigue due to alcohol consumption is common. A nightcap may get you to sleep, but drinking

late at night produces troubled, fragmented sleep. {Excedrin Headache Relief Update, 1996}

The Bullet Points:

  • You will not get restful sleep….you will wake up more often and not get into the deep levels of sleep. These deep levels are critical for grow, repair and recovery.
  • You will fatigue faster


Dean Ornish, the famous diet doctor, suggests eliminating alcohol because it suppresses the body’s ability to burn fat. This fact is also in the New England Journal of Medicine, Apr. 1992. They point out that the alcohol can slow your fat metabolism by about 30%, or in other words, while your body is burning alcohol, it’s not burning fat.

Alcohol slows down the breakdown of fat. Fat is burned in our liver, but when we drink alcohol, the alcohol burns instead of fat, cautions Charles Lieber, MD, Director of Alcohol Research, Bronx Veterans Administration Center. {“Anatomy of a Pigout,” marieclaire.women.com – Oct. 2001}

Metabolism is the energy our body uses while at rest. The BMR (basil metabolic rate) is the rate at which calories are expended for basic activities such as keeping the heart beating, lungs breathing, etc. People who are more muscular, with a lower percentage of body fat have a higher metabolism. One of the recommendations to increase BMR and keep it elevated is to avoid alcohol, which can depress your metabolism and stimulate your appetite. {“Metabolism,” Fitness, laurushealth.com – May 2001}

Typically when glucose levels drop, the liver converts stored carbohydrate into glucose. But when alcohol is consumed, the liver acts to clear it from the blood instead. The onset of hypoglycemia, or low blood-glucose levels, can occur very quickly.

Abdominal fat, a contributor to heart disease risk, is related to alcohol drinking patterns, says a study published in the August 2003 issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Within all categories of drinking frequency, the number of drinks mattered – the more drinks per drinking day, the higher the abdominal measurement.

The Bullet Points:

  • What Every Professional Athlete Should Know about Alcohol It suppresses your ability to burn fat
  • The more you drink, the fatter you get and the slower your metabolic rate will become