Does Alcohol Impair Recovery From Exercise?
Ten healthy male subjects (mean age 23.5 +/- 5.1 years, mean body mass 76.9 +/- 12.9 kg) who were recreational athletes (had at least 2 years experience of strength training) participated in the study. Pretest muscular performance of both legs of each subject was measured using a Biodex isokinetic dynamometer. Each subject then participated in two trials performed on separate occasions during which one leg was used to complete a total of 300 maximal eccentric contractions (3 sets of 100 separated by 5 minutes of rest) of the quadriceps muscle on the isokinetic dynamometer. During the second trial, the opposite leg was used to complete the exercises.
Thirty minutes after performing the exercises, each subject either drank a beverage consisting of alcohol and juice (vodka and orange juice) or juice alone. The caloric content and volume of the two different beverages were held constant. After consuming the beverage, subjects were driven home and were told to go directly to bed. Participants were then brought back at 36 and 60 hours post-exercise for follow-up performance measures of the quadriceps muscles.
Investigators found that muscular force was significantly decreased in the exercised leg when moderate amounts (6-7 alcoholic drinks over two to three hours) were consumed post-exercise. The greatest decrease was seen at 36 hours post-exercise. There were no significant changes noted at 60 hours post-exercise. Furthermore, muscular performance of the non-exercised leg was not significantly changed between trials.
The researchers concluded that although some impairment in muscular function after strenuous eccentric exercise is to be expected (due to exercise-induced micro-structural tears in the muscle tissue), alcohol exacerbates the decrement. They noted that because there was not a significant change in muscular performance for the non-exercised leg, the impairment was the result of an interaction between alcohol and the damaged muscular tissue, rather than a systemic response of the body to acute alcohol consumption.
The investigators recommend that individuals who are interested in maximizing their athletic performance should avoid consuming alcoholic beverages after training, games, matches, or events.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Eur J Appl Physiol (2010) 108: 1009-1014 "Post-exercise alcohol ingestion exacerbates eccentric-exercise induced losses in performance," Barnes, M.J. et al.,.