Does alcohol negatively affect your running? The short answer is yes. Alcohol affects your running both directly, in physical ways, as well as indirectly through the overall effects alcohol has on your body and its processes.
Nutrition for runners is a big piece of their training, and the reality is that alcohol isn’t all that “nutritious.”
But no need to worry, or to cut it out altogether. The good news is that simply being aware of the ways alcohol affects your running will help. If you are aware of the specific ways alcohol can undo some of your commendable, productive training efforts, you can take steps to prevent that.
In this article, we’ve got 8 ways alcohol affects your running, complete with 8 tips to help make sure you still achieve your running training goals.
1. Alcohol weakens your immune system.
Plain and simple – alcohol weakens your body’s ability to fight off illness. Supplements can help here. Bump up your vitamin C intake, and maybe take some oregano oil or zinc before and/or after you drink alcohol. Giving your body that extra boost will help.
2. Drinks with greater than 4% ABV can act as a diuretic.
These days, everyone is working to stay hydrated. Why let alcohol undo our efforts? Because alcohol can act as a diuretic, it dehydrates us, often to extremes (enter: hangovers).
The fixes for this are simple. Try to have at least one glass of water or some other sugarless, hydrating beverage in between each alcoholic drink you consume.
And then when you get home, rehydrate before you go to sleep. Your body will thank you the next day.
3. Alcohol impairs muscle recovery.
Alcohol lowers protein synthesis, as well as muscle recovery and adaptation. So normally, after a training session, your body is recovering and rebuilding, and it is also adapting to a new, stronger version of you. Drinking alcohol can get in the way of this.
While not a total fix, bumping up your mobility and recovery efforts can help here. Spend some extra time on the foam roller or using a tennis ball to roll out after your training session if you’re going to be drinking alcohol after. Take control of your body’s natural recovery process and help it out a bit.
4. Alcohol lowers cognitive function and reaction time.
As you gear up for a race or a running goal, or even as you begin a beginners running plan, specificity starts to matter. Pace times and strategies get more specific, and the ability to change gears while running becomes more important.
Because alcohol lowers your cognitive function, you might not be feeling as sharp for your training after you drink it.
The fix? Moderation. Keeping your consumption occasional and/or low when you do consume alcohol will help minimize these effects.
5. It will be tougher for injuries to heal.
If you’re injured, no matter how well-designed your rehab and recovery plan is, drinking alcohol will slow it down.
And this applies to both acute injuries (think: sprained ankle, torn ACL, things like that) and chronic injuries (stress fractures are a common one for runners).
So if you’re dealing with an injury, just factor this knowledge into your recovery schedule. You won’t be back as soon as you think if you’re consuming alcohol through recovery.
Don’t let alcohol keep you out of running longer. Again, moderation will help here.
6. It inhibits your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals are crucial to your running training and nutrition results. Alcohol actually impairs our bodies’ ability to absorb them. A helpful tip to combat this, get those vitamins and minerals in before you drink alcohol, and allow your body time to absorb them then as well.
If you are going to have a night out, just load up on fruits and vegetables at lunch that day. Thinking ahead and being mindful about your food choices and their timing will help you here.
7. It can derail your overall health goals.
Be mindful of your food choices while and after you are consuming alcohol, as it can often make you crave foods you wouldn’t normally eat while training.
When it comes to your metabolism, alcohol is sort of the star of the show. Because this substance is harder for your body to metabolize, all of your energy goes towards breaking it down. Meanwhile, all of the great protein, vegetables, and complex carbs you made sure to eat can just sit there, because there is no spare energy to metabolize them.
Two fixes here. The first, simply make good choices. Beware of your body telling you it wants greasy, unhealthy food during or after drinking, and tell yourself no.
Rather than enjoying that post-night-out pizza, just hydrate and go straight to bed. You won’t miss it.
As for your metabolism, minimize fat intake on the days when you are consuming alcohol. This will allow your body to get to work breaking down and digesting everything, not just the alcohol.
8. It can lower motivation.
Lastly, alcohol often follows us into the next day in the form of a hangover. This makes training that next day that much harder.
An easy fix so that you don’t lose motivation or get off track? If you have a rest day built into your training schedule, allow yourself the flexibility to move it to a day where you had alcohol the night before. This way, you stay on track and you don’t waste a good training session fighting a hangover.
If you can’t take a rest day after drinking, just know that it may be hard to motivate yourself the next day. Exercise mental strength and toughness, and get out there and train. You certainly won’t regret it.
So there you have it, 8 ways alcohol can affect your running, and 8 ways to plan ahead. Keep all of this in mind as you design your social schedule so that you stay on track toward your running goals.
Holly Martin is a San Francisco-based running coach and personal trainer. With a 20+ year background in dance, Holly brings a strong focus on technique and mobility to all of her coachings. Currently, she coaches online with The Run Experience, an online training community that specializes inproviding various advanced running training program. She trains clients at Midline Training and Nfinite Strength. For getting more such running advices, get in touch with them