Alcohol Basics for Athletes

Indulging in alcohol can have serious consequences for the athlete. Check out these guidelines for athletes who want to drink.


Editor's Note: The legal drinking age in all 50 states is 21 years old. Underage drinking can have serious effects on your health and overall development. STACK encourages all athletes, regardless of age, to be responsible when dealing with alcohol and to abstain during the season or training. The opinions expressed in the following article are solely those of the author, Chris Hitchko.

The term "empty calories" definitely applies to alcoholic beverages. Made by adding yeast to a sugar substance, alcohol itself provides none of the six essential nutrients—carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water. This means that consuming alcohol has little or nothing to do with nourishing the human body. However, a gram of alcohol does yield seven calories, twice the amount as a gram of carbs or protein—which is what produces the beer belly and love handles!

Digestion Process

We learned in health class that all kinds liquor, beer and wine are toxins. Our bodies don't like toxins; as a matter of fact, it ranks them number one on the priority list for elimination. When we overindulge, our normal metabolic processes (carbs first, fats second and proteins third) are taken over by alcohol. Regardless of your size or weight, your liver can only metabolize roughly one drink every 45 to 60 minutes. Consuming more than that allows metabolites to accumulate in your blood.

Why Do Some of Us Get Fat From Drinking?

There is science and then there is reality. Scientifically, alcohol lowers testosterone levels, which interferes with calcium metabolism and bone structure. In reality, drinking makes us prone to overeating and hangovers. Think of it this way. Not only did you consume, say, ten drinks with over 1,500 calories, you then grabbed some late night fast food and took in 1,000 more. Remember, your liver was still working to detoxify those ten drinks. So all the junk food you just ate was placed on hold. If all those extra calories and fat are not enough for you, think about the next day, when you will feel completely worthless. And although the old wives' tale about greasy food being the best hangover cure may help you feel better momentarily, it won't diminish your waistline.

What Can I Do?

Reality says three things: don't drink at all, drink less or consume empty calories. Consider these options:

  1. Light beer: 110 calories (0 - 7g of carbs)
  2. Champagne (4.2 ounce glass): 95 calories (2.5 - 4.5g of carbs)
  3. Red Wine (4.2 ounce glass): 80 calories (3.5 - 5g of carbs)
  4. Jack Daniels (single shot): 55 calories
  5. Vodka (single shot): 55 calories

If you decide to drink, compromise by making working out the next day a priority. No if's, and's or but's. If you don't exercise, you should penalize yourself by declining the next big party invitation. You are the only one who can hold yourself accountable. So give it a shot (no pun intended) and work out the next day.

To limit the negative effects of alcohol, do the following:

  1. Drink light beer instead of dark beer
  2. Limit the extra calories from mixers; stick with water or soda water
  3. Don't eat junk food while alcohol is present in your system
  4. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  5. Train before and after your night out

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