Sun. Aug 9th, 2020

Is alcohol hurting your running?

3 min read

For many adults alcohol consumption often doesn’t get spoken about in relation to their health and overall performance. This is certainly the case in most adults that don’t identify as having a problem with alcohol. Alcohol is certainly an accepted part of western culture. But how much is your alcohol consumption hurting your running performance?

If you are a heavy drinker alcohol is likely causing damage to your running. But even for a moderate drinker it may be harming you reaching your running goals. Searching for improvement in running performance is a long term pursuit with most runners looking for advances in their training, diet and technology to improve their running. Often alcohol consumption is overlooked and accepted as a necessity in life.

The positives are alcohol in moderation meaning one drink per day in women and two drinks per day in men may help relax and reduce stresses leading up to races. Also red wine is rich in antioxidants and may help prevent damage from inflammation. Red wine has also been linked to improve cholesterol levels.

Unfortunately the negatives to alcohol consumption outweigh the positives, especially when we consider the needs of runners. Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol will cause dehydration. For runners hydration is super important to performance in racing and training. For longer runs and races having a hydration plan is essential in performing at your best. Choosing when you drink alcohol can assist your running. If you have a long run or harder workout the next day than either drink to moderation or chose not to have alcohol the night before. If you have an easy workout planned, this might be the day to have a drink or two extra.

Alcohol consumption will reduce your ability to get a high quality night’s sleep. You may have difficulty waking up or be extra drowsy in the day following. Again this will affect your ability to run to your true potential and choosing when you consume alcohol is advisable.

Alcohol can cause an increase to recovery time following races or harder workouts. Alcohol affects the livers ability to repair the body which is necessary after a race or hard work out. While we should celebrate results and milestones in running and life itself be mindful that alcohol will affect your recovery time.

Take a break from alcohol

For your own alcohol consumption do a self-assessment and dig deeper into your alcohol habits before thinking about the next step. 

How much do you drink?

How often do you drink?

Do you need a daily drink?

If you have an important race coming up this could be the perfect time to give yourself a break from alcohol. If you are serious about your running why not? You are going to spend 3-4 months preparing your body meticulously to be able to run the race and achieve your goals. Take a break from alcohol and see if you can improve yourself even further. This could be as simple as the last 30 days before the race. Take a break off alcohol and focus on your running, diet and sleep quality in this final phase. Will it improve your result?

It could be for a longer period if you are up to it. You’ll know this after you do your own self-assessment.

If you can’t commit to taking a break or don’t believe you need to then challenge yourself to the following;

  • No alcohol in race week
  • No alcohol the night before a long run or quality workout
  • At least two alcohol free days per week

If alcohol is limiting your performance and your performance is important to you these simple steps will help you achieve a better result.

Is alcohol holding you back from reaching your potential as runner, and if so does it matter to you enough to make a change? Even a change for just a short period of time may give you the outcome you have been searching elsewhere for.  Certainly stopping drinking alcohol alone won’t make up the difference in performance but the compounding effect of better training, sleep and overall health benefits may be the key to unlock your running potential.

Photo supplied with permission from Bobi Max. Instagram @soko_max

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