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How Does Alcohol Affect Athletic Performance

How Does Alcohol Affect Athletic Performance
Written by Seth Fletcher on August 11, 2022
Last update: May 15, 2024

Did you know alcohol is the most commonly used drug? If you’re into sports and athletics, this probably won’t surprise you. Most people have used alcohol at one time or another to manage stress before a game, reduce next-day pain or even celebrate a victory. Alcohol, however, negatively disturbs sports and creates an environment filled with risks. Let’s discover how alcohol affects your athletic performance and what the dangers of consuming alcohol can be.

Table of contents

1. The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Sports
2. Athletic Activities That Are Especially Affected by Alcohol
3. How Alcohol Affects Athletic Performance

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol and Sports

We’ll take you through detailed annoyances, hazards and risks of alcohol consumption, but first, an introduction to the main dangers of drinking if you are into sports, which apply to pretty much any physical activity: 

  • Decrease in coordination and motor skills
  • Diminished endurance and stamina
  • Increased injuries because of diminished mental capabilities
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Reduced muscle and bone health
  • Stiffness in muscles caused by binge drinking (53.3% of student athletes binge drink, which is 12.1% more than within the non-athletic population).

Athletic Activities That Are Especially Affected by Alcohol

All sports and physical activities are affected by alcohol consumption, as shown above, but let’s reflect on specific examples:

  • If you play football or basketball, you know how important plays and strategies are. They must often be memorized, but alcohol renders this difficult, as it impairs the hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for memory. Sleep also plays a great role in remembering important details and alcohol addiction generally leads to negative sleep patterns, impairing information recall.
  • If you’re into triathlons and endurance sports and consume alcohol, your muscle recovery and repair abilities will be lessened, a regeneration which is greatly needed for these types of activities.
  • Wrestlers may have trouble cutting weight before events because of impacted metabolism due to substance abuse or binge drinking that both favour weight gain.
  • Balance and coordination are essential ingredients in gymnastics, however, drinking endangers athletes by reducing their capabilities.
  • For boxers who often walk away with cuts and bruises, alcohol slows down healing and recovery.
  • As for bodybuilding where strength is required, it’s important to know that consumption inhibits muscle growth, preventing performance.

How Alcohol Affects Athletic Performance

According to Inside Tracker, having 5 or more drinks in one day will impact your athletic performance for up to 3 days, so imagine what consequences regular drinking can present. 

Also, although you may think the calories you ingest from your drinks can provide energy for your physical activities, they unfortunately can’t be transformed into body fuel, and instead become fatty acids and fat tissue.

Obviously, alcohol affects everyone’s athletic performance differently, but here are some further examples of its proven effect on performance. 


  • Slows down your central nervous system and diminishes your energy levels
  • Reduces endurance
  • Decreases muscle growth, especially when consuming alcohol long term — binge drinking also results in lower serum testosterone levels, which means saying goodbye to muscle mass and healthy recovery
  • Induces vitamin and mineral deficiencies as it hinders their absorption
  • Affects temperature regulation (overheating, for example)
  • Impairs your ability to judge your surroundings
  • Lowers your general immune system, putting you at greater risk of being sick and missing out on great moments of the season

These are all theoretical and medical terms you may not be able to grasp in your day-to-day sports life, but let’s get down to brass tacks once again to conclude on how alcohol hinders performance. 

Imagine playing baseball and misjudging the distance between you and the ball, as alcohol affects hand-eye coordination. Your inability to think clearly with prevent you from making rapid calls often needed on the field or in the ring. This could have devastating results for you and your team.

When you drink, no matter the sport or activity you’re into, you will have greater chances of getting cramps, pulls and strains due to dehydration. 

Keep in mind as well that if injury unfortunately strikes, repairing bone damage will be harder, as consuming alcohol impacts bone growth. You may have to put an end to your career!

CCFA Is Here to Support You

If you are struggling with the negative effects of performance of your drinking habits, our team is available to provide tailored tips, tools and treatment programs at 1-855-499-9446!

Certified Addiction Counsellor

Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors.

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