It is not uncommon for athletes at the high school, collegiate and professional levels to engage in post-competition socializing. This can be a great way for athletes to unwind and enjoy being among their peers. Unfortunately, these events frequently involve excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. Though there are numerous health and legal risks involved when engaging in these activities, there are also ramifications of alcohol consumption on next day physical performance.
A recent study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research investigated the effects of post-competition alcohol consumption on next day performance markers in athletes (Murphy et al. 2013). Twelve, well trained, college-aged male Rugby League players participated in this study. Performance measures were measured before, following and the morning after a competition on two consecutive weeks. On one occasion the athletes ingested alcohol in the evenings after the match while no alcohol was consumed on the other occasion. Overall fluid and energy consumption was matched between control and alcohol conditions. Performance markers included counter-movement jump, maximal voluntary contraction, and voluntary activation. Damage and stress markers were also assessed including creatine kinase, C-reactive protein, cortisol and testosterone. Lastly modified Stroop tests were administered to monitor cognitive function.
The results showed that both counter-movement jump and cognitive abilities (reaction time) suffered performance decrements the morning after alcohol ingestion indication a negative effect on post-match recovery. Post-match alcohol consumption also appeared to increase cortisol levels but had no effect on testosterone.
It is important for the coach to consider that due to the nature of research ethics boards, the athletes could not have been given overly excessive amounts of alcohol. Therefore, in uncontrolled conditions where athletes may ingest greater amounts, there will potentially be further decrements in performance markers. Further, hydration and sleep may also be negatively effected. Regardless, the results quite clearly demonstrate the negative effect that post-match alcohol consumption can have on performance. This is particular important for events where multiple competitions are held on consecutive days. As coaches we should do our best to educate our athletes on how alcohol consumption can effect their performance.
Murphy, A. P., Snape, A. E., Minett, G. M., Skein, M., & Duffield, R. (2013). The effect of post-match alcohol ingestion on recovery from competitive Rugby League matches. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(5), 1304-1312.