Alcohol and cycling. Do they really mix?
How bad is alcohol in relation to cycling performance? Well… some of this information might make you feel depressed. If you would like to plead ignorance in the future I would just stop reading now.
I think we have all heard/said the statement “I am carbo loading” in relation to having that delicious cold beer. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. What actually happens when you start drinking any type of alcohol is that your liver spends all of its energy trying to remove alcohol from your bloodstream; it no longer has the capacity to convert glucose into glycogen.
Glycogen is a major energy source that your body uses to pedal that bicycle. It is generally quite depleted after a ride and should be replenished by consuming carbohydrates.
Since your liver is busy trying to clear the alcohol from your bloodstream and is unable to convert the glucose to glycogen, your body has to do something else with it… I’ll give you one guess… … … Fat. Yup… that glucose will now be stored as fat. Soo… to be more realistic, we should actually be say “I am fat loading.”
Alcohol has been known to affect sleeping. If you do not sleep well then you will not produce as much human growth hormone – a hormone that builds muscle. Coupled with that, alcohol is a diuretic resulting in the fact that you will likely need to get up from your already disturbed sleep.
As you know from my article about hydration as little as a 2% decrease in body water weight decreases your performance. So it is going to be difficult to perform the next day at your best.
On top of all of this, studies have shown that drinking alcohol lowers testosterone levels. Testosterone is key to developing muscle in men AND women.
All of these factors add up to a less than optimal recovery.
What Are You Going To Do About It?
1. Having a few cold beer after a ride because I feel I “deserve” it.
I certainly make a point to refuel properly by eating before indulging in my “reward”.
2. Drinking before an event.
It is not a good idea to drink the day, or even 2 days, before an event, as the 2% dehydration rule may effect your outcome.
3. Overall consumption.
Decreasing your overall consumption is relatively easy in small increments. Just focus on cutting out excess as discussed in my 5 healthy tips for cycling article.
This article may be a little depressing;however, I am not going to give up drinking. It took me a couple frosty beverages to complete this article. I am not getting paid to bike for a living and I am all about enjoyment of life. On the other hand, knowing this information certainly has changed a few bad habits.