The Effect of Alcohol on Athletic Performance

By Jason Dierking, Assistant Director of Sports Performance at the University of Louisville
Nov 18, 2013 2:00 PM ET

The Effect of Alcohol on Athletic Performance

Athletes of the legal drinking age have the added expectation and pressure to perform at the highest levels of competition. Many coaches regularly put policies and consequences in place to limit or discourage the use of alcohol by their team members, particularly during the in-season period.  Regardless of the athlete, the need for alcohol education is critical to the success of the overall training process. For those who choose to drink, it is important to understand the effects of alcohol on performance. 

According to the NCAA Sports Science Institute, alcohol consumption can negatively affect health and performance by increasing heart rate, oxygen consumption, blood pressure and blood lactate.  Alcohol can impair the body’s ability to convert stored carbohydrate to energy, which can lead to cramping, hypoglycemia and a general reduction in stamina.  Alcohol may impair the absorption of Vitamin B1 and other nutrients that play a key role in carbohydrate metabolism, essential for sustaining aerobic energy production. Additionally, key sports skills that require reaction time, balance, coordination and visual perception can be negatively affected for 48-72 hours post-consumption (1).  


Read more on Our Thinking About Drinking



1.     SCAN Registered Dieticians Group, NCAA Sports Science Institute.  Alcohol and Athletic Performance.