A study has been brought to my attention that is interesting. It was conducted down in New Zealand and presented at a medical sciences conference in late 2007. (Effect of Alcohol on Recovery from Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage – Barnes, Mundel, Stannard)
The gist of their study was to determine if alcohol consumption affected recovery from eccentric muscle contraction exercises (yes, running is this). They studied rugby-soccer type athletes however, due to the high quantities of running in either sport without a doubt there is a valid comparison to road warriers such as ourselves.
It was a nicely controlled study which also lends to its validity. Treatments were randomized. There was restriction of outside of study alcohol consumption before and during the testing process. The statistical significance of their findings was also quite clear and convincing. The delay in recovery to damaged muscles was clear even 60 hours post event (that’s day three).
And just what was their conclusion? The concluded that acute intake of alcohol in the three hours post-match (race in our case) significantly affected recovery of muscles.
These results are not terribly surprising. We have long known that alcohol is not conducive to training or recovery. Here is where the study however failed most of us. They required the subjects to consume six alcoholic drinks; one every 15 minutes in the course of an hour and a half. They stated that for the subjects in this test it was actually somewhat LESS THAN what would normally be consumed post-matches. But, they wanted to mimic a “binge” occurrence.
OK, this may be a bit radical thinking on my part, but how many of you after a big track workout or 20 mile run sit down and drink six shots of vodka or six beers or six glasses of wine in the hour and a half post workout?
This kind of study does a disservice to athletes and promotes sensationalism.In their conclusion they state: (the study shows)… moderate consumption of alcohol increases injury related strength loss… delays recovery… No duh!
Perhaps in New Zealand or perhaps more specifically for rugby and soccer players six drinks in 90 minutes constitutes “moderate” drinking. But, to generalize these results too far would clearly be misleading to most athletes.
There is ample data beyond this study to indicate that alcohol is not the beverage of choice for athletes. Alcohol is a poor replenishment drink. There is also ample data that indicates 1-2 drinks per day are beneficial for those who enjoy a drink. More than that is not recommended for anyone – not athletes, not the general public. Binge drinking is not OK and is not the norm for most athletes.
Timing for those modest drinkers is probably important, though because of the excesses of this study, this study cannot be used to determine that on a research basis. The message is probably that in the three hours post workout – alcohol is best left out. And we can only hope more real life responsible research is conducted in the future.