Alcohol and Athletic Performance

One of the running journals had a story about a runner who grew very tired near the end of a marathon, so he stopped and drank vodka, felt rejuvenated and passed many other runners as he raced toward the finish line.

A study in Alcoholism - Clinical and Experimental Research shows that alcohol delays the body's ability to clear lactic acid from the bloodstream, making an athlete tire earlier. Furthermore, alcohol reduces the force of your heart's contractions so that it can't pump as much blood through your body. It increases the amount of oxygen that your body needs, so you tire sooner. It increases sweating so you dehydrate earlier, and it causes muscles to use up more carbohydrate so your muscles feel heavy and hurt. But what about the marathon runner's claim? Alcohol also affects the mind, so when the runner thought he was passing other runners, they really were passing him.

1) Influence of acute alcohol load on metabolism of skeletal muscles - Expired gas analysis during exercise. Alcoholism - Clinical and Experimental Research, 2003, Vol 27, Iss 8, Suppl. S, pp 76S-78S. K Shiraishi, M Watanabe, S Motegi, R Nagaoka, S Matsuzaki, H Ikemoto. Shiraishi K, Tokai Univ, Hachioji Hosp, Div Gastroenterol, Dept Gastroenterol, 1838 Ishikawa Macho, Hachioji, Tokyo 1920032, JAPAN.

2)Mangum J S Med a Phys Fit 9/85;26:301

Checked 8/31/08

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