Written by Laura Isherwood
Post Match Pint
We all know how refreshing it is to have a post Sunday league beer. But is having a beer (or two) post football match really so bad? In 2010, Fabio Capello announced that after two lacklustre performances, England finally won a match. The secret? A pre-match beer. Could it really have helped?
Due to Chinese whispers, amateur players strongly believe that a post-match pint will help with recovery. Why? The theory is based surrounding the high carbohydrate content; replenishing glycogen stores in the muscles. I predict this advice came from the same genius who joked that cider is made from apples, so must count towards your five a day.
Joking aside, alcohol does increase your energy levels. However, the ethanol (pure alcohol) found in alcoholic beverages has a negative effect on the bodies nervous system, alongside circulation and endocrine systems. Therefore, leads to a detrimental effect on training, matches and performance.
The Effects Of Post-Match Beer
The UK Department of health recommends you should consume a soft drink (eg a pint of water) in between any alcoholic drink to help regulate your hydration. If you are hitting the town after a match, these guidelines are wise to follow. You should also make sure you are hydrated before you start drinking any alcoholic drinks.
If you consume over the government’s recommendation, you are more likely to crave unhealthy, fatty foods, which will increase your weight and affect future performance. Eating too much junk food and alcohol will also eliminate any fitness gains you may have developed during the match.
A study has found that participants who drank alcohol after strenuous exercise had 15-20% lower muscle force than those who consumed orange juice. With the effects lasting up to 60 hours after consumption. Participants in the alcohol group also expressed a higher degree of soreness in muscles for this period. So, is that pint really necessary?
Alcohol Metabolism In Football Players
Your liver does most of the work metabolising alcohol and the duration differs is dependant onthe player. Although it is believed that people can sober up by drinking coffee or having a cold shower, these myths have little to no effect on the rate our body clears alcohol from our systems. Your body can oxidise 100 mg of alcohol per kg of body mass per hour. This is only 1 unit of alcohol per hour- equivalent to 1 alcopop. Alcohol drinking also results in the loss of skill performance and changes in mental attitude and behaviour. Don’t penalise your penalties!
We have not yet found evidence that alcohol consumption has an effect on your aerobic system. But, a nasty hangover will affect your athletic performance for days afterwards. The physiological implications of drinking alcohol after a match can lead to bad nutrition choices. If you drink alcohol after a game, you will forget the importance of your recovery period and the body’s need to replenish nutrients. Also, the energy increase from drinking alcohol leads to a lack of sleep and dehydration. When you sleep your growth hormones work hard to build muscle. As alcohol disrupts sleep patterns the body has less chance to develop muscle. Alcohol can also poison the muscle fibres, which can cause a halt in development for up to 3 days after drinking.
Does Alcohol Affect Performance In A Football Player?
The real problems with football players drinking alcohol is how it affects the body overall. Alcohol acts as a diuretic causing the kidneys to produce excess urine. As your body is losing fluid via urine- dehydration rates speed up. If a player exercises whilst intoxicated or soon after drinking, the rate of dehydration increases due to the increase in body temperature and sweat production. As expressed in preparation for a football match, it’s important for a player to hydrate before a match or training, this will allow circulation of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
Alcohol can also affect the body’s energy producing process. As the liver breaks down the alcohol, it cannot produce glucose at the same time. This leads to decreased levels in blood sugar. Which in turn, mean less energy for the body and this later affects performance. Your concentration, reaction times and coordination are all affected by this dip in energy.
What Happens If You Drink The Night Before A Football Match?
Many Sunday league players go out Saturday night and turn up at 8.30am the next morning and attempt to play 90 minutes of football. Although they may get through the full match, they can never play at optimum levels of performance.
This is not acceptable for elite, academy or any player serious about a career in football. If you drink alcohol the night before a game or training, it will have a negative influence on your performance. The hangover effects of drinking will lead to headaches, hypersensitivity to light/sound, and dehydration.
You may not feel the physical experiences of a hangover. But, will still have an overall decrease in the quality of your football training or match performance. Your decision making, strength and athletic power will lack and you will tire quicker as your body cannot flush out the lactic acid produced. This results from your liver working over-time to clear out the alcohol toxins in your body.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol in Footballers
Many players think the effects of alcohol only occur whilst intoxicated or during the hangover period. This is not the case. The high calorie count in alcoholic drinks, means you will pay for it in weeks to come. There are around 7 calories in every gram of alcohol; this is the amount of calories in pure fat. If you like to stay fit and gain from every training session, it’s not wise to consume extra calories for no benefit.
As your body is not built to cope with alcohol stores, it cannot burn off other calories due to working hard to get rid of alcohol. This results in more calories staying in the body and an increase in your body weight. Another negative affect is the body not being able to absorb nutrients, meaning your recovery and health will be affected.
If a player continues to consume alcohol over a long period it can cause more serious illness or disease such as cancer, liver disease and heart disease.
As we have mentioned throughout the article, alcohol isn’t suitable for any football player. It affects recovery, performance and can cause serious long-term problems for your body. Alcohol after matches prolongs the body’s capabilities to restore energy and metabolise carbohydrates. Our advice is to stay away from alcohol full stop.