First, if you're under age 21, it’s illegal in the state of California to drink or purchase alcoholic beverages. But read on for additional reasons specifically related to athletes and recovery:
A 12 oz beer has only 14 grams of carbohydrate. Compare this with 40 grams of carbohydrate in a can of soda, 34 grams in 8 oz lemonade, or 38 grams in a cup of grape juice. You’ll see that beer isn’t such a good recovery beverage. Alcohol's effect on total glucose levels is complex. Although it contains carbohydrates, alcohol actually interferes with glucose metabolism and will ultimately impair your body’s ability to replenish muscle glycogen stores. Drinking a lot of beer can cause you NOT to eat enough carbohydrate and protein, further reducing the amount of protein and carbohydrates available to aid in muscle recovery. This is because carbonation and fluid volume make you feel full.
In addition, alcohol is a diuretic, causing your body to lose fluid at a time when it’s critical to rehydrate!
If you drink beer on an empty stomach after a practice or competition, it will likely “go to your head” faster because it will be absorbed quickly from the stomach into your bloodstream. Alcohol affects your judgment, motor skills, coordination and reaction time. This can cause you to make poor choices and increases your risk of injury off the field. You’d hate to have to sit out the season because you sprained your ankle or broke an arm falling down the stairs at a party.
Alcohol can also interfere with normal sleep quality, disrupting REM sleep and affecting your ability to think or train properly the next day.
So what should you drink or eat after a game? Drink at least 20 oz of fluid for every pound of weight lost during the competition. Remember the three Rs: Refuel, Rehydrate and Rest. Your body stores glycogen best in the first two hours after exercise. So choose non-alcoholic beverages and high carb foods that you enjoy, with some protein for muscle repair. Chocolate milk is a great recovery beverage with carbs, protein and fluid all in one package!
If you’re partying with your high school teammates, be a leader and choose soda pop, cranberry juice and seltzer, or ice-cold water as you enjoy pretzels and pizza (good carb choices).