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Work Hard, Play Moderately

Studies have repeatedly shown that moderate red wine consumption seems to lower the risk of several diseases, including heart disease. Light to moderate beer intake may be associated with, improved blood sugar control, stronger bones, and reduced dementia risk. But the line between moderate and excessive is very fine, and few people acknowledge that line and find the necessary balance.

Photo by Heshan Perera

If you have ever trained with a hangover, you know that jumping on LEGOs is probably a way smarter decision than that was. You’re dying of thirst, you cannot for the life of you catch your breath, and every move you make feels like you’re dragging it through Jell-O.

How exactly does alcohol affect our performance on the mat? Below I share some key issues on how drinking affects athletic performance. Remember that all the effects are not limited to this list.

1. Alcohol Dehydrates the Body

Alcohol is a diuretic. It causes your body to remove fluids from your blood at a much quicker rate than other liquids. If you don't drink enough water with alcohol, you can become dehydrated quickly. Even a light training session requires effort, aerobic capacity, and some sweating. Meaning that if your body is already dehydrated from last night, you are going to have one hell of a bad time.

2. Alcohol Slows Down Reaction Time

Jiu-Jitsu is a chess match. Your opponent moves, you move, and so on and so forth. Even small amounts of alcohol can slow down reaction times and hand-to-eye coordination, which we all know both are essential in jiu-jitsu. So, if you drank the night before, be mentally prepared for your teammates to run circles on you. Nothing will single-handedly turn you back into a first-day white belt like a couple of drinks.

3. Alcohol Impairs Muscle Growth

If you’re a serious competitor, or even just a hobbyist who does this for health benefits. Your muscles will not appreciate another round of shots. Alcohol diminishes protein synthesis, which consequentially reduces muscle growth. Additionally, drinking can reduce testosterone levels. Decreases in testosterone are associated with decreases in lean muscle mass and muscle recovery.

4. Alcohol Significantly Impairs Recovery

Initially you might think that having a couple of drinks knocks you right out and makes you sleep for hours. That’s good right? Not quite. Alcohol is a natural sedative, so it may help at first by making you fall asleep more quickly. However, people who drink before bed often experience disruptions later in their sleep cycle as liver enzymes metabolize alcohol. As the night progresses, this can create an imbalance between slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. This decreases overall sleep quality. This can also lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and other issues the following day. Not to mention that it significantly reduces a chemical in your body that plays an integral role in building and repairing muscles called human growth hormone. Alcohol can decrease the secretion of HGH by as much as 70 percent.

So, does all of this mean you can never crack open a cold one with the boys ever again? Or that you can’t have a glass of wine with your dinner? Not at all. But just like everything from food to certain activities, everything in moderation. After all, we can’t all be Megaton Dias partying and living our best life right before heading to compete at Pan-Ams. For the most part, the rest of us aren’t that cool. But always keep in mind that if your weekend constitutes of drinking, the following days on the mat will not be the best performances of your life. More so if multiple weekends are spent the same way, these can eventually add up resulting in very few quality time on the mat. Be mindful, train hard, and don’t party too hard.

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