Alcohol Exercise

How alcohol affects running

Yes, I recognize that this isn’t a cannabis post, but I did my graduate work studying alcohol’s effect on the brain. So when BibRave asked me to write a post on how alcohol affects running, I didn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to combine my two passions, neuroscience and running. You can link to the article here, and listen to the interview on the BibRave podcast (available Friday, 2/9/18). 

Back in July, my runner-buddy was getting married. But we didn’t throw him a traditional bachelor party. Instead, we ran 14 miles around Seattle, stopping at different breweries along the way.

As the adventure progressed, we experienced the range of impacts alcohol has on running economy and recovery. We enjoyed the initial stimulating effect it had on the brain’s reward processing by increasing the chemical, dopamine. We soon felt alcohol’s dehydrating effect (you lose 10 milliliters of excess fluid/gram of alcohol, that’s 140 ml of excess fluid loss for each 12 ounce beer with 5% alcohol!). After a few miles and several pints, we noticed its vasodilating effect which reduced much needed blood flow to our muscles, depriving them of the necessary oxygen and glucose to make energy.

And recovery suffered. All those added pints impaired sleep by reducing the amount of time you spend in the restorative late-stages of sleep. It also left us more fatigued for our workout the following day by reducing our ability to store glycogen in the slow-twitch muscles utilized by distance runners.

But despite these challenges, we had a blast and sent bachelor off to be married after one heck-of-an adventure. Sometimes we may need to take a small step back to take a giant step forward.

To read about the adventure and a more complete description of the science behind alcohol’s impact on running, please read my article on BibRave or listen to the upcoming podcast.

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