Alcohol and sport

Date Published

7th May 2021





Summer is beckoning and, as lockdown gradually lifts, people are starting to pick up their sporting hobbies again. There are outdoor matches being played, swimming pools, gyms and indoor courts are open for individual activity and it’s anticipated that organised adult indoor group sports and exercise classes will be able to resume from 17th May.

Exercise can be good for the body and mind and getting moving again will be especially welcome for anyone who has been prevented from keeping active because of recent restrictions. But taking exercise doesn’t make you invincible and needs to be part of wider lifestyle choices if you are to get the maximum benefit from it. Having a social drink with friends may seem the logical thing to do pre or post football match or fitness class, but take a few moments to think about the effects that drinking alcohol could be having.

We need to be hydrated when we exercise to maintain the normal flow of blood through our bodies, but alcohol is a diuretic and drinking it can lead to dehydration. Alcohol also interferes with the body's metabolism, motor skills, balance and reaction time which could all have a negative impact on performance and risk injury. There are other factors associated with drinking alcohol the night before exercising, including the way that alcohol interferes with sleep and increasing the risk of abnormal, sometimes, dangerous heart rhythms.

Taking regular exercise is a good routine to have. To make sure you can get the most out of it and avoid risks to your health and be able to hit your goals, it’s best to pass on alcohol for at least one day and night before. And, for that social drink afterwards, if you do choose to drink alcohol, make sure you drink plenty of water to prevent hydration

There is, of course, the other side to sport – being a spectator. And in the same way that a social drink often follows your own exercise, it can become part of the occasion for some people when they are at a sporting event, or following it on TV at home or in the pub. After a difficult year, it's understandable to be looking forward to meeting up with family or friends and cheering on our favourite competitor or team together, or maybe renewing old sporting rivalries. Research has shown that during lockdown, it was companionship that people missed when they were unable to go the pub, not alcohol[1]. So, as you prepare to meet up and share the highs and lows of being a sports fan with your friends, think about how you can make the most of your time without letting alcohol become the focus of your get together and help keep each other safe.

Some suggestions for enjoying the sporting atmosphere include:

  1. Drink plenty of water or soft drinks in between alcoholic drinks to keep hydrated and top up with water before you go to bed
  2. Check the ABV of your drinks and be aware of how much you are drinking. There are a lot of zero and reduced alcohol drinks available that can help you manage your alcohol consumption and you can check and track your drinking by using the Drinkaware app
  3. Avoid buying rounds of drinks as they make it harder to keep control of what you are drinking
  4. Consider swapping stories about the game over a meal rather than just having a drink, as food helps slow down the rate your body absorbs alcohol
  5. It takes about an hour for a healthy liver to process a unit of alcohol, depending on your weight and other factors, so consider stopping drinking well before the end of the evening, so the process can begin before you go to bed

You may not be able to influence the result of the event but taking these simple steps can help ensure you enjoy the sporting experience.