Can lowering your alcohol intake lower your race times?

Want to be a faster marathon runner? Try going a little more dry in your training regimen.
      We interrupt our regularly scheduled COVID-related programming to discuss another topic which has been debated by runners for years:
      Namely, when does good cheer become not so good for your performance, either training or racing?
      From joggers to sprinters to marathon runners, there’s one thing everyone can pretty much agree on – alcohol can be a detriment if not managed properly.
      Oh, there are those who say they can hit a bar the night before a race, get up before dawn and still put in a respectable time.
      But if you follow the science and want to be the best you can, keeping a handle on the “booze’’ clearly is the best approach.
      Several articles on various websites point out steps you should take to mix a winning cocktail.
      According to one article in Runner’s World magazine, drinking can compromise your sleep and temporarily reduce your body’s ability to store glycogen, which is vital for endurance.
      The article also points out drinking alcohol could make you more prone to injury, as alcohol can lead to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down the repair process.
      Lowering your alcohol intake to one drink or one beer a day would seem to be a good plan. And try to go the dry route for at least two days prior to a big race so any leftover spirits can leave your body.
      In addition:
      >Make sure your electrolyte levels are up to high levels. You know, magnesium, potassium, calcium, hydrogen phosphate and hydrogen carbonate.
      Don’t ask me what all these elements do for you but I do know when you’re low on magnesium, say, in a marathon, your muscles have a tendency to cramp. That’s why you see cups of Gatorade right beside cups of water at hydration stations in those 26.2-milers.
      >Watch what you’re drinking, whether in a social setting or just TV viewing at home. Experts say avoid excessive sugar. Choose dry wines. Too much sugar can lead to blood sugar fluctuations, which result in energy dips, cravings and lack of concentration.
      >Maintain good hydration. Any doctor will tell you alcohol acts as a diuretic, which increases urine production. The last thing you need in a big race is to have to pull over into the bushes and pee. Drink plenty of water before and after drinking alcohol. Drink water while you take in alcohol. It will have a diluting effect and you won’t be one of those hundreds of runners relieving themselves at the top of the Verrazzano Bridge in the first mile of the New York City Marathon.
      >A healthy diet will counter the effects of partaking a few drinks on a daily basis.
      If you must drink and then eat afterward, stay away from the junk food like pizza or fast food fries. Dietitians suggest something basic, yet nutritious, like rye toast with almond or coconut butter.
      If you are planning to run the next day, choose a morning-after breakfast that’s rich in healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates to help your body recover. Poached eggs with avocado on wholemeal toast is a great way to fuel your run.
      Besides that, the presence of alcohol in your body triggers a multitude of chemical processes, including the release of a toxin from your liver that attacks the hormone testosterone, another essential component for allowing your muscles to grow and regenerate.
      Look at the whole thing this way: You spend all kinds of money on the best shoes, the most technical watches, exorbitant race fees plus you train like crazy for that handful of races each year.
      Why compromise all that by staying out on a Thursday night, waking up with a hangover on Friday and wonder if you’re going to be fully recovered by Saturday morning?
      This is not to sermonize, just to point out that alcohol in moderation can be a key to better running performance.
      Race calendar
      Sunday
      Bucks County Roadrunners Club Winter Series Half-Marathon, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com
About Wayne Fish 1291 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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