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Alcohol - impacts on health, exercise and sailing performance

17 December 2012 Andrew Verdon

Frosty beer at the local

"Frosty beer at the local"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

Alcohol has been part of the sailing and yachting culture since the days of the Royal Navy paying it's seamen in rum!

And it is certainly a huge part of the Aussie culture, closely tied around sports at all levels, from recreational to professional.

My aim here is not to preach to you about what to do and what not to do or act like the fun police around alcohol consumption. I will aim to simply present the facts and you can make your own choices on the best approach that works for you and your wellbeing.

For most of us, sailing is a social activity done on the weekends as part of our recreation and down time. Alcohol can be a part of this and have little to no negative physical impacts. In fact, light to moderate drinkers appear to have 20 to 40 percent lower risk of heart disease, among other reported benefits.

What is alcohol?
Alcohol is present in a wide variety of drinks from spirits to wine to beer. The substance itself is classified as a depressant drug.

Short-term impacts.
It slows down activity in the central nervous system, including the brain and negatively effects balance, coordination, concentration, response time, decision making and thus will detract from sports performance.

It also causes dehydration not only when drunk as shots, but also full strength beer or wine in larger glasses via fluid loss (i.e. peeing). Excess consumption in any form can increase blood flow to an injured area, thereby exacerbating any strains or sprains, making recovery time longer from injury.

Smart strategies for drinking:

  • Plan. Think about the next day. Do you need to perform and be fresh? Are you driving?
  • Eat before you drink, as this slows down the rate that the alcohol is absorbed into the blood stream.
  • Pace yourself and start with a non-alcoholic drink first to satisfy your thirst.
  • Drink slowly. Don't' slam the beers or rums down like the Solo man!
  • Alternate wine with a soft drink or mineral water with meals.
  • Avoid rounds or shouts.
  • Consider the impact on any medication you may be taking. Be clear on your Doctor's suggestions.
  • Rehydrate before going to bed. Drink a glass of water after a night of a few drinks out or with dinner. You'll be thankful in the morning, as it can reduce the fogginess

Conclusion and take home message.
Truly moderate your consumption. i.e. of a drink or two, shouldn't have any effects on your performance, recovery from exercise, sleep or your health. The issues are compounded once alcohol intake becomes excessive, which is anything more than two standard drinks per day, habitually.


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