The Effect of a Good Time

This rather sensationalist title is all about the effect of drugs and alcohol on muscle synthesis, muscle building, current muscle mass and the biological composition of the body.

We will start with alcohol. Alcohol is made when yeast reacts with the sugar in grapes or barley, the by-products are ethanol and carbon dioxide. Alcohol can come in many different forms- with the main types being beer and spirits. Beer is traditionally a fairly low alcohol percentage beverage while spirits tend of a higher alcohol percentage. Regardless of what you drink, however, the active ingredient, ethanol, is still the same. But what does ethanol do to you?


Well in moderate levels, not much. A study from a laboratory in New York, USA found that moderate use reduces stress, increases feelings of happiness and increases feelings of well-being. The article mentions that it may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, however this point is disputed. Despite this, heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to dependency, via unhealthy dopamine release, and “increases all types of injury and trauma”. Ethanol is inherently bad and in pure form will induce coma and death. The health effects are clear, but how does it effect the ability to grow new muscle, sustain current muscle and burn fat?

Alcohol Causing Vaious Illnesses
A graph showing the rates of mortality for a variety of illnesses compared with alcohol consumption

Alcohol consumption within athletic groups varies hugely- with some organisations placing bans on consumption by contracted athletes and others encouraging it as a form of team bonding. However, alcohol inhibits Ca2+ channel actions reported in human myotubes and rodent muscle tubes. This limits excitation-contraction coupling and decreases strength output. Having said that human trials have failed to prove this. Examination into the intracellular enzyme creatine-kinase, found there was greater plasma rises post alcohol consumption and exercise. However, trials using rodent muscle stimulation and human eccentric loading have failed to prove it. It is well understood that such problems as muscle cramps and pain are common after alcohol consumption, we just lack the ability to explain why.

In regards to metabolism alcohol has a number of negative effects. An intake of a large amount of alcohol has been shown to impair hepatic gluconeogenisis and subsequent glucose output, decrease the uptake of gluconeogenisis precursors lactate and glycerol and reduce muscle glycogen uptake and storage. In short, it reduces your ability to create and store energy in the body- this will obviously have an impact on your athletic ability.

I will not delve into the huge number of other athletic factors that are effected by alcohol because they are complex scientific studies and I feel I have already made my point. We shall now move on to drugs…

Depressant drugs such as cannabis and  opiates slow down your breathing, causing a decrease in the oxygen intake and therefore a decrease in power output. They will also reduce your motor coordination decreasing efficient movement. Opiates, in particular, close your airways, further reducing oxygen intake and exacerbating the above effect. Stimulant drugs such as cocaine increase your heart rate, putting undue stress upon it and worsening risks like a heart attack or irregular heart rhythm. The drug speed will cause a lack of blood to reach the heart leading to angina. Stimulants will increase your movement leading to an increase risk of injury. Many drugs also become an anaesthetic and will cause you to not feel an injury, aggravating the injury.

The problems of alcohol and drugs on sports performance is clear- with the overwhelming evidence suggesting it can do serious harm to you.  I hope you listen to this and take it into account because it is very much a problem mainly in young people. Any further questions you may have about drugs or alcohol then just leave a comment below.

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