- Alcohol and Athletic Performance
- Effects of Alcohol on Your Body
- What is BAC?
- How much alcohol is in one drink?
- Is it okay to drink while on medication?
- What are the long term effects of heavy drinking?
- Can I increase my tolerance by drinking more frequently?
- How can I cure a hangover?
- Alcohol Poisoning
- How to Avoid Danger While Drinking
- Helping a Drunk Friend
Consuming alcohol after a workout, practice, or competition can cancel out any physiological gains you may have received from such activities. Not only does long-term alcohol use diminish protein synthesis resulting in a decrease in muscle build-up, but even short-term alcohol use can hinder muscle growth.
In order to build bigger and stronger muscles, your body needs to sleep to repair itself after a workout. Because of alcohol’s effect on sleep your body is robbed of the chemical called “human growth hormone”, or HGH. HGH is part of the normal muscle-building and repair process; alcohol can decrease the secretion of HGH by as much as 70%! Also, when alcohol is in your body, it triggers the production of a substance in your liver that is directly toxic to testosterone. Testosterone is essential for the development and recovery of your muscles.
Although alcohol affects all body organs, it is most often associated with the affect on nerve cells. Alcohol inhibits neurotransmitters causing excitation and increases neurotransmitters that depress nerve responses. Some areas of the brain are more sensitive to the content/level of alcohol in the blood (BAC) than others. Acute alcohol effects on the mind and body include:
- loss of inhibition, talkative, increased self confidence
- decrease in ability to problem solve or make decisions
- decrease in sensory input, including sensitivity to pain
- exaggerated emotions
- decreased coordination
- potential memory impairment
- impairment of fine motor skills - for example, being unable, without shaking or jerky movements, to touch tip of the nose with a finger when your eyes are closed
- interference with normal sleep patterns and subsequent input of information into long term memory
- decrease in body temperature, breathing, and heart rates
- increased blood to skin causing sweating/flushing
- increased blood to stomach and intestines
- decreased blood to muscles
BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Content, and is the number of milligrams of alcohol per milliliter in your bloodstream. In Pennsylvania, the legal definition of drunkenness is a BAC of 0.08.
If you are a 120-lb. woman who drinks four drinks in one hour, your BAC will be 0.17. If you are a 160-lb. man who consumes five drinks in one hour, your BAC will be 0.14. Of 100 people with a BAC greater than 0.4, statistics show that one will die.
Most people think that if a few drinks make them feel good then a lot of drinks will make them feel even better. But that’s not true. It’s called the biphasic (or two part) effect. Here’s what happens. People tend to feel better as their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises to about .05/.06. That’s the first phase or part. If people drink more and their BAC rises above .055, the negative effects of drinking increase and hangovers become worse. That’s the second phase. So it’s clearly smart to stop during the first phase and not progress into the second phase.
Because different drinks contain varying amounts of pure alcohol, you should be aware of the proportion of alcohol in everything you drink. A 12-ounce beer (5% alcohol by volume) has the same amount of alcohol as a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor (40% alcohol) or a 5-ounce glass of wine (13% alcohol).
No, taken before or while drinking, many medications will multiply the effects of alcohol on your body. Aspirin and other drugs prevent the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase (found in the stomach and liver) from breaking down alcohol, thus slowing the liver's ability to decrease BAC. In other words, alcohol will accumulate in your blood faster and have longer lasting effects. Women on birth control pills will process alcohol slower than other women, because the hormones in the pill and alcohol both rely on the liver for processing.
There are many serious health complications that can arise from excessive drinking. You may develop neurological problems, including impaired motor skills, deterioration of vision, seizures, and permanent brain damage. Long-term heavy drinking will also affect the heart, causing shortness of breath, enlarged heart and abnormal heart rhythm. You will be more likely to develop mouth and throat cancer and to have high blood pressure, putting you at greater risk for stroke and heart attack. Since alcohol is metabolized by your liver, you put yourself at risk for alcoholic fatty liver and cirrhosis of the liver. The use of alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Excessive alcohol use is also known to increase the risk of developing several other types of cancer.
Higher tolerance means you can ingest more alcohol without showing signs of intoxication. If you drink frequently, your body will become accustomed to the effects of alcohol and you will not feel as drunk, but your BAC is not affected by tolerance and the alcohol still does the same damage to your liver and other organs. Increasing your tolerance will lead you to drink more to get the same effects, leading to greater liver damage, may contribute to the risk for alcoholism, and other health complications.
Waking up after a night of drinking is never fun. As part of a hangover, you are likely to experience a headache, body aches, fatigue, heartburn, nausea, and dehydration. Nothing can truly cure a hangover except time (which will vary according to gender, size, weight, tolerance, medications taken, food consumption, dehydration, and rate of alcohol consumption). However, you can lessen the symptoms by drinking lots of water to combat the dehydration caused by alcohol. Be careful taking pain relievers! Like alcohol, aspirin can irritate the lining of the stomach, increasing your chances of developing stomach ulcers. Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) is metabolized by the liver, and when combined with alcohol, can cause liver damage. Thus, to avoid further damage to your body, resist taking medication for a hangover.
To avoid suffering a hangover you should consider modifying your drinking habits. Not only should you drink less, eat while drinking, alternate alcoholic drinks with juice or water, and space your drinks to allow your liver to keep up, but you should also consider what you are drinking. Certain alcoholic drinks contain more congeners than others. Congeners are natural by-products of alcohol fermentation, and may cause hangovers
Known as alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose, it can lead to death because too much alcohol is in the blood. Most often this is caused by rapid ingestion of alcohol from chugging, funneling, drinking games or doing shots OR consuming drinks with a high percentage of alcohol. Even if a person passes out, the blood alcohol content, known as the BAC, can continue to rise because alcohol continues to be absorbed from the intestinal tract.
Symptoms include uncontrollable vomiting, a weak or irregular pulse, difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, or lack of responsiveness.
- Set limits. One way to make sure you do not drink to excess is to decide how many drinks your body can safely handle and do not exceed this limit during the course of the night. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to keep track, especially when playing drinking games. Such games may provide entertainment and a chance to feel included in a social group, but they contribute to excessive drinking. The atmosphere created by drinking games is dangerous because it causes you to drink more than you would usually through peer pressure and rapid rate of consumption. Chugging alcohol will delay awareness of how much alcohol is in your body because of the time it takes to raise your BAC.
- Eat a meal before you drink. Food in the stomach will slow the entrance of alcohol into your bloodstream by preventing it from entering your small intestine which absorbs alcohol faster than the stomach. High protein foods, like cheese, are best at slowing down the effects of alcohol, and thus help prevent a hangover.
- Steer clear of carbonation and shots. The carbon dioxide of carbonated drinks, like beer and soda, increases the pressure in your stomach, forcing alcohol out through the lining of your stomach into the bloodstream. The high concentration of alcohol in shots also means that your BAC will increase rapidly.
- Alternate with non-alcoholic beverages. Not only will this slow your consumption of alcohol, but it will also counter the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
- Don't combine alcohol with other drugs. Alcohol's effects are heightened by medicines that depress the central nervous system, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and some painkillers. Other drugs have harmful interactions with alcohol as well, so it is best to consult a physician before drinking while on medication. The combination of illegal drugs and alcohol can also have adverse effects.
- Don't drink if you're suffering fatigue. Exhaustion magnifies the effect of alcohol on the body.
What you do to help depends on the state of your friend. Your friend doesn't have to be passed out or throwing up to need your help. Other signs for concern:
- inability to maintain balance or eye contact
- slurred speech
- shortness of breath
- abnormal body temperature (either too hot or too cold)
If you observe any of these symptoms in your friend, but you're not sure whether to get medical help, err on the side of caution and call VEMS 610.519.4444 or 911. If you don't believe it's necessary to seek medical attention, here's what you should do:
- Stop the person from drinking alcohol.
- Find a quiet place for the person to sit and relax (walking around is not the best idea if the person has lost coordination).
- Offer water, but remember that nothing except time can help a person "sober up."
- If your friend wants to lie down, make sure he/she lies on their side and place something behind their back to prevent them from rolling over.
- Monitor your friend's breathing while she sleeps to make sure it is not abnormally shallow or slow.
Three General Rules:
- Don't leave your friend alone, even if the person is conscious. Watch for signs of alcohol poisoning.
- Don't assume that they will make it home safely. The full effect of the alcohol may not have hit yet. If they start to vomit, have lost motor coordination, or is no longer coherent, it may be necessary to seek medical attention.
- Don't assume an unconscious person is sleeping. The individual may be suffering from alcohol poisoning.
How can you help?
If you observe any of the above, call VEMS 610.519.4444 or 911 immediately. Continue efforts to wake your friend, make sure they are lying on their side to prevent choking on vomit, and closely monitor breathing.