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AMERICAN COLLEGE

of SPORTS htEVlClNE_ The Use of Alcohol in Sports


P OSITION S T A N D

Based upon a comprehensive analysis of the available general conclusions relative to the effects of alcohol on
research relative to the effects of alcohol upon human physical performance. In most of the research studies,
physical performance, it is the position of the American a small dose consisted of 1.5-2.0 ounces (45-60 ml) of
College of Sports Medicine that: alcohol, equivalent to a blood alcohol level (BAL) of
0.04-0.05 in the average-size male. A moderate dose
1. The acute ingestion of alcohol can exert a deleterious was equivalent to 3-4 ounces (90-12Oml), or a BAL of
effect upon a wide variety of psychomotor skills about 0.10. Few studies employed a large dose, with a
such as reaction time, hand-eye coordination, ac- BAL of 0.15.
curacy, balance, and complex coordination.
2. Acute ingestion of alcohol will not substantially
influence metabolic or physiological functions essen- 1. Athletes may consume alcohol to improve psycho-
tial to physical performance such as energy metab- logical function, but it is psychomotor performance
olism, maximal oxygen consumption (VOZ~&, that deteriorates most. A consistent tinding is the
heart rate, stroke volume, cardiac output, muscle impairment of information processing. In sports
blood flow, arteriovenous oxygen difference, or res- involving rapid reactions to changing stimuli, per-
piratory dynamics. Alcohol consumption may im- formance will be affected most adversely. Research
pair body temperature regulation during prolonged has shown that small to moderate amounts of alco-
exercise in a cold environment. hol will impair reaction time (8,25,26,34-36,42)
3. Acute alcohol ingestion will not improve and may hand-eye coordination (8,9,14,40), accuracy (36,39),
decrease strength, power, local muscular endurance, balance (3), and complex coordination or gross mo-
speed, and cardiovascular endurance. tor skills (4,8,22,36,41). Thus, while Coopersmith
4. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States (10) suggests that alcohol may improve self-con&
and is a major contributing factor to accidents and dence, the available research reveals a deterioration
their consequences. Also, it has been documented in psychomotor performance.
widely that prolonged excessive alcohol consump- 2. Many studies have been conducted relative to the
tion can elicit pathological changes in the liver, effects of acute alcohol ingestion upon metabolic
heart, brain, and muscle, which can lead to disability and physiological functions important to physical
and death. performance. Alcohol ingestion exerts no beneficial
5. Serious and continuing efforts should be made to influence relative to energy sources for exercise.
educate athletes, coaches, health and physical edu- Muscle glycogen at rest was signilicantly lower after
cators, physicians, trainers, the sports media, and alcohol consumption, compared to control (30).
the general public regarding the effects of acute EIowever, in exercise at 50% maximal oxygen uptake
alcohol ingestion upon human physical performance (VOzmaX), total glycogen depletion in the leg muscles
and on the potential acute and chronic problems of was not affected by alcohol (30). Moreover,Juhlin-
excessive alcohol consumption. Dannfelt et al. (29) have shown that although alcohol
does not impair lipolysis or free fatty acid (FFA)
Research Background for the Position Stand utilization during exercise, it may decreasesplanch-
nit glucose output, decrease the potential contribu-
This position stand is concerned primarily with the tion from liver gluconeogenesis, elicit a greater de-
effects of acute alcohol ingestion upon physical per- cline in blood glucose levels leading to hypoglyce-
formance and is based upon a comprehensive review mia, and decrease the leg muscle uptake of glucose
of the pertinent international literature. When one in- during the latter stages of a 3-h run. Other studies
terprets these results, several precautions should be kept (17,19) have supported the theory concerning the
in mind. First, there are varying reactions to alcohol hypoglycemic effect of alcohol during both moderate
ingestion, not only among individuals, but also within and prolonged exhaustive exercise in a cold environ-
an individual depending upon the circumstances. Sec- ment. These studies also noted a signiIicant loss of
ond, it is virtually impossible to conduct double-blind body heat and a resultant drop in body temperature
placebo research with alcohol because subjects can al- and suggested that alcohol may impair temperature
ways tell when alcohol has been consumed. Neverthe- regulation. These changes may impair endurance
less, the results cited below provide us with some valid capacity.

Tk I!JM of Akohol in Sports, @ 1982 American College of Sports Medicine (hfSSE, 14:6, 1982, pp. ix-xi)
In one study (5), alcohol has been shown to,in- geal and esophageal cancer, and brain damage, its
crease oxygen uptake significantly during submaxi- most prominent effect is liver damage (11,3 1,32).
mal work and simultaneously to decrease mechani- 5. Because alcohol has not been shown to help improve
cal efficiency, but this finding has not been con- physical perhormance capacity, but may lead to de-
firmed by others (6,15,33,44). Alcohol appears to creased ability in certain events, it is important for
have no effect on maximal or near-maximal vOz all those associated with the conduct of sports to
(5-7,44). educate athletes against its use in conjunction with
The effects of alcohol on cardiovascular-respira- athletic contests. Moreover, the other dangers inher-
tory parameters associated with oxygen uptake are ent in alcohol abuse mandate that concomitantly we
variable at submaximal exercise intensities and are educate our youth to make intelligent choices re-
negligible at maximal levels. Alcohol has been shown garding alcohol consumption. Ansties rule, or limit
by some investigators to increase submaximal exer- (I), may be used as a reasonable guideline to mod-
cise heart rate (5,20,23) and cardiac output (5), but erate, safe drinking for adults (12). In essence, no
these heart rate findings have not been confirmed more than 0.5 ounces of pure alcohol per 23 kg
by others (6,15,33,36,44). Alcohol had no effect on body weight should be consumed in any one day.
stroke volume (5), pulmonary ventilation (5,15), or This would be the equivalent of three bottles of 4.5%
muscle blood flow (16,30) at submaximal levels of ker, three 4-ounce glasses of 14% wine, or three
exercise, but did decrease peripheral vascular resist- ounces of 50% whiskey for a 68-kg person.
ance (5). During maximal exercise, alcohol ingestion
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The Use ofAlcohol in Sports, @ 1982 American College of Sports Medicine (MSSE, 146, 1982, pp. ix-xi)