Do Professional Triathletes Drink Alcohol ? Should You Do It!

Athletics and alcohol are often paired up together in common culture. Most of us have seen the commercials featuring runners or cyclists working out and then gathering together to drink their favorite low-carb beer.

Then of course there are the mass quantities of alcohol that are consumed by fans while watching professional sports both at the stadium and at home.

So, do professional triathletes drink alcohol?

Professional triathletes are much like the rest of us when it comes to their stance on alcohol. Some of them drink, but some don’t. Champion triathletes Mirinda Carfrae, Tim O’Donnel, and Linsey Corbin all admit to enjoying a glass or two of wine or beer even during their training season. Whether triathletes feel pressure to celebrate with alcohol or they just enjoy drinking, research shows serious recreational endurance athletes drink more than their sedentary counterparts.

When Should You Stop Drinking Before a Triathlon, Swim, Bike or Run Race?

It is common practice to stop alcohol intake a day or more before the competition. The final couple of days is the time to focus on drinking water rather than beer or wine.

When I have a really big race coming up, I forgo the extra calories from beer or wine for the last week or so. This helps me to be at my sharpest, and as fully hydrated as I can be. I tend to allow myself a single beer the night before the event to stave off the pre-race jitters.

Even if it might be a somewhat negative physical choice, the positive psychological effect it gives helps me to remain calm and go into race day less stressed and ready to compete.

Do Professional Cyclists Drink Alcohol?

Some professional cyclists might drink during the off-season, but during the training season, many teams forbid the indulgence in alcohol.

In the early 20th century, cyclists would regularly consume beer or wine while still in the saddle. Tour de France riders at the time would stop at bars along the route where they would eat and drink their fill, and then ride on to finish the stage. Fortunately, those days are long gone.

Today, the diets of professional cyclists, including what liquids they consume, are strictly controlled by team nutritionists. With so much money on the line for sponsorships and prize purses, they can’t afford to have their star performers giving anything less than their best.

Most professional cyclists are even careful about how much alcohol they consume in the off-season. Any weight gain or performance decreases that occur will make it that much harder to get back into top shape when racing season comes back around.

Is Beer Good for Endurance Athletes?

According to running legend Jim Fixx, beer is only good for endurance athletes if it is your competitor who is drinking it.

Carbs are good, but the rest is not. Unless it makes you sleep better, but then too much alcohol can make you sleep worse. People tend to go to sleep faster after imbibing, but many have a difficult time staying in deep sleep after a night out.

Some people might think that it is a good idea to use beer as a tool to replenish liquids and electrolytes that are lost during exercise. While this is possible, it’s not as effective as they would like to believe.

Alcohol is a poor source of carbohydrates. You can get loaded with beer, but your muscles will not get carbo-loaded. A 12-ounce can of beer has only 14 grams of carbohydrate, as compared to 40 grams in a can of soda.

Possibly the worst part of this method is that choosing to drink beer can fill you up and stop you from ingesting essential protein-rich foods.

How Does Alcohol Affect Endurance Athletes?

Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration as well as weight gain from the extra calories. Athletes can suffer from hangovers just like anyone else, which can negatively affect training performance.

  • Alcohol is a depressant. Apart from killing pain, it offers no performance edge. Pre-exercise alcohol hurts reaction time, accuracy, balance, eye-hand coordination, and endurance.
  • Alcohol has a diuretic effect; the more you drink, the more fluids you lose.  This is bad for recovery, bad for the next training run.
  • Alcohol stimulates the appetite. Moderate drinkers tend to consume alcohol calories on top of their regular caloric intake. These excess calories accumulate as body fat.
  • Drinks such as whiskey, cognac, and red wine are more likely to cause hangovers than other alcoholic beverages. The best hangover remedy is to not drink excessively in the first place.
  • Drinking alcohol can fill us up and prevent us from drinking water or sports drink that would actually be helpful.

What Is the Best Drink for Endurance?

Sports drinks like Gatorade are the best drink for endurance athletes to consume following a workout. The electrolytes (sugars and minerals) contained in sports drinks will help restore and feed the muscles as well as providing necessary hydration.

If exercising for an hour or more, having access to sports drink in the middle of the workout is advantageous to keep water and electrolyte levels high enough to keep you going all the way to the end. For that reason, many organized athletic endurance events will offer Gatorade or other sports drinks along the way to ensure the contestants are able to replenish their liquid levels. Also, check out our post on “Mixing Gatorade With Water, Should You Do It ?!

Before exercising begins, you can’t go wrong by drinking a big glass of plain old water. We tend to perform optimally when we start a workout properly hydrated. The best way to be hydrated is by drinking water since it is directly and quickly absorbed by the body’s cells. It might not taste as good as some other drinks, but water is usually a cheaper option and better for us in general.

What Sport Consumes the Most Alcohol?

Out of the three triathlon sports, runners almost certainly consume the most alcohol. But that is largely because there are so many more runners than there are cyclists or swimmers.

But alcohol intake is definitely a common theme in running culture. I’ve seen many people at running events wearing t-shirts that say “Will run for beer” or which have some similar alcohol-related message. There are countless running groups around the country who meet up at bars or breweries, go for a run, and then meet up again afterwards to enjoy a pint or two.

There are even events such as the Beer Mile. During this type of event, runners will complete a mile long race on a track while stopping each lap to drink a can of beer.

As you can see, alcohol consumption is commonplace among many endurance athletes. While not everyone indulges, there is a good percentage of triathletes, runners, swimmers and cyclists who enjoy a few drinks now and again. How about you – where do you stand on the subject?

Brad Birky

Brad Birky is an endurance athlete and trained chef who has qualified for and completed the Boston Marathon as well as multiple Ironman distance triathlons

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