Erin Abzug

Fatigue, confusion, headache, thirst and weakness — also known as weekend hangovers —  do not mix well with the physical demands of being an accomplished Cal Poly athlete.

Peers Understanding Listening Speaking Educating (PULSE) peer health educator Cassie Loller explained that hangovers inhibit an athlete’s ability to function, slow an athlete down and make every activity harder because the body is aching.

Drinking alcohol is, “putting something into our body that (our body) doesn’t know how to break down,” Loller said. How the body adapts and tries to deal with this substance can be detrimental to the performance of an athlete.

The body begins to ache, starting with dehydration — one of alcohol’s side effects. When alcohol is consumed, it goes directly to the stomach and is absorbed by the blood, igniting an instant trigger to dehydration.

Dehydration is not ideal for an athlete whose body requires large amounts of fluids to perform for extended periods of time. A lack of water will wear an athlete down, causing them to become fatigued and more prone to immune system deficiencies.

Football defensive back and communication studies freshman Andrew Walsh said the most negative effect alcohol has on an athlete’s body is dehydration because it causes muscle cramps.

Alcohol reduces the ability to build and recover muscles. Loller said alcohol weakens the body’s protein production, hindering any growth of muscles.

For muscles to go through an adequate recovery period, they require testosterone. Alcohol contains a toxin which impedes testosterone production. If an athlete is consuming alcohol and then performing, their muscles are at risk of damage and tears.

Another part of the body at risk of disruption is its metabolism. The body’s metabolism does not know how to break down alcohol.

“The metabolism puts its energy into breaking down and using the calories from the alcohol first, before it breaks down any fat in the body,” Loller said.

If an athlete is continually consuming alcohol, their body is less apt to burn off fat which can lead to weight gain.

Athletes put a lot of time and effort into exercising and if they choose to drink regularly, they may be counteracting their efforts.

Alcohol not only affects the physical body, but it is mentally suppressing as well. As a depressant, it can create emotional stress for athletes. They may become less motivated or feel distressed and agitated.

Alcohol directly disrupts the brain, causing logical thinking to become impaired, Loller said. A lack of focus can be detrimental to the coherency of a sports team.

The rule against drinking during Cal Poly’s sports seasons is to refrain from alcohol 48 hours prior to game day.

“There’s no rule against it, but no one drinks,” Walsh said.

Linebacker and communication studies senior Kennith Jackson also said players do not drink before games.

Team morale is essential to the success of a team and with a majority of players who value athletics over drinking, as Walsh said, Cal Poly sports have been able to shine.

“It is about priorities, and when athletes are in season, that’s their priority,” Loller said.

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1 Comment

  1. Erin,
    I am 15 years old and I am doing a project on student athletes and under-age drinking. I have read your article today and I agree with your facts. All of what you have said is what my class has learned in my health class. This is very important information and should be shown to many athletes that drink. Also, it is bad for young athletes to drink because it can affect the brain development. This is why the legal age for drinking is 21, because our brain is fully or almost fully developed. Thank you for your information on this blog, and this will help me immensely on my project.

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