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Athletics and Alcohol - counterproductive?

Margaret Sheridan | Interrobang | Sports | October 1st, 2007

If there's one quality that women tend to find repugnant on men, it's man-boobs. Just writing that makes me laugh, because you know that once your boyfriend can fit into your bra, you have a definite problem.

Now did you know that heavy drinking in men can actually lead to breast enlargement?

Well, surprisingly it can. And that's just one of the many effects drinking can have on one's person, and it's really just the tip of the iceberg for athletes.

“Some people might argue that it can take away the edge of being nervous,” said Rick Melo, a Fitness Consultant at Fitness 101. “But at the same time it counterbalances it. Your reactions aren't as good, it can lead to heart problems, problems with your liver, high blood pressure.”

On top of that binge drinking actually lowers the amount of testosterone a man's body naturally creates which leads to a decrease in aggression, muscle mass, muscle recovery and athletic performance according to a study done by the University of California, San Diego. Additionally, it can also decrease sperm development, cause testicular shrinkage and the aforementioned breast enlargement. In women it can actually increase the risk of breast cancer.

However, it doesn't end there for the drinkers.

Consuming alcohol, even more than 24 hours before a game, increases the risk of developing muscle cramps, can slow the healing time making it take longer to recover from injury, lead to hypothermia when playing in cooler temperatures, and slows the nervous systems response time, which in turn affects co-ordination, accuracy and balance.

“Binge drinking can have serious effects on your training,” Melo continued. “Your strength will be down the next day, and chances are you aren't sleeping as much as you should because you're going out late. You won't be getting the results that you could.”

“Alcohol can also lead to dehydration, which is obviously a problem when you're playing a sport,” explained Mike Lindsay, Fanshawe's Manager of Athletics. “The teams all have the same rules as the college, we don't allow alcohol on the buses, at games and tournaments.”

Dehydration, as Lindsay mentioned, is a big problem for athletes. Muscle pulls, strains and cramps are all side effects of dehydration. But more importantly intense work-outs or practices in either extremely hot or cold weather while dehydrated can actually lead to brain impairments and sometimes death according to the UC San Diego study.

“But it's hard for students because it's so socially accepted, and expected sometimes,” Lindsay continued. “But they just have to learn that it really doesn't help their game. And like everything in life it's better in moderation.”
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