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  • Writer's pictureBen Farnsworth

Training and Alcohol over Christmas

Coming up to Christmas, especially when you work in media, it is pretty hard to stay away from the odd glass/pint of beer (or more) so here are some of the truths around having a drink and how it affects training.  Personally the main issue has not been the weight aspect when training (I am quite lucky in the respect) it is more that I miss training sessions when I've had a few too many the night before.  The plan is to go alcohol free in Q1 coming up to Marathon des Sables with one week off when I am hopefully snowboarding!

Q: What are your guidelines for drinking alcohol? A: Research shows that in moderation, alcohol, particularly red wine, does carry some health benefits (in wine, it’s heart-healthy antioxidants). Formal recommendations for consumption are one drink per day for women and two for men, but it’s important to remember that everyone metabolizes and tolerates alcohol differently.

Q: Will it make me fat? A: Alcohol is relatively high in calories (7 calories per gram in pure alcohol). For the athlete looking to trim body fat, cutting out alcohol is perhaps the easiest way to achieve desired results on the scale. However, for the triathlete who trains well and eats well most of the time, the occasional glass won’t detrimentally affect body weight.

Q: When is the best time to have a drink? A: Enjoying your favourite cocktail at the end of the day can be a way to relax and help strike some life/training balance. In fact, some of the athletes at the very top of the sport do exactly that. For multiple Ironman 70.3 winner Kelly Williamson, drinking a good IPA brew while cooking dinner signifies that the day is done. “It’s something I truly enjoy,” she says. “I know that practically speaking, a regular beer will not negatively affect my training or racing. On the contrary, I think it helps me because I would probably be grumpy and resentful of my profession if I told myself that I couldn’t have it!”

For 2010 Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae and her ITU World Long Course champion partner Tim O’Donnell, a bottle of good wine is a regular at the dinner table: “Tim and I enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner a few nights per week,” she says. “I don’t think it takes anything away from training (unless we go for bottle number two) and, in fact, I think it helps me unwind and relax after a long day.”

Q: Are post-race beers OK? A: There are definitely drinks and snacks better suited to promoting recovery. However, when you consider the primary goals of recovery are to replace fluids, restore glycogen and assist in repair, beer doesn’t stack up too badly. While alcohol can be dehydrating due to its diuretic effects, the truth is that a drink will not dehydrate you if it provides more fluids than the rate of diuresis. So for beer, particularly light beer, you are actually drinking more fluids than you will expel. The carbohydrate content of beer also helps to replace depleted glycogen. Beer’s main drawback is the lack of protein to promote tissue repair. Where one or two finish-line beers are just fine, over-indulgence will hinder recovery—by making you less likely to follow good recovery practices (stretching, eating well, getting a massage).


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