If you're like most people, you may associate having a glass of wine with unwinding and promoting relaxation before bed.
“Alcohol is a depressant, so it often causes a drowsy feeling, which is why many people believe alcohol can help them sleep better,” certified sleep science coach and founder of SleepingOcean, Alex Savy, says.
However, the reality is a bit different. Once the effects of alcohol wear off, the brain experiences a surge of energy, which often happens in the middle of the night (especially if you were drinking in the evening).
“This surge of energy causes disruptions in one’s natural sleep cycles, leading to nighttime awakenings, ruined sleep architecture, and poor sleep quality overall,” Savy explains.
And, while it’s never enjoyable to experience these “hangover” symptoms the day after a boozy night, it’s more problematic when habitual. Skimping on rest routinely negatively impacts energy levels, training efforts, muscle repair, and workout performance. For these reasons, it is highly advisable to keep alcohol intake to a minimum, or even a complete halt, when prepping for a race. A great alternative is Athletic Brewing Company's high-quality, non-alcoholic brews, in the many delicious varieties they're constantly brewing up.
Why Sleep Matters
Sleep quality affects endurance, and you’ll have more energy to maximize workout time and advance in training after a good night’s slumber. “Endurance is responsible for a person’s energy levels, and additionally, a lack of restful sleep may affect the body’s ability to metabolize glucose, which is fuel for muscles during endurance workouts (including running),” Savy says.
Savy notes that poor sleep quality can increase fatigue and impair memory retention and focus. “This means runners will be more prone to accidents, and daytime fatigue means they will be more likely to run slower,” Savy explains. “Sleep deprivation is also linked to faster exhaustion during endurance exercises,” Savy continues.
Sleep is also pivotal for muscle repair, especially after training days. “Sleep is important when training for a race because it allows your body to repair and recover from the physical demands of training, and it also helps to reduce the risk of injury and illness,” says registered dietitian Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD. “Adequate sleep can improve performance by helping to regulate hormones, improve mood, and maintain a healthy immune system,” Best continues.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults, and while bedtime and wake time will depend on individual needs and scheduling, it’s best to be consistent with sleep and wake times during the week—yes, including on weekends, too. “It’s worth mentioning that going to bed between 10 and 11 pm is considered the best option for cardiovascular health,” Savy says. So, if your schedule allows it, try and snooze within the hour.
How Alcohol Consumption Can Affect Training
Drinking alcohol can make it harder to perform during workouts, and you might feel more lethargic and less motivated, as a result. “Alcohol consumption leads to increased insulin secretion and lower blood sugar,” Savy says. This leads to low energy and can hinder performance, especially in relation to endurance training, Savy notes.
Less time spent in deep sleep can make you more lethargic the following day. Alcohol interferes with the body’s natural sleeping pattern and circadian rhythm (aka, the body's internal clock). “Alcohol can cause awakenings during the night and make it harder to fall back asleep, thus leading to poor sleep quality,” Best explains. This may lead to fewer hours of sleep in total.
Plus, alcohol can also interfere with fueling and hydration efforts. “Because alcohol is a diuretic, it can lead to dehydration, which can be dangerous during endurance exercises, like running,” Savy says.
Benefits of Staying Sober When Training
Staying sober is one of the best things to do for improving sleep quality, in general. “When a person removes alcohol, they remove one of the biggest sleep disruptions, and as a result, they are more likely to sleep throughout the night and feel well-rested in the morning,” Savy says.
“Reduced nighttime trips to the bathroom (as alcohol is a diuretic) may also lead to better sleep, and healthy sleep also means more time for muscles and body tissues to repair,” Savy adds. What’s more, alcohol consumption often decreases protein synthesis, Savy notes, so staying sober when training may help promote muscle growth and optimal rest and repair, too. “Staying sober allows muscles to repair and recover fully, which can improve training outcomes,” Best says.
You may also find it easier to maintain a consistent sleep schedule without all the disruptions, as well as clock in more valuable time spent in deep, restorative slumber.
It’s natural to want to grab a beer when you’re out socializing with friends or hitting up happy hour with coworkers, as social gatherings often do include booze.
To avoid feeling left out or awkward—and without compromising sleep quality later that night, too—swap traditional beer for a non-alcoholic brew, which you can easily find at many restaurants and bars, pick up at the store, or bring from home. A non-alcoholic beverage, such as a non-alcoholic brew, is an excellent choice for athletes looking to minimize or avoid alcohol when training.
Alcohol content (the alcohol by volume percentage) is less than 0.5% in non-alcoholic beers. Athletic Brewing Co. offers a wide selection of non-alcoholic beer—all distinct in taste, ingredients, food pairing recommendations, and tasting notes to appease any type of craving while still being full of flavor.
They even churn out non-alcoholic brews such as Athletic Brewing Co’s extra dark, “All Out,” which is perfect for fans of a roasty stout-inspired brew with notes of chocolate and coffee. A lighter option, such as Athletic Brewing Co.’s Athletic Lite, a crisp and refreshing everyday brew that’s full of flavor.