To quote one of my instructors back home, ” winning a fight is like being a rock star for the night” – and we all know what livin’ like a rock star entails. We’ve also all heard numerous UFC fighters shouting out where they’re having their after-party. Of course, they’re getting paid thousands of dollars to do so, but I highly doubt the fighters are sitting in the corner, sipping waters and orange juice all night. Even Fedor, one of the worlds best fighters, is known for his love of Vodka.
There’s obviously a big difference between heavily drinking while you’re preparing for a fight and having a few celebratory drinks to celebrate a win. However, if you’ve ever watched “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, you’ll often times see the fighters get absolutely wasted and do some of the most idiotic things imaginable. Running into walls, punching threw doors and of course, just outright drunk street fighting.
These are all fighters that are there for an intensive training camp & competition, yet they still opt to drink. Surely, alcohol must have a negative effect on their in-ring performance, but to what extent? The topic of how the consumption of alcohol effects your performance definitely deserves a closer look.
Alcohol On Cardiovascular Endurance
I’m in Thailand right now and of course, there’s a lot of temptation to go out and party. I allow myself only 1 day a week to go out and really let loose and that day is Saturday. The reason I chose Saturday as my “get crunk” night is because on Sunday, there’s no training. I’ve tried to go to Muay Thai after a night of drinking and according to my trainer, I “have no power”. Not only that, but I gassed out a lot quicker than usual.
As it turns out, there’s some pretty solid physiological explanations for the early onset of fatigue. First off, Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it makes you urinate a lot more often than usual. The frequent washroom trips eventually lead to dehydration, which as we already know, is highly detrimental to performance. When you’re dehydrated, less blood is able to make its way to the working muscles. With reduced blood delivery comes less oxygen and nutrient delivery as well. The reduction in both oxygen and nutrients are what cause the pre-mature fatigue. It’s recommended that you avoid heavy drinking for at least 72hrs prior to your fight or training session to ensure optimal performance. Sure, if it’s just a training, you can go and give it a shot a day or two later, but you’re likely to get submitted a few more times than usual.
Alcohol On Strength
Alcohol has depressant effects on the central nervous system. The central nervous system also happens to play a major role when it comes to strength. When neural function isn’t optimal, maximal strength will be drastically inhibited. Try doing your regular one-rep max on the bench press while you’re hung-over. It really isn’t the same. If alcohol consumption effects your strength in the weight room, you can rest assured that it’s effecting the power of your strikes and your effectiveness on the mat as well. Strength, speed, power, agility – they all rely on the efficiency of the central nervous system.
Alcohol consumption also effects your hormone levels. Testosterone; which is a male sex hormone produced in the testes, plays a major role when it comes to strength and aggression. We’ve all heard the term “roid rage” in reference to the overly-aggressive “juicepigs” that pump themselves full of testosterone. Well, when you increase your testosterone beyond the standard baseline levels, that’s what happens.
However, heavy alcohol consumption has been shown to decrease testosterone levels so you’ll get the opposite effect. Rather than being aggressive, a fighter with low testosterone levels will be more hesitant to engage in combat. On the flipside, heavy alcohol consumption has also been shown to increase cortisol levels (cortisol is a feminine hormone).
So What Can You Do?
Aside from not drinking (which isn’t always an option), there’s a few obvious ways you can reduce the negative effects.
1) Don’t overindulge. Small doses of alcohol can actually be very beneficial to your health. Beer and red wine are both high in antioxidants – the protectors of the cells. Small doses have also been linked to increases in HDL cholesterol – which is the good kind that cleanses the arteries. To optimize these benefits, stick to darker selections. Dark beers and wines are usually healthier than ones that are lighter in colour.
2) Drink 8-12 ounces of water for every serving of alcohol. This approach is most effective if the water is alternated between servings of alcohol. For example, have a shot then follow it up with some water. However, if necessary, you can drink the glasses of water when you get home from the bar. Just line them up and drink them down – you’ll be glad you did in the morning.
3) Don’t combine your alcohol with another diuretic – energy drinks for example. Most energy drinks contain caffeine which has diuretic effects similar to that of alcohol. The combination will cause you to become dehydrated even faster.
4) Keep in mind that the diuretic effects of alcohol will counteract some of the positive benefits from select supplements. Take creatine for example. Creatine is known for its cellular hydration effects. Cellular hydration, otherwise known as water retention, has been shown to have beneficial effects when it comes to promoting hypertrophy (muscle size). Alcohol on the other hand, causes the body to release water-weight through the urine. These types of effects are important to take into consideration before you go bar-hopping.
Honestly, it should sort of go without saying that if you’re in a serious training camp to prepare yourself for an upcoming fight – just don’t drink. However, if you have a long time until your next fight, allow yourself to live a little and have some drinks every now and then. If you train seriously but don’t fight and don’t plan too, then train hard, party hard. Live a little on the weekends. All pretty obvious (you’d think anyway).
To finish up, here’s a video I found of Mark Coleman perfectly demonstrating a “roid rage” and Fedor, showing his love for Vodka (at the end of the video).