The Core Diet Blog

“I limit alcohol intake to no more than one (1) drink per day.”

It is well-reported that during periods of heavy training and racing, athletes are more susceptible to, and may experience, an increase in upper respiratory infection (URI).  A “window of altered immunity” following prolonged or heavy exertion exists (that may last between three and 72 hours), wherein many components of the immune system exhibit change. This window is an opportunity for viruses and bacteria to gain a foothold. In addition, factors such as travel, low energy availability, and high levels of stress and anxiety also put athletes at risk. So, what can we do from a nutritional and lifestyle standpoint to combat getting sick?

The Core Diet Immunity Scorecard provides an opportunity to check in with yourself and your coach to ensure you are taking all steps possible to stay healthy.  Alcohol intake is a piece of the immunity puzzle.  Read below to find out more.

  • According to the National Institutes of Health, one “standard drink” contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, examples of which are: 

  1. 12 oz of regular beer (~5% alcohol)
  2. 8-9 oz of malt liquor (~7% alcohol)
  3. 5 fl oz wine (~12% alcohol)
  4. 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits such as rum, gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey, etc. (~40% alcohol)

  • It is known that alcohol inhibits the functions of the cells that ingest and destroy invading microorganisms (i.e., neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages).  Alcohol also alters the production of signaling molecules that help coordinate the immune response (i.e., cytokines).  And finally, alcohol adversely affects the functions of the cells that mediate the immune response against specific microorganisms and long-term immunity (i.e., T cells and B cells).  

  • Although most associate binge drinking with deleterious effects on the body, the above can occur even with moderate doses of alcohol.  For example, in one study, 11 oz of beer a day for women and 22 oz of beer a day for men, for 30 days, altered immune system function.  In another study, just one dose of 0.6 grams of alcohol per kilogram body weight (which equates to roughly 2 drinks for a person weighing 150 lbs), impacted the immune response significantly.  

  • Besides the direct blow to the immune system, alcohol also indirectly impacts your body’s ability to fight infection, recover and stay healthy by interfering with sleep.  Although most feel alcohol helps them fall asleep, it negatively impacts the quality of sleep and affects the neurotransmitters that influence wake-sleep regulation.

  • A good goal is to drink no more than 1 standard drink per day (2 for larger men), to reduce alcohol intake even further (or altogether) around periods of heavy training or racing, and to avoid binge drinking always. 
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