Most adult Sunday league players — and probably more professional players than you realise — have been forced to take to a football field whilst feeling the effects of alcohol. Right up until the 1980s, the best football players in the land could be seen propping up bars until the early hours on the eve of a big match. How did they manage this feat? Well, they probably had a few coping strategies.
Alcohol is a toxin, and it has a wide range of negative effects on the body. Excessive consumption leads to inflammation, and that puts extra stress on the body. In addition, your hormonal levels can be affected, and your immune system can be significantly impaired. But perhaps the most serious side-effect of alcohol consumption is dehydration. This zaps your energy levels and causes vital vitamins, minerals and electrolytes to leave your body.
The simple truth is that alcohol has a profound effect on many areas of your physical and mental well-being. From the lost sleep it causes to the damage it can cause to your liver, alcohol is an enemy of any serious athlete, and the best way to avoid its effects is to abstain from it completely.
But if you ever get caught up in the moment or decide that “a couple of drinks won’t hurt me”, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the side-effects of alcohol in preparation for a football match.
Drink carefully and prepare
If you absolutely must drink alcohol during the run-up to a big match, it’s important to do so with care. There are a few things you can do to ensure the effects are kept to a minimum.
Eat before drinking — Eat a meal high in protein and natural fats before heading out. This will reduce the rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your blood. Don’t worry about carbohydrates, as the alcohol you consume will contain all the carbs you’ll need.
Drink lots of water — Before you start drinking, drink a litre of water. When you start drinking, alternate between water and an alcoholic drink. And at the end of your evening drink another litre of water before heading to bed.
One last thing: Don’t mix your drinks, and stay away from spirits. But if you can’t resist temptation, make sure you stick to clear spirits such as vodka and gin.
Fighting a hangover
If all your efforts have failed to prevent a hangover on the day of a match or big training session, there are a few things that will mitigate the effects.
This is a type of algae that reportedly prevents many of the unwanted side-effects of a hangover. High in minerals and vitamins, Chlorella is a great detox agent. Take five grams in the morning as soon as you wake up. Of course, taking some just before you go to sleep is better, but remembering to do so might be tough if you’ve had a few! Ask your local pharmacist for chlorella, as you probably won’t find it in general stores and supermarkets.
One of the key minerals our body loses during a hangover is potassium, which is flushed out of the system during the process of dehydration. You can replace this important mineral by eating potassium-rich foods such as spinach, avocado, bananas and coconut.
While your coach probably wouldn’t want you downing lots of sugary drinks just before a match, certain brands are known to boost the enzymes that break alcohol down — which can help your body to recover more quickly. Sprite and 7-up in particular deliver this benefit, so have a plentiful supply available in the morning.
There a natural chemicals in asparagus that boost the enzymes responsible for breaking down toxins such as alcohol. If possible, eat some asparagus before you go to bed. Otherwise, a healthy breakfast of oily fish, eggs and asparagus is perfect pre-match food when you’re hungover.
A maximum of two cups of coffee in the morning — along with a lot of water — will help your body to recover from alcohol consumption. The caffeine in coffee not only gives your energy levels a synthetic boost, it reduces the swelling of the blood vessels in your head.
The best way to reduce the effects of drinking before a match is simple: don’t drink at all. But if you do, it’s always best to be prepared for a quick recovery.