The Effects of Alcohol on Long Distance Cycling

A bicycle and an alcohol bottle

As an old guy cyclist, I've learned a thing or two about the effects of alcohol on my performance. I've also seen firsthand how alcohol can impact the performance of other cyclists, both in training and racing.

What Alcohol Does to Your Body

When you drink alcohol, your body prioritizes processing the alcohol over other functions, such as repairing muscle tissue and hydrating. This means that alcohol can have a number of negative effects on your long distance cycling performance, including:

  • Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you pee more. This can lead to dehydration, which can impair your performance and increase your risk of heat stroke.
  • Impaired coordination. Alcohol can impair your coordination and balance, which can make it difficult to ride safely.
  • Reduced reaction time. Alcohol can slow down your reaction time, which can make it difficult to react to hazards on the road.
  • Increased fatigue. Alcohol can make you feel tired and sluggish, which can make it difficult to maintain a high level of performance for long periods of time.
  • Delayed recovery. Alcohol can slow down your body's recovery process, which means it will take longer for your muscles to repair and for you to feel refreshed.

How to Avoid the Negative Effects of Alcohol

If you're planning on doing a long distance ride, it's best to avoid alcohol altogether. However, if you do choose to drink, there are a few things you can do to minimize the negative effects:

  • Drink in moderation. The more alcohol you drink, the more negative effects it will have on your performance.
  • Hydrate properly. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after drinking alcohol.
  • Eat a healthy meal. Eating a healthy meal before drinking alcohol can help to slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
  • Get enough sleep. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep, so make sure you get plenty of rest after drinking.


While a few drinks after a long ride may not have a significant impact on your performance, drinking alcohol before or during a long ride is not a good idea. If you want to maximize your performance and stay safe on the road, it's best to avoid alcohol altogether.

Here are some additional tips for avoiding the negative effects of alcohol on long distance cycling:

  • Plan ahead. If you know you're going to be drinking, plan ahead and make sure you have plenty of water and healthy snacks on hand.
  • Know your limits. If you're not sure how much alcohol you can handle, start with a small amount and see how you feel.
  • Listen to your body. If you start to feel tired, dizzy, or nauseated, stop drinking and take a break.
  • Have a designated driver. If you're going to be drinking, make sure you have a designated driver who will not be drinking.

By following these tips, you can help to minimize the negative effects of alcohol on your long distance cycling performance.


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