Broad Street Training: When to Cut Out Alcohol

Attention, Broad Street runners: You should probably skip happy hour this week.

Newsflash, ya’ll: Running and alcohol are not good bedfellows. Which is frustrating because who doesn’t crave a nice, cold (and, um, well-deserved) beer after a run?

If you’re training for Broad Street (it’s just 11 days away! Eeeep!), you should consider laying off the hard stuff until after you cross the finish line. Turns out, alcohol can really hurt your athletic performance.

Eugene Hong, sports medicine chief and chair of the Department of Family, Community and Preventive Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine, says that alcohol is a powerful diuretic, meaning it increases the rate of urination.

“From a training standpoint, I would be concerned about experiencing dehydration. Even a little dehydration has a measurable effect on performance,” he says.

He adds that drinking can put undue stress on the cardiovascular system, especially the heart. When consumed in large quantities, alcohol can be toxic to the body. Hong says that while alcohol will usually clear the system within 24 hours, its effects can last several days.

“The sooner you stop drinking before a race, the better,” he says. “At distance events like the Broad Street Run, we really worry about things like heat illness, hyponatremia [a condition caused by too little salt in the body] and cardiac problems. Alcohol use can put people at higher risk for these things.”

So let’s cut to the chase: When do Broad Streeters need to start skipping happy hour and substitute water for beer and cocktails?

In a perfect world, Hong says, you would have started cutting down or eliminating alcohol four to six weeks before the race. (Whoopsie.) This optimizes your training and gives your body a chance to physiologically adapt.

But all’s not lost: Hong says a weeklong detox can help, too, and the more alcohol-free days you can tack on, the better.

So in other words, start your dry spell … now.