Does Alcohol Affect Your Rowing?


Is alcohol bad for sport – 75.4 million results. Enough evidence surely to be elementary.

Rowing in many cases is simply a battle of bodies. As technique becomes a less deciding factor, races are won and lost by the body and the mind.

Alcohol inhibits both

Alcohol slows you down both physically and mentally, reduces your coordination and balance and considerably diminishes aerobic performance – surely the key aspects of rowing.

Frighteningly, it seems Alcohol and Rowing were designed to go hand in hand. Glasses are often called “Vessels”and sadly even a drinking games’ acronym mimics “The B.o.a.t. Race”.

What alcohol does to your body


James Jacoben’s column explains that “Alcohol is a carbohydrate that is converted into a fatty acid instead of being turned into glucose like other types of carbohydrates. The result from this process is extra fat storage, which is not what you want if you’re trying to get in shape. This puts your fat metabolism on hold and you just have to work harder to burn the same amount of fat than if you didn’t drink.”

Put simply – Alcohol reduces your potential.

Alcoholics often claim that their “drinking hurts no one but themselves”. Australian rower Joshua Booth proved that alcohol does indeed hurt yourself however the indirect consequences are often ignored. Not only does alcohol ruin the individual performance but also the performance of the crew and from there the coach, the club or in Booth’s case – the nation.

In the sport of rowing, it is the indirect consequences which appear to have the bigger impact. More often than not, you’re a part of a crew. That means you depend on them and they depend on you. Alcohol tests trust. To have a successful crew, each member must have a sense of trust in each of their crew members and the knowledge that dependence is mutual. It’s difficult to maintain a level of professionalism if your crew don’t. By drinking alcohol,you are limiting both your own potential but also that of the crew.

Read what one student rowing club captain said when he found himself in direct conflict with the student union.

Top athletes have total trust

In the Sydney 2000 Olympics, the French pair of Jean-Christophe Rolland  and Michel Andrieux were renowned for their early sprint for gold. That push required faith in themselves and complete trust in their preparation and each other. One can imagine that without that absolute trust they wouldn’t have attempted such a courageous attack nor would it have succeeded.

Greg Searle recalls in his book: If Not Now, When? The French connection and trust in each other.

“On the mark, Ed calls our set plan. Plan A. Our only plan. ’750. Lengthen. Hard. Push.’

A second or two later, the French hit the same mark.

‘Pour nos enfants!’ Michel Andrieux then reels off the names of both his and Rolland’s children. There is no other call. […]At their core, Michel and Jean-Christophe were connected in a way Ed and I could only dream of.”


But take heart, Antonia van Deventer has shown us the path to recover from smoking 30 cigarettes a day and drinking heavily to become an Olympic athlete. In short and as you’d expect it is simply work. Hard work!

So while van Deventer ended up succeeding you have to consider just how much better she could’ve been had she not initially tainted her body.

“Drinking even only very modest alcohol amount decreases your overall physical performance.”

Could it be any clearer?


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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. UBSport Rowing

    Key issue for Further-Ed. Student-athletes are thrown into an alcohol centric culture and expected to magically know what to do.

  2. UBSport Rowing

    Often made worse not only by peers but more damagingly by athlete’s trusted support group (parents,tutors,coaches) &institution.

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