Effect of a small dose of alcohol on the endurance performance of trained cyclists

Alcohol Alcohol. May-Jun 2009;44(3):278-83. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agn108. Epub 2009 Jan 9.


Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of an acute small ethanol (EtOH) dose (0.5 ml EtOH/kg fat-free mass, combined with carbohydrate) in a drink on endurance performance of trained cyclists.

Methods: Thirteen well-trained male cyclists took part in this study. A 60-min cycling endurance performance test (time trial) was performed in a calorimetric chamber after drinking an EtOH (30 +/- 1.8 ml) or a non-EtOH control (C) drink.

Results: Overall, EtOH induced a significant decrease in the average cycling power output (PO) (EtOH: 233 +/- 23 W versus C: 243 +/- 24 W, P < 0.01). The time course of mechanical PO showed an early decrease during the EtOH trial as compared to C (P < 0.01). Due to the lower PO, oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production and glucose oxidation were significantly lower (P < 0.05) as compared to C. Relative to PO, heart rate response and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were increased by EtOH as compared to C (P < 0.05). In contrast, EtOH did not influence gross work efficiency, glycaemia and blood lactate concentration.

Conclusions: These results show that the acute low dose of EtOH decreased endurance performance. An increase of cardio-vascular strain and psychobiological mechanisms may explain this decrease of endurance performance.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / metabolism
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Athletic Performance / physiology*
  • Athletic Performance / psychology
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Exercise Test / drug effects
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Exercise Test / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / drug effects*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol