Sports scientists actually study this stuff! I wonder how hard it is to recruit subjects for this kind of research?
Buzzkills Steve Stannard, Matthew Barnes, and Toby Mundel at Massey University in New Zealand gave 11 male subjects screwdriver cocktails after exercise sessions and compared their muscle performance with another session in which the volunteers drank only orange juice after their workouts. They found that moderate alcohol consumption significantly degrades post workout recovery.
From the abstract of a study performed at Massey University in New Zealand, with the wonky title “Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise” :
This study investigated the effects of acute moderate alcohol intake on muscular performance during recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage.
Eleven healthy males performed 300 maximal eccentric contractions of the quadriceps muscles of one leg on an isokinetic dynamometer. They then consumed a beverage containing 1g/kg bodyweight ethanol (as vodka and orange juice) (ALC). On another occasion they performed an equivalent bout of eccentric exercise on the contralateral leg after which they consumed an isocaloric quantity of orange juice (OJ). Measurement of maximal isokinetic (concentric and eccentric) and isometric torque produced across the knee, plasma creatine kinase (CK) concentrations and muscle soreness were made before and at 36 and 60h following each exercise bout.
All measures of muscle performance were significantly reduced at 36 and 60h post-exercise compared to pre-exercise measures (all p<0.05). The greatest decreases in peak strength were observed at 36h with losses of 12%, 28% and 19% occurring for OJ isometric, concentric, and eccentric contractions, respectively. However, peak strength loss was significantly greater in ALC with the same performance measures decreasing by 34%, 40% and 34%, respectively. Post-exercise plasma creatine kinase activity and ratings of muscle soreness were not different between conditions (both p>0.05).
These results indicate that consumption of even moderate amounts of alcohol following eccentric-based exercise magnifies the normally observed losses in dynamic and static strength. Therefore, to minimise exercise related losses in muscle function and expedite recovery, participants in sports involving eccentric muscle work should avoid alcohol-containing beverages in the post-event period.