OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of moderate amounts of ethanol on the GH and cortisol responses to physical exercise.
METHODS: Ten normal men underwent three bicycle ergometer tests. Test were carried out in basal conditions (control test) or after drinking 0.5 or 0.75 g/kg BW ethanol. Tests lasted 15 min in all subjects; the workload was increased at 3 min intervals from time 0 until exhaustion. Non-endocrine physiological parameters (NEPP), such as heart rate, blood pressure, ventilation, frequency of breathing, tidal volume, oxygen consumption, carbon oxide production and respiratory exchange ratio were measured from time 0 until exhaustion. Serum GH and cortisol levels were evaluated in blood samples taken at 5-10 min intervals over a 50 min period from time 0.
RESULTS: Neither basal values, nor exercise-induced changes in NEPP were altered by ethanol drinking. Both GH and cortisol levels significantly rose during the exercise control test. The hormonal responses did not change after 0.5 g/kg BW ethanol, whereas they significantly decreased after 0.75 g/kg BW ethanol.
CONCLUSIONS: Modification of the GH and cortisol responses to exercise represents an "endocrine window" of the effects that even moderate ethanol drinking produces in the CNS. The data show that 0.75 g/kg BW ethanol is the minimal amount producing significant inhibitory effects on the GH and cortisol responses to physical exercise. In view of the important roles played by GH and cortisol during physical activity, even moderate ethanol drinking must be avoided before sport.