June 4, 2014
Booze Balance
By Emily Beers
North West athletes open up about their drinking habits. 
North West athletes open up about their drinking habits. 

North West athletes open up about their drinking habits.

Cole Sager


Rory Zambard


Ben Stoneberg


Adam Neiffer


Kelsey Nagel


Ashleigh Moe


Main photo / Emily Carothers


On May 18, Cole Sager earned his first ticket to the CrossFit Games after winning the North West Regional competition in Kent, Washington.

Most 23-year-olds would celebrate over some beers or tequila shots.

Not this 23-year-old.

“I have never had a sip of alcohol. Never tasted any kind,” Sager said.

“I like the occasional glass of milk. Does that count for anything?” he joked.

Sager doesn’t judge those who do drink, but choosing to avoid alcohol all together has been a good decision for him.

“I strongly believe my life has been better because I have been without,” he said.

Sager’s training partner, Rory Zambard, didn’t follow Sager’s lead when she qualified for her second straight CrossFit Games just moments before Sager. She enjoyed a well-deserved celebratory drink the night after the regional competition.

Zambard calls herself a “special occasions” drinker, although she avoids wine because it gives her major headaches. Instead, her drink of choice is either tequila and soda or jack and coke.

But with the CrossFit Games just a couple months away, Zambard is tightening up her plan because she does notice her training feels more difficult when she has a drink the night before.

“My drinking ends tomorrow,” she said.

What about the rest of Sager’s and Zambard’s competitors?

They pretty much run the gamut on the issue of booze.

Ben Stoneberg—third at the North West Regional—takes an approach similar to Zambard’s. He celebrated earning his ticket to the Games with a margarita and some Fireball shots. But generally he limits his drinks to just a couple a month.

Although he doesn’t drink much, he doesn’t generally feel any negative performance consequences the next day.

“I would say you could have a glass of wine every night and have no side effects,” Stoneberg said, who added that alcohol can also bring positive experiences.

“It’s fun at times, and having the right amount does make you feel great,” he said.

Despite this fact, Stoneberg is choosing not to drink at all until after the Games this summer. Just in case.

Meanwhile, Adam Neiffer—long-time CrossFit Fort Vancouver athlete who will also be in Carson, California—hasn’t had a glass of booze since December 2007.

He still remembers that fateful night.

“I don’t know what it was (I drank), but somehow my hair caught on fire that night,” Neiffer said. “I woke up the next morning and decided there wasn’t much upside to alcohol for me, so I haven’t had any since.”

At the time, he was also a couple years into CrossFit and wanted to improve as an athlete, so he removed what he called “a variable in my life that definitely wasn’t helping me.”

One of Fort Vancouver’s challengers, CrossFit Marysville’s Kelsey Nagel, isn’t following Neiffer’s lead. She enjoyed two lagers after her team topped the podium in Kent. And just two days prior to the start of the competition Nagel enjoyed a margarita—on the rocks, no salt.

The drink certainly didn’t affect Nagel’s impressive 175-lb. snatch at the competition on Friday morning.

Although she doesn’t remember the last time she drank with the intention of getting drunk, Nagel doesn’t feel that a moderate amount of booze affects her performances negatively.

“I can honestly say I have had some PRs in the gym the morning after several drinks,” she said.

She has no intention of getting wasted before the Games, but isn’t ruling out booze for two months.

“You’re darn right I’m going to celebrate America with a drink on the 4th of July,” said Nagel, whose drink of choice is Grey Goose vodka with three olives.

Her reason for keeping some alcohol in her life is because it actually makes her life better.

“Some of my favorite things to do have to do with alcohol,” she said. “Sunday night dinners with the family, we will always have some sort of wine, and vacations most often include a margarita and sunshine, and date nights, of course, can start with a cocktail and a glass of wine.”

Nagel’s teammate, Ashleigh Moe, chooses a different approach. Moe chooses not to drink much, not because she feels it physically affects her performances, but because of what it does to her mentally.

“I feel totally guilty (when I drink) so I never really drink during the season,” Moe explained.

And what about the female champion from the North West Region, Emily Carothers?

The mother of two boys admitted she has no intention of eliminating alcohol from her life. She doesn't think twice before indulging in a few drinks on Friday and Saturday nights. s

“Unless the kids have given me a particularly rough day, and then I’ll have a glass of wine mid-week,” Carothers said.

In the final two weeks before the Games, Carothers likely won’t have a drink, but she wants to enjoy her June and July before that.

“I like to have a beer in the sun since we don’t see it all too often in the Pacific Northwest,” she said.

Considering Carothers has qualified to the Games for the past two seasons, it doesn’t seem as if her mid-afternoon beer on the beach slows her down.

And although Neiffer still maintains that he won’t be joining Carothers for a drink in the sun before Carson in July, he joked: “If a drink or two would help me walk on my hands like Emily Carothers, though, then I’d give it another shot.”


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