Alcohol & Fitness
To drink or not to drink? That is the question. Over the years, this one simple decision has plagued
dedicated fitness enthusiasts with a pestering source of anxiety and uncertainty on how to
proceed. In this article, you’ll get all the facts of how alcohol will affect your body composition as
well as performance in the gym, and also some options where you can enjoy yourself and still have
a few drinks from time to time. It’s important to have a healthy balance between your fitness goals
and your social life. Let’s face it, protein shakes are great and all but life’s too short. Let loose and
have some fun once in a while! Come along for the ride and I’ll show you how!
Many people are unaware that alcohol is actually its own separate macronutrient containing 7
calories per gram just as protein, carbohydrates, and fats contain 4,4, and 9 calories per gram,
respectively. The difference between alcohol and the other macronutrients, however, is that
calories from alcohol possess no nutritional value and are therefore considered to be “empty”
Alright so now you know the calorie content of alcohol but what does this really mean for the
fitness population? It means that we receive no nutritional benefit in terms of muscle gain or
performance from consuming calories from alcohol. Also, when alcohol calories are combined with
calories from your daily food intake, there is a greater chance you will exceed the amount of
calories your body requires to maintain its current weight, and the excess calories will be stored as
Effects On Performance:
So now you know the basics in terms of what happens within your body when you drink alcohol,
but how does this relate to your performance in the gym? If we take a look of some of the common
side effects of drinking, we can see that it can have a very adverse effect on your training
regiment. Let’s take a look at these side effects and see how they influence your workout.
First off, because alcohol dehydrates you, your muscles do not have the water they require to
function at their peak capacity. Proper hydration is required to achieve a pump in the gym and
without it you’ll feel weak and have a flat look to your physique. Another common tendency of
training while dehydrated is an increase in muscle cramps. The higher our body temperature gets,
the more likely our muscles are going to tighten and cramp up. Water is necessary for our muscles
because it helps to regulate body temperature and act almost like coolant for our body.
Secondly, alcohol has been shown to greatly reduce our body’s ability to recover from exercise.
Often times, if you train after a night out, you didn’t get the proper amount of sleep the night before
to facilitate ideal recovery. As you all probably know, sleep is one of the primary factors in relation
to achieving maximum muscle recovery. Additionally, as mentioned above, alcohol draws water
from your muscles, and water is another primary determinant of how well we recover.
Finally, training after a night of care free alcohol consumption, or worse, training while under the
influence of alcohol, can greatly increase your risk of injury. Impaired decision making combined
with a decrease in bodily awareness can lead us to ignore typical warning signals from our body.
This problem is further solidified by our decreased strength as a result of consuming alcohol. You
feel weaker so you push harder just to achieve your regular results. It’s a vicious circle.
You didn’t think I’d just leave you hanging did you? Although it may seem like there is countless
downsides for a fitness focused individual to consume alcohol, there are ways to go about it that
can minimize risk and maximize fun! Let’s take a look how!
1. Lower your fat intake by approximately 2 thirds to 1 half of your typical intake. For example if you
regularly consume around 60 grams of fat per day, drop this number to between 20 and 30.
2. Be sure to maintain a high level of protein throughout the day as this will help ensure satiety
which is important because you will be consuming less fat and carbohydrates.
3. Be mindful of your alcohol selection. Mixed drinks, beer and other similar choices tend to be
higher in calories that hard liquor.
4. Prepare a tasty, high protein, moderate carb snack to enjoy when you get home from tearing up
the town with your friends or whatever you may be doing. Some good options could be your
favorite low fat yogurt mixed with berries, or a bowl of oats with your top choice of protein powder.
5. Avoid training while under the influence of alcohol at ALL COSTS! At the time it may seem like a
great idea but I promise you, you’ll regret it. Be smart guys, don’t drink and lift.
6. Drink plenty of water. One of the most detrimental effects of consuming alcohol is the
dehydration that comes paired with the fun. Be sure to drink a decent amount of water (more than
usual) the day you are going out as well as the day after. Also, when you get home from your
nightly festivities, it helps to chug down a big bottle. I promise you, you’ll thank me in the morning!
7. Try to schedule your training sessions accordingly. What I mean by this is try to refrain from
training the morning after drinking alcohol to avoid the negative consequences listed in this article
all together. If you absolutely must train the day after going out, push your session as late in the
day as possible.
8. Listen to your body. If your body is telling you no, don’t ignore it. Many injuries are 100 percent
preventable and occur as a result of pushing through pain because people feel they have to. In
fitness, the focus should be placed upon long term progress compared to short term obligation.
9. Have Fun!! Life is too short not to enjoy the time we have with our friends, family and loved
ones. Go out, have a few drinks and a great time!
written by Iva Boychok