Although I already missed the biggest drinking day of the year (the day before Thanksgiving) I know there will be plenty more drinking occasions that come up with holiday parties and the new year. But let’s be honest, there’s always something to celebrate, and often times alcohol is involved. So, today I’d like to talk about how alcohol affects your workouts. Now, I’m not advocating for or against consuming alcohol but knowledge is power and once you’re armed with the facts I advise you to use them at your discretion!
Starting off with some basics – when you consume alcohol, most of it is absorbed by the stomach and the rest is absorbed through the small intestine. From there, it makes its way around the body, causing all of those fun, loose feelings, while the liver works furiously to metabolize the alcohol brought to it by the bloodstream.
So, how does this process affect our workouts?
The first, and probably most obvious way, is through dehydration. Alcohol is a toxin and once the body recognizes that it starts sending extra fluid to our organs, like the liver, to help process it out, and this process takes a lot of water to get done. (Ever wonder why when you go out drinking you have to use the bathroom more often? This is why, your body is pulling from water stores to flush the toxins out). All of that being said, you’ll likely be dehydrated when you work out after a night of drinking if you didn’t compensate by drinking more water. (A great way to combat that is by drinking a glass of water between each drink).
Decreased energy is another potential after effect of drinking. This happens because alcohol consumption can actually slow the uptake of glycogen for the muscles and the brain – which is really just to say that if can make you feel a bit more sluggish mentally and physically.
Now, looking at it from the reverse angle, how does drinking after a workout effect you? There have been many studies done that show that alcohol decreases protein synthesis. Essentially what this means is it keeps your body from tissue repair or building. This can cause soreness to last longer, progress to be stalled, and it has a big impact on decreased stamina.
There are also some long term effects that alcohol consumption can have on working out. Excessive drinking has potential to do damage to the gut which in turn can damage our ability to absorb vital nutrients that help us to recover from workouts and progress in our fitness goals. Additionally, heavy drinkers tend to have a lower basal metabolic rate which can effect your ability to lose body fat since in a sedentary state you will be burning fewer calories.
Again, this is not meant to be preachy, and social drinking can absolutely be a part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle but these are some of the ways it could be negating your efforts in the gym.