Having the occasional drink, whether to celebrate an event or relax and unwind with some girlfriends, is nothing unusual, but have you ever wondered how alcohol can affect your workout? Believe it or not, alcohol affects our health and fitness goals in more ways than we realise.
Keep in mind that every body is different – size, genetics, composition – but there are a few ways that alcohol can negatively affect our sports performance or gym session.
- Harder to retain water and stay hydrated. Being a diuretic, alcohol causes excess loss of water by making us go to the bathroom more often than we normally would, which is why it’s so easy to get dehydrated while drinking. It’s important to be fully hydrated when working out.
- Your metabolism will have to work harder. Alcohol is technically a toxin to the human body, making our livers work overtime by prioritising the breakdown of alcohol, slowing our metabolism.
- Affected quality of sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is important for muscle repair and the production of hormones necessary for muscle growth, but when we have an alcoholic drink, we sleep lighter and don’t go into the deep sleep that our bodies need.
- Longer recovery times. By slowing the production of the recovery hormones that we need to bounce back from a workout and for muscle repair, expect to feel sorer for longer when you hit the gym after a drinking session or if heavily drinking following your workout.
- Slowed muscle growth. Our muscles break down and synthesise proteins when we exercise, slowly allowing our muscles to grown and recover. Indulging in more than a moderate amount of alcohol while our muscles are working to recover can hinder our natural ability to recover and adapt to the workout.
These impacts depend on how much alcohol was consumed and an individual’s tolerance for alcohol (as we mentioned, every body is different!) but are good to keep in mind, nonetheless.
While we’re not saying to completely cut alcohol out of your life – we all love a celebratory drink every now and then, or at a special event – when working towards any immediate fitness goals, drink in moderation and try to avoid alcohol the night before a strenuous activity such as a hike or a high-intensity workout.
Alternatives to alcohol
- Mocktails – most bars and restaurants will offer alcohol-free cocktail options that are just as tasty!
- Soda water and lots of delicious fresh fruit – grab an ice-cold glass of soda water and fill it with your favourite seasonal fruit for a refreshing and fruity beverage.
- Alcohol-free mixed drinks – a number of brands on the market are offering all sorts of mixed drinks from a gin and tonic to beer that contain no alcohol, so you can enjoy the same refreshing taste minus the alcohol.
- Sparkling juices and alcohol-free sparkling wines – enjoy a glass of bubbles without the headache, a sparkling juice or alcohol-free wine is the perfect way to toast a special occasion.
If you really can’t avoid having a drink before or after you exercise, regularly rehydrate with water and eat healthy to assist your gym session. Try to wait at least an hour or two before consuming that first drink if you’ve just worked out. Beer is preferable over spirits as it’s been shown to contain electrolytes, as well as much-needed carbs which can aid exercise recovery.
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