The Effects of Alcohol on Your Training and Fitness Goal

Ah, it’s Friday night, you just got done working out and your thoughts now turn to that party that you have been planning on all week….and hell, you deserve it! You worked hard all week, both in and out of the gym, ate right, supplemented properly, you even got at least 8 hours of sleep each night! It’s the little things in life you know. There will be plenty of booze, women or men, as the case may be, music, junk food…it will be a veritable paradise and you are going to enjoy it and live it up to the fullest.

So why are you feeling guilty all of a sudden? This is what you have been waiting for and planning for all week, right? As you contemplate the reasons for your hesitation, you remember hearing somewhere that the worst thing that you can do after a long and hard workout is drink alcohol…. if that weren’t bad enough, you realize that you probably aren’t going to be eating the best you possibly could either. Quite possibly the extent of your “balanced” meal this evening could be 4 beers and a bag of Doritos….ah the dilemma.

A Simple Breakdown

Let’s start at the beginning. Alcohol is a carbohydrate but is not treated as one in the body. You see, when we consume alcohol, our body treats it as fat, and converts the alcohol sugar into fatty acids, thus making it more likely that it will be stored as fat. Not good for those trying to shed unwanted pounds. Pure alcohol provides 7 cal. per gram, and nothing else. No protein, no fat (in the traditional sense), no vitamins, nada!

A simple shot of 100 proof gin contains 124 cal. Beer, instead, offers us 146 cal, 13 gm of traditional carbohydrates, and traces of several B-vitamins. So, for your health-conscious drinkers out there, beer seems to be a better choice, but not by much! Finally, wine provides about 72 cal. for a 3.5-ounce serving, with sweet or dessert wines slightly higher at 90 cal.

So, a typical 4 beer night can cost you upwards of 600 cal. not including those gourmet chips we mentioned earlier. In addition, these calories are what we would call “empty” because they offer nothing of nutritional value and are more likely to be stored as body fat than other types of calories.

Side Effects

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. In large amounts, it can not only hinder cognitive function and performance but can also leach many of the body’s nutrients like thiamin, vitamin B6 and calcium. Furthermore, chronic abuse has negative side effects on every part of the body including the liver, heart, brain, and muscle, and can lead to cancer and diseases of the liver, pancreas, and central nervous system.

How does alcohol use affect athletes? Well, because it is a central nervous system depressant, consumption of alcohol will impair balance and coordination, and decrease exercise performance. More importantly, since most of us would not attempt to workout while under the influence, alcohol hinders recovery. The recuperative properties of the body are affected and impeded when we drink, especially muscle tissue, which is the first to be sacrificed when the body is in need of vital amino acids that are not being taken in.

Finally, alcohol dehydrates the body. As we know, water is one of the most vital nutrients in our bodies. Without it we cannot process food properly, expel wastes, repair damaged muscle tissue, or keep vital organs functioning properly. Have you ever noticed that after a night out on the town, your workouts suffer? You can’t seem to “get it going” and feel tired, lazy, and spent. Yes, I have been there myself. This is in direct relation to the alcohol that you drank the night and even two nights before. It takes up to 48 hours for the body to expel all traces of alcohol from our bodies. One night of drinking can cost you several days of workouts and recovery. Not worth it if you ask me.

Good or Bad?

There are some of you out there that are probably asking: “But isn’t drinking alcohol daily good for you?” Well, yes it is….but in moderate amounts. What is moderate? Probably not enough to even get a firm taste in your mouth for most people. Moderate is defined as one drink per day, or two for men, of 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces of 80 proof distilled liquor. Like I said a drop in the bucket.

In other words, the amount recommended for a benefit is probably surpassed quickly by most people in a very short amount of time. Any amount over the “recommended” amount negates any positive effects and instead brings about the negative rather quickly from an athletic standpoint.

So, any athlete that is serious about their training, should stay clear from alcohol no matter how tempting. Although I’m sure that this is a rather large feat for some people, when you quickly dissect the good and bad elements of it, it is quickly discovered that a night on the town where you can’t feel your legs and then stumble to bed on a quick ration of Denny’s cuisine, versus several days of lost training and perhaps irreparable damage to your body, is not worth it as we strive to better ourselves in our quest for the ultimate physique.

If you do decide to drink, please remember the term MODERATION. As with all things, even working out, too much of a good thing can quickly become a bad one.