Alcohol and Fitness Training
What affect does alcohol have on your fitness training? Maxine Hubbard, Holistic Nutritionist and Personal Trainer in Vancouver, has written a brief overview of the impact.
Why Alcohol May be Keeping You From Your Fitness Goals
It’s no surprise that in this day and age, it has become the norm to throw back a couple of drinks on the weekend with no second thoughts. It’s become completely acceptable to a have a beer when you finish your work day, or a glass of wine with dinner, but the effects of alcohol are much less acceptable if you’re training to change your physique.
If I asked you to come over on Friday night and share a box of Oreos with me, would you do it? Now I know Oreos wont give you that wine buzz but if we look at the calories, carbs and sugars they might as well be the same thing (I know, not exactly, but you get the point).
Not only are alcoholic beverages high in calories and carbs, they are also a type of carb that we cannot use as fuel. Sorry to burst the bubble too, all you runners and cyclists out there that love to finish your long run/ride with a reward beer—but the truth is, the carbs from alcohol cannot be metabolized into fuel. Rather, they hinder your bodies ability to burn fat. Making all that work you just did almost useless.
Alcohol also reduces performance potential by up to 11% and delays recovery time for up to 72hrs.
When your body is metabolizing the ethanol in alcohol, it lowers the amount of a certain coenzyme which is present in the liver. This coenzyme is NAD+, and it’s essential for the production of testosterone.
Why is this important? Testosterone is a hormone needed for protein synthesis which is very important after resistance exercise and other strenuous physical activities. Lack of testosterone makes it impossible to put on muscle mass, decreases sex drive, reduces energy, and adds to weight gain (specifically belly fat).
Sleep & Alcohol
You may think that you slept like a rock after that 3rd glass of Merlot, but in reality overall it disturbs the sleep cycle (mostly REM) and exacerbates certain sleep problems like sleep apnea and insomnia.
A number of pituitary hormone secretions are at their maximum during sleep. This is particularly true for the human growth hormone, which is secreted by the pituitary gland and reaches a peak during non-REM sleep. However, studies show that when people drink alcohol before sleeping, growth hormone secretions decrease. (HGH stimulates growth, cell production and cell regeneration which is very important if your training to build new muscle).
The Alcohol & Fitness Training Solution
I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink at all, but it is something that should be taken seriously when trying to make changes to your body composition. Whether it be to lose fat or gain muscle, alcohol will hinder your progress. Not to mention the horrible food choices we make under the influence.
So what’s the solution?
- Hydration is key! Aim to have 2L of water per day, even 3L on days you consume alcohol.
- Stick to proper portions, a glass of wine is 4oz not 12oz, you lush!
- Most sources will tell you 2 drinks a day for men and 1 a day for women but if you have any goals to change your body this should be halved. I recommend max 6 for men and max 4 for women per week.
- Eat a healthy meal before you drink, this will help you avoid cravings and keep blood sugar balanced.
- Choose clear sprits like vodka, gin and tequila. Dark drinks have higher concentrations of congeners, a toxic compounds formed when alcohol is fermented which make hangovers worse!
- Lastly avoid sugar-filled mixers like pop and juice; opt for club soda, fresh lemon and ice.
Let’s be honest: we are all going to continue drinking but if you have fitness goals, you might want to change your habits and prioritize your health.
Remember alcohol isn’t going anywhere so there is no pressure to drink. Keep it for special occasions so you can really enjoy it! Think of it this way, birthday cake is for birthdays, not for everyday of the week. Let’s change our culture and make drinking a special occasion rather than a daily habit!
Max’s Verdita Chaser
1 bunch cilantro
3 limes juiced
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp pink sea salt
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Option to strain if needed.
Drink as a shot chaser to tequila or vodka, or enjoy as a shaken cocktail over ice.
Cilantro is a great heavy metal detoxifier while the limes help to stimulate the liver to process the alcohol. Maple syrup and pink sea salt are full of minerals and which will help to resort electrolyte balance that gets disrupted by alcohol consumption.