When you think about health and wellness, alcohol is probably the last thing that comes to mind, unless you’re playing the opposite game. But we’re human, and for most of us, alcohol is an important part of our lives, just like health, family, and fitness. Because alcohol doesn’t usually complement our fitness goals, we must try to find a balance between the two. But before you swear off the sauce entirely, it’s important to understand the real effect alcohol has on your fitness and training.
How Alcohol Affects Your Future Workouts
At the risk of stating the obvious, working out with a hangover is no fun. After a heavy night of drinking, you’ll probably find it tough to drag yourself into the gym. And even if your willpower is strong enough to power through with your workout, chances are your performance will suffer. While a quick gym session can be a good way to mitigate the effects of a hangover, hungover workouts are not a good way to make efficient progress.
When you drink, it’s your liver’s job to process and eliminate the toxins you consume. To do this, your liver consumes and depletes a large portion of your body’s glycogen, or energy, stores. This is why you may feel weak or shaky after a heavy night of drinking. When you go to work out with reduced energy stores, you’ll see your endurance suffer. If you do hit the gym after a hangover, stay away from long-distance endurance exercises, like biking or jogging.
Alcohol, like caffeine, is a dehydrator. This is why you probably find yourself making more trips to the bathroom during a night of drinking. While dehydration may not seem like significant factor, studies show that when you start your workouts dehydrated, by even 2%, you’ll see performance suffer. After a night out, make sure to get enough water the next day.
Effects on Recovery
Dehydration doesn’t only negatively impact your time in the gym, it also impedes your ability to recover, post-workout. Proper hydration is what enables your body to deliver nutrients to muscle cells. Without it, you’ll find yourself feeling more sore for longer, which, unless you thrive on DOMS, can hurt your progress. It’s also important to remember that your body functions as a unit, and it can only handle so much stress at a once. If you’re recovering from alcohol-related toxins, your muscle repair process will be de-prioritized.
There’s a reason why you don't normally see a six-pack of beer on the latest list of healthy meal prep ideas. While there are worse things out there, alcohol is definitely not a dieter's friend. Alcohol is a unique macro-nutrient and contains 7 calories per gram. Because it is not easily converted into energy, calories from alcohol are stored. This is why people often lose significant weight when they cut out drinking; like the old saying goes, ‘a moment to get tipsy, a lifetime on the hipsies’, or something like that.
If you’re looking to get stage ready or prepare for the Olympics, you might want to stay away from alcohol. But if you’re like most people, and are looking to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, balance is the name of the game. Rather than swearing alcohol off completely, try to choose lower-calorie options, like vodka soda or red wine. Also consider limiting the number of days you choose to indulge because oftentimes it’s the accompanying snacks and subsequent late-night meals that hurt your fitness goals, not alcohol itself.
It never hurts to cut back on the alcohol if you're looking to step up your fitness game, but just be sure to not let your diet control your life. If you’re looking to substitute your regular cocktail for a healthy, protein-packed beverage, try scooping up some Suppy – though we suggest shaking it up alcohol-free.