Drinking and Exercise: How Alcohol Affects Your Body
I have several friends who can drink daily/weekly and not have it affect their physique negatively. Of course it is wreaking havoc on their liver and organs but externally there is no bloat, no weight/water gain and the cravings they get for salty/sweet rich food absolves after a few bites leaving no traces on their toned, tight bodies. I am sure that we all have a friend or two like this and some part of us wish that our bodies could manage just as well because hey, who doesn’t enjoy having a nice glass of red with dinner?
For me, an occasional drink is something that I work into my meal plan as a planned cheat. Unlike some of my friends, alcohol does affect me: I do retain water, I do experience symptoms of fatigue and depression for a couple days after and would, if I drank regularly, start packing on unwanted fat and cellulite (I am speaking from direct experience here).
If your goals are to lose weight/fat, compete, model or are involved within the realm of fitness and health, my advice is to stay away from the alcohol as much as possible and get used to a lifestyle without it.
If you have already reached your weight loss goals and are in a maintenance phase, you can work a drink or two into your plan on occasion and this will not affect your physique provided you continue with your clean eating and exercise routine regularly.
If you do plan to drink, here are a few of the options I use:
- limit 2 drinks
- no shots, dark spirits, or sugary bottled drinks
- eat before you drink or with dinner
- do not skip meals before you drink or cut calories from your diet to make up for the alcohol you will be consuming
- eat a healthy breakfast the following day
- drink water and hydrate yourself before, during and after drinking
- make cocktails with sugar-free mixers and ice
Regular consumption of alcohol can really hinder your fit goals, here’s how:
Do drinking and exercise mix? Women’s Health uncovers the effects of alcohol on your body—and your workout
Alcohol in your system is detrimental to any kind of fitness activity (except maybe on the dance floor). Here’s how booze wreaks havoc on your regimen.
1. Slower Recovery
Hard workouts drain the glycogen stores (carbs stored in the liver and muscles) and leave your muscle tissue in need of repair. “Pouring alcohol into your system as soon as you finish stalls the recovery process,” says Tavis Piattoly, R.D. High levels of alcohol displace the carbs, leaving your stores still 50 percent lower than normal even eight hours later, according to one study. Sip or snack on a combo of muscle-repairing protein and carbs (think low-fat chocolate milk or peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers) before tipping back.
2. Packed-On Fat
When booze is on board, your body, besides having to deal with the surplus of calories, prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol over burning fat and carbs. Alcohol also breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat. “For some reason this process is most pronounced in the thighs and glutes,” says Piattoly. “Excessive alcohol consumption really chews up muscle in those areas.” It also increases levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), which further encourages fat storage, particularly in your midsection.
3. Disrupted Sleep
Boozing also blows your muscle recovery and performance by sapping your sleep. In a study of 93 men and women, researchers found that alcohol decreased sleep duration and increased wakefulness (particularly in the second half of the night), especially in women, whose sleep time was decreased by more than 30 minutes over the night. “Disrupting the sleep cycle can reduce your human growth hormone output—which builds muscle—by as much as 70 percent,” says Piattoly.
4. Depleted Water and Nutrients
Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, which can reduce your capacity to absorb nutrients (the reason you have an upset stomach after a few too many), says Brian R. Christie, Ph.D.—not to mention that alcohol makes you pee. For every gram of ethanol you suck down, you pump out 10 milliliters of urine (that’s about 9.5 ounces for two beers). As little as 2 percent dehydration hurts endurance performance. And by the way, you can’t rehydrate with a dehydrating drink (e.g., beer).