On average, the fitness industry appears to be ‘anti-alcohol’, mainly due to alcohol lacking any worthwhile nutritional content. However, there are many occasions where alcohol is available, such as weddings, birthdays, Christmas, going out for a meal, or simply having a night out with friends. Is it okay to let yourself go a little and enjoy yourself? What harm will it do?
1) Your recovery slows | Even without the after effects of a workout, the morning after a night of boozing can be bad enough. If you go out for the night and have more than a few alcoholic drinks, then the effects of the alcohol and the fatigue from the workout earlier in the day will make you feel like you’re in hell the following morning. Alcohol can slow your recovery by prioritizing the disposal of the booze first, which leads to reduced protein synthesis.
2) Increased tiredness | This is down to reduced quality of sleep because of the alcohol. While a night of boozing can send you to sleep quickly, you can very easily wake up in the middle of the night, feeling terrible and struggle to fall back to sleep. Your body and mind are very active during an alcohol induced sleep, which is why the sleep quality is often poor. Sleep is vital to building a stronger, fitter, leaner physique, and if you can’t get regular, quality sleep, then you’re not going to be progressing at the rate you would like.
3) Fatter, not fitter | Alcohol contains 7kcal per gram, which is only 2 less than fat, so it’s easy to see how too much alcohol could pack on unwanted body fat. However, fat still contains nutrients, even with a lot of calories, whereas alcohol contains nothing that your body is interested in.
4) Unwanted cravings | After an intense workout, your blood sugar levels are low, hence why many post-workout shakes contain sugar. Alcohol will then lower those levels even more, which can lead to unhealthy food choices – when you have low bloody sugar, you don’t tend to get cravings for a chicken salad! This means you could either opt for a fatty kebab on the way home from the pub, or a greasy fry up in the morning – or both!
Alcohol in small quantities every so often isn’t too bad. As long as the bulk of your diet is healthy and on point, a few drinks won’t send your goals spiralling out of control. If you’re training for a competition, then we would advise you to avoid all alcohol and purely focus on your build up to the competition date. If you’re simply wanting to get fitter and stronger, then a few drinks here and there will not hurt those goals. Drinking alcohol is most common in social environments, and if avoiding alcohol in those situations leads to unhappiness and stress, then that can cause its own issues.
Everyone is different – some people like to drink when they’re out, others don’t. Some people can avoid alcohol with ease, others can’t. Some people can limit how much they drink, others find it harder after a couple of alcoholic beverages. The main thing is to be sensible and if your fitness goals mean a lot to you, then prioritise them over drinking one too many.