Alcohol has the same effect on our fitness goals as it does on any of our other goals - that’s to say, it’s not great. But does that mean we have to give up alcohol completely to hit our target? Not exactly.
Alcohol in moderation is like anything else, keep it under control and the consequences are fairly minimal. But if you’re drinking excessively, this is where the problems start. Excessive drinking on the surface is subjective, but it tends to be defined as having 8-15 drinks in a week, or more than five in a single sitting by experts. If every time you have drinks you’re getting drunk (or even buzzed), it’s safe to say you’re drinking too much.
Alcohol can lead to so many problems - liver disease, anxiety, insomnia, weakened immune system, increased irritability, poor decision-making, weight-gain, fatigue, and this list can go on and on. Sometimes this isn’t enough to make people stop or cut down, but if you’re driven by goals like losing weight, gaining muscle, or simply having more energy, knowing the risks can help you cut down.
An interesting fact to keep in mind: while alcoholism is bad for fitness, fitness is great for overcoming alcoholism. It’s very true, many alcoholics defeat their problem by replacing their drinking sessions with workout routines - the result is they have more energy, feel better, and think about drinking way less.
One of the most obvious negative aspects of drinking are the mornings spent throwing up or stuck in bed with a massive headache. Some people swear that sweating out a hangover is the ultimate cure - but honestly, nine out of ten people barely make it out of bed the next day, let alone to the gym.
Alcohol is full of empty calories and causes your liver to work overtime. It also makes you tired and slows your metabolism to a halt. Instead of burning fat during your workouts, your body actually stores it, while your liver focuses on breaking down ethanol (a toxic element of alcohol) into byproducts your body can flush out.
An essential component of building muscle is the tearing and healing of muscle tissue during and after a workout. Drinking alcohol, especially after a strenuous fitness session, limits the secretion of the necessary hormones to do this, leading to longer-lasting soreness in between
workouts. Alcohol also increases the secretion of cortisol in your body, which is the same hormone that causes stress, which significantly reduces your body’s ability to build muscle.
A major side effect of dehydration is exhaustion and fatigue. When you hit the gym your body sweats and you lose a lot of water, and if you’re not replenishing that H2O, it can cause a lot of problems. Alcohol is another culprit when it comes to dehydration. The combination of the two can lead to excessive hangovers, extreme fatigue, and many missed opportunities to hit the gym.
These repercussions are only scratching the surface when it comes to alcohol’s overall effect on your fitness goals. Again, drinking in moderation is fairly harmless, but excessive drinking can lead to missed opportunities when it comes to your fitness goals, and long-term health problems.
For more information on alcohol and how it affects your overall health, please consult with a medical professional.