When it comes to nutrients, bodybuilding and fitness enthusiasts have written a huge amount of work. As such, many important nutritional principles have become common knowledge.
Everyone knows this much: What you get out of your body has a lot to do with what goes into your body. With that principle in mind, we are going to take a look at an often-neglected workout factor: The consumption of alcohol.
How Will Alcohol Affect My Workout?
Obviously, alcohol affects performance in many instances. One need only look at the huge number of drunk driving fatalities that occur every year to know this. When it comes to your workout, though, we are concerned with one issue above all.
Alcohol can actually keep your body from creating muscle. This happens because alcoholic drinks have calories just like all other food and drink. Unlike the calories that you get from an apple or a steak, these are essentially empty calories that add little to no nutritional value.
As you probably know, weight gain results from excess energy being stored as fat. Any energy that is not used by the body will quickly turn into fat. This is why working out after a meal is a good idea. As you may not know, the calories from alcohol tend to be absorbed first. This is a problem because your body can only absorb a certain amount of calories at one time.
If the body has already absorbed a lot of alcoholic calories, it will be tricked into thinking that its needs have been met. Thus, other nutrients (like protein) will turn to fat.
In the end, there are plenty of reasons for serious fitness enthusiasts to avoid alcohol. Even without this negative effect on muscle synthesis, a drunken workout would probably end with your head in the toilet, as you puke up whatever you may have eaten before.
What Are The Negatives To The Use Of Alcohol?
We have already discussed the most serious negative, so let’s discuss some of the others:
- Alcohol produces dehydration. This factor is responsible for the headaches that often follow a night of heavy drinking. Dehydration is also the cause of excessive urination while drinking.
- Empty calories: Alcohol may contain energy that your body can use, but this energy comes in the form of carbohydrates and sugars. Both of these tend to be turned into fat very quickly since the body has no other real use for them.
- Drinking undermines the quality of your sleep. It may be easier to fall asleep when you are drunk, but you won’t reach the deep levels of sleep that are necessary for a truly restful night.
- Alcohol will unquestionably increase your risk for certain cancers, especially cancers of the mouth, throat, and liver.
Are There Any Positives To The Use Of Alcohol?
There are a few benefits to the consumption of alcohol. It should be noted, however, that much of this will depend on your choice of drink. Some drinks, like wine, have more proven health benefits than others.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have several beneficial effects. Studies show that it can lower your risk of heart disease and ischemic stroke. There is also strong evidence to suggest that alcohol may lower the risk of diabetes.
How To Drink Responsibly
Alcohol is a tricky substance to evaluate. On the one hand, it has been shown to reduce the risk of certain diseases and conditions. The differences in risk are fairly large, so there is little question that alcohol can help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
On the other hand, the list of harmful effects that come from alcohol is longer than the list of its benefits. Some of these effects are so obvious that they require no proof, but there is plenty of proof nevertheless. For a person who is trying to build muscle, alcohol is a serious hindrance.
In spite of the problems with drinking alcohol, a healthy lifestyle does not require you to live like a monk. You don’t need to completely swear off drinking alcohol (unless it is causing other problems!). Instead, you can learn to control your alcohol use so that it doesn’t interfere with your training. Here is a list of points to remember:
- Never allow yourself to get completely drunk. Many of alcohol’s worst effects are only experienced by heavy drinkers, so don’t be one.
- Never drink within an hour of your workout, whether before or after.
- After taking your daily dose of protein, avoid alcohol for (at least) the next two hours. This gives your body time to process the protein without anything getting in the way. For more information on alcohol metabolism, read this.
- Avoid mixed drinks. They are much more adulterated and usually contain a lot more sugar.
- Drink lots of water and other fluids when drinking alcohol. This will prevent dehydration and the hangovers that can easily ruin an entire day’s productivity.
- Limit beer consumption to 1-2 per day (or less). Beer is higher in carbohydrates than most other alcoholic drinks, and this can cause the infamous “beer gut.”
- Limit your drinking to 1-2 nights per week (or less). Alcohol is mildly toxic, so make sure that you give your system time to clean itself between drinking sessions.
The subject of alcohol and physical fitness is a complicated one. The real question is: to drink or not to drink? The answer is not a simple one, because alcohol is neither completely bad for you nor particularly good for you. However, it is definitely true that alcohol can negate your workout progress. Whether or not it will do so depends entirely upon your actions.
We hope that we have given you the knowledge that you need to make an informed decision and modify your habits accordingly. Please fill out the contact form below if you would like to receive more articles that will help you take your health and fitness to the next level.