The truth behind alcohol and fitness
As South Africans, we love all things celebratory and festive and of course, this often includes alcohol. It is in our very make-up to enjoy sushi and wine, beer and rugby or champagne and charcuterie. These different alcohol types and these food pairings are often so complementary that one cannot go without the other, however, when it comes to alcohol and fitness, these two aren't very complimentary.
How does alcohol affect fitness?
Since we've established that alcohol and fitness don’t go together at all, here are some reasons why:
Consuming alcohol on a regular basis can impact your fitness performance in the gym, on the sports field and in everyday life negatively. Alcohol has an impact on your hand-eye coordination, it impairs your judgment, slows down your functioning and it slows down your reaction time. Alcohol impairs your ability to perform optimally and could have a negative effect on the way we perform and try to reach our goals.
You might not want to hear this but your brandy and coke every weekend, certainly do not help your weight-loss journey. Alcohol contains what we call "empty calories". Empty calories are calories that provide our bodies with not nutritional value or essential vitamins or minerals. Continuing to drink alcohol while trying to lose weight, is counterproductive since alcohol will set you back. Studies have shown that muscle building and post-workout recovery have decreased by 37% in a group of men who did an intense workout followed by a couple of drinks. Like with brandy, we tend to mix our alcohol with sugary drinks to enhance the taste. Drinking sugary drinks after a workout actually stops the fat-burning process altogether, which means that you might as well have skipped that gym session.
Dehydration and Fatigue
Generally, we tend to get dehydrated during a workout due to sweat. We also know that alcohol dehydrates us severely. So it should come as no surprise that if you combine the two, you will be extremely dehydrated. When we are dehydrated our bodies can't perform optimally and our bodies can't burn fat effectively either. Fatigue and exhaustion are also common side-effects of dehydration which means you will probably work out in shorter bursts and give up quickly. If you are a lover of running but also enjoy a glass of wine, you might want to listen up. Red wine has a lot of antioxidants, however, it can strip your body of glycogen. Glycogen is a form of energy that allows us to do our workouts at optimal intensities.
Soreness and muscle repair
Consuming alcohol after your workout prevents the effective healing and recovery of our muscles by decreasing the secretion hormone. This means you will feel sore for longer and your muscles will take a lot longer to heal. Instead of increasing testosterone levels that will help build muscles, alcohol increases the hormone cortisol (the same hormone that causes stress) and destroys all the muscle you were trying to build.
Alcohol and fat burning
Aside from the fact that alcohol prevents weight loss since it contains added empty calories and excess sugar our bodies don’t need, alcohol also prevents our bodies from burning fat.
When you consume alcohol, your body is more focused on breaking down alcohol rather than burning fat. Also, instead of burning fat, your body is burning the calories from the alcohol, so it can take you longer to lose weight.
At Fitness Fables, one of our key focuses is having "balanced" clients. We go to great lengths to ensure that everyone has a perfect balance between social life, physical fitness, good mental health, and a healthy diet. It is, for this reason, we wouldn't typically encourage our clients to completely cut alcohol. Once a while having a beer at a braai, or enjoying a glass of wine on your date is perfectly fine, as long as you understand that there are consequences and that you might need to hit the gym 4 days a week instead of 2.
You should, under NO circumstances omit what you had over the weekend. If you did cheat or had more than a few brandy and cokes, we would like to know about it, so we can work out a plan for you accordingly. Life happens and we want everyone to be comfortable enough to say to one of our trainers at Fitness Fables: "Listen, Coach, I drank so many beers this weekend" This way, we will be able to help you instead of wondering why we aren't seeing as much improvement.
So chat with us, and we will get you right back on track. Should you battle a vicious circle of addiction, we highly recommend you get help right away. Alternatively, you could purchase this book to help you get started on your sobriety.