So, I’d like to share some of the facts with you about alcohol and exercise, and how to limit the damage.
Firstly, how does alcohol work, what does it do inside our bodies?
When you drink alcohol, about a quarter of it is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream. The remainder makes its way to your intestines where it is gradually absorbed into your bloodstream.
This alcohol-laden blood is then shipped off to your liver where it is broken down (metabolized) - it’s effectively a toxin and your body wants to get rid of it. The average liver is capable of metabolizing about 1 unit every 90 minutes. A unit of alcohol is roughly one shot, an average beer or an average glass of red wine. This rate varies from person to person though, and is affected by things such as fitness level, bodyfat percentage, gender and even ethnicity.
If you drink more than 1 unit every 90 minutes, your liver cannot keep up, a ‘bottle-neck’ type situation is created, and your blood becomes more and more saturated with alcohol. Your central nervous system gets affected by the alcohol that cannot be metabolized in time, and you start to develop a strange, previously unknown level of confidence and start finding ugly girls (or guys) more and more attractive.
What’s also worth noting is that alcohol contains A LOT of energy, 7 calories per gram. That’s more than carbohydrates and protein which contain 4 calories per gram.
Alcohol is also used rapidly by your body for energy, so it ends up being used preferentially over the carbohydrates and fats already circulating in your blood. Because they end up being unused they are stored as fat.
Alcohol also causes a big insulin release. Insulin spikes have been associated with increased fat storage and difficulty in losing existing fat.
How will alcohol affect your exercise and physique goals?
- Alcohol can damage muscle cells. Alcohol can also result in prolonged muscle soreness following training, thereby making more recuperation time necessary.
- Alcohol also affects your endurance abilities, especially when consumed in large quantities. So be aware of this if you’re training for an upcoming race or something like that.
- In addition, alcohol can cause several gastric, digestive and nutritional irregularities by interfering with the absorption of nutrients. Anemia and vitamin B deficiencies can be exacerbated by excessive alcohol consumption.
In addition to the calories and potential fat gain caused by the alcohol (ethanol) itself, drinking can result in the consumption of a massive amount of liquid calories. Just think how much sugar there is in those 10 Rum and cokes you had last weekend….
Lastly, you might end up just end up taking that “no so hot the morning after” guy or girl home. The mental anguish from that alone is enough to upset your training regimen for days…
SOME alcohol can be good for you though.
Note how I emphasized the word, ‘SOME’, meaning a little, not excessive amounts.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, so if a scotch on the rocks helps you unwind after work, have it. A SMALL amount of alcohol has been shown to have numerous health benefits. Just don’t go wild, stick to 1 or 2.
Red wine has also been shown to have many health benefits and reduces the risks of many diseases such as heart disease, blood clots, atherosclerosis and hypertension, just to name a few.
Choose your poison wisely.
This article was not intended to stop you from drinking, it was just to make you a bit more aware, so that you can make better decisions and be a smarter drinker, or at least limit the damage.
- Whiskey, Brandy, Cognac, Vodka, Tequila (on the rocks or with water or soda). Full of antioxidants and few calories and carbs compared with other brews.
- Red wine (full antioxidants, phenols and helps lower the risk of some of the diseases mentioned above). Has fewer calories than most other brews and only has 5-8g carbs per glass.
- Beer, contains lots of calories and carbs.
- Anything with a sugary mix like coke, sprite, fanta, red bull orange juice, cranberry etc.
But what if you absolutely have to get drunk and party?
To put it plainly, anything more than 1 or 2 drinks is bad for you, and you are basically ‘poisoning’ your body. But I know that we are only human, so we have to live it up OCCASSIONALLY.
So, if you’re gonna do it, then do it wisely. You want to try and limit the damage, so you need to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ – to get drunk, but with consuming as few calories and other bad things as possible.
Beer is out, you have to drink too many to get the desired effect, and it contains way too many carbs and calories. The same goes for anything with sugary mixes.
Red wine is healthy, but you have to also drink a fair bit to get to your desired level of awesomeness (if you’re a big guy, if you’re a 100lb lady, then maybe not.)
My recommendation would be to go for the good spirits mentioned above, either as shots, on the rocks, or with water/soda. You don’t need as many to get the desired effect so you are limiting the other collateral damage that goes along with drinking.
The risk of dehydration is obviously still there, so make sure to drink lots of water. Ideally you should drink a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you take.
I still can’t promise you won’t feel like crap the next day or wake up next to a cave troll though.
So in conclusion, yes it can’t be denied that drinking is bad for us, and we are probably better off avoiding it. But it is however such an integral part of our culture and lifestyle that it’s very hard to get away from, and unless you are willing to be a complete teetotaler, you’re gonna have to have a drink now and then.Just limit the damage by making smart, informed choices.
Decide on what your physique goals are, and make your decisions based on that - if you are an elite athlete looking for the competitive edge, or have seriously lofty physique goals, don’t go near alcohol.
But, for most people, wanting to just have a great body and still have fun now and then, just limit the damage. You can live a little, just don’t be going out and getting wasted EVERY weekend, you’ll never get in shape doing that..