We all know alcohol is basically empty calories, so if you have a fitness goal you will have to do an extra length in the pool, or a longer workout to burn them off. But alcohol can affect your exercise plans in other ways too – and not only in the universal truth that a hangover means you are more likely to stay under the duvet than get yourself to the gym.
Personal trainer Marios of Natural Trainer London explains the impact alcohol can have on your body.
Alcohol does not make a good gym partner
You don’t need GCSE chemistry to know alcohol affects our exercise routine or workout performance. Your rate of improvement (training gains) are slower and the most dedicated miss targets and fitness goals. No surprise that motivating yourself to get to the gym even after a few pints the night before is harder. But how exactly does alcohol affect your body, your muscle gain and your performance?
1. It treats you like sponge – dehydration
Because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes your kidneys to produce more urine. This can lead to dehydration, something that is exacerbated when you sweat during exercise.
Not only does dehydration prevent your blood from circulating enough oxygen and nutrients through your body, it also increases the risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injuries such as cramps, muscle pulls and strains.
If you do go out for a big night, make sure you drink lots of water in the following days as absorbed alcohol has a negative impact on the water balance in your muscles cells.
This can affect the production of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a compound that your muscles need to contract. A lack of ATP can seriously affect your endurance levels, making it harder to work out, see meaningful gains and achieve your fitness or muscle building goals.
2. It steals your good vitamins – Nutrient depletion
Though alcohol contains a lot of calories (around 7 per gram) these calories are not converted into glycogen or stored energy. Instead, the body treats alcohol as fat, converting alcohol sugars into fatty acids.
What’s more, as well as having very little in the way of minerals, vitamins and protein, alcohol can actually stop your body from absorbing nutrients like vitamin B1, vitamin B12, zinc and folic acid, all of which are vital for a healthy body and good athletic performance.
Consuming alcohol also triggers the release of a liver toxin that attacks testosterone. As testosterone is essential in helping your muscles to grow and regenerate, this side effect can have a big impact on your fitness levels.
3. It increases your pain for less gain – Protein synthesis
Protein synthesis is the process by which your muscles recover, grow and adapt following a workout. Without it, you would never see any gains from your efforts in the gym and your muscle tone and size would remain roughly the same.
Drinking alcohol has a big effect on muscle protein synthesis, reducing it by around a third and seriously affecting the results of your training regime.
Though for many people, giving up alcohol completely is unrealistic, understanding exactly how it affects your workout and your recovery is important if you want to see real and significant training gains.
So the next time you’re offered that extra pint or another glass of wine, make sure you think about the consequences for your body and remember all of the hard work you’ve put into your exercise regime before you take another sip.