5 Ways Drinking Alcohol Can Affect Your Health and Fitness Progress
With the new year in full swing, Philadelphians have started getting into a gym routine in an effort to improve health, increase energy levels, and become more fit. To support your gym goals, you may also be focused on making more nutritious food choices to improve your fitness performance and see results. However, a common mistake people often make when making healthy eating changes is overlooking what you are drinking, specifically– alcohol.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting alcohol to one drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men, but for most people, a night out with friends or a casual night in with a bottle of wine consists of a couple more drinks than this limit.
Like many across the Philadelphia region, if you have been working hard in the gym, but don’t seem to be making the progress that you want, there’s a chance that alcohol might be the reason behind this.
While no food or drink is inherently “bad” for you, here are 5 reasons why it might be a good idea to reduce your alcohol intake if you have health and fitness goals in mind.
Reason #1: Alcohol hijacks your metabolism–
Your body’s metabolism is complex. When you drink, your liver treats alcohol the same way it would a toxic substance, so its main priority becomes to break it down and remove it from your body as quickly as possible! A portion of the alcohol is used for energy but the rest becomes excreted since the body can’t store it for energy. This puts other parts of your metabolism on hold, which means that your body is more likely to store nutrients as fat. The more alcohol you drink, the longer it takes for your body to remove it. This is why over time, if many drinks are had on a regular basis, fat storage can form around the abdomen area.
Reason #2: Alcohol makes you crave “junk” food–
Have you ever noticed that when you drink more alcohol, you feel ravenous? One of the reasons why you might have the urge to overeat after heavy drinking is because alcohol inhibits the hormone leptin– your fullness hormone– leading you to crave more food than normal. These cravings tend to be more for energy-dense foods such as fast food, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish and pack on extra calories. Adding on to this increase in appetite, alcohol tends to impair judgment, which can make health the last thing on your mind when you are choosing what to eat.
Reason #3: Alcohol can temporarily stop muscle building–
Unfortunately, alcohol is not the best when it comes to building muscle. Studies have shown that consuming alcohol after a workout can delay recovery. This is because alcohol reduces something called “Muscle Protein Synthesis,” also known as MPS, the process of repairing and rebuilding muscles and other proteins in your body and is critical to the recovery process after a workout, especially for resistance training. If you go out and get drinks after a training session at the gym, just be aware that workout soreness might last 1 or 2 days longer than usual.
Reason #4: Alcohol lowers sleep quality–
Sleep is also another vital process to recovering after a workout. In multiple studies, sleep has shown to be disrupted after drinking alcohol. Specifically, alcohol lessens the amount of time spent in the REM stage. In the REM stage, your body enters a deep sleep, where your body enters a deep recovery state. Without proper sleep, your muscles have a reduced chance of getting the rest it needs. This can further lead to being tired the next day!
Reason #5 It dehydrates you–
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that your body will want to take frequent trips to the bathroom after drinking it. This flushing of water from the body makes you prone to dehydration. Dehydration is what primarily causes that “hangover” feeling, which comes with headaches, fatigue, and more. When you’re not hydrated enough, your body will have lower levels of potassium, magnesium, and sodium, key electrolytes in your body that need to function at its best.
BOTTOM LINE: Alcohol moderation is key!
While alcohol can have some of these negative effects, it doesn’t mean that you have to cut out alcohol completely! The occasional night out or glass of wine will not hurt your gym progress! What’s most important is being conscious of your overall intake, and being mindful of the number of days you choose to drink.
I had a night out, should I hit the gym the next day?
As different people respond differently to alcohol, it’s important to listen to your body! If you just had a single drink and are feeling ready to power through a workout– go for it! But if you are feeling hungover, it’s probably best to focus on hydrating and resting so that your body can recharge–your body will thank you!
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve your nutrition, contact Yummy Body Nutrition at (484) 416-1090 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with a dietitian or visit https://yummybodynutrition.com/. Most insurance plans cover free nutrition sessions with our Philadelphia area nutritionists.
Sources: Eatright.org, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Science Direct