To booze or not to booze? That is the question of the day. As more people come to me for fitness help, I find myself answering questions about alcohol a lot. People enjoy drinking, eating, and training (most likely in that order) but can alcohol have a place in life when you're trying to reach a goal? My immediate answer is this: It can, but it most certainly shouldn't.
There are many factors that come into play when it comes to drinking alcohol and reaching a fitness goal. For example, are you a 25 year-old, 230 pound bodybuilder trying to reach 5% body fat? Or are you a 130 pound mom that's just trying to drop a couple of pounds before a vacation? The place at which you start has a lot to do with determining if alcohol consumption is "safe" for you and your goal. Having said this, I will tell you that no amount of alcohol is going to bring any sort of significant benefit to your performance no matter where your starting point is. So, what negative effects does it actually have on your training regimen?
1. Protein Synthesis
If you've read my articles before, I'm sure you've come across the terms anabolic and catabolic. When your body is in an anabolic state, it is considered to be in a muscle-building state. Whereas catabolic is the breaking down of muscle. Alcohol has a negative effect on anabolism and protein synthesis. While alcohol is in your system, it makes it much harder for the body to absorb protein which could impact your performance, ability to build/maintain muscle, as well as recovery. Even if you're not a bro that's all about his gainz, I would stray away from booze for this reason.
2. Fat Oxidation
It seems to me that a lot of us are only concerned with the nutrition breakdown of the alcohol we consume. I hear a lot of things like "it only has 100 calories", "it's ok I worked out earlier", "no worries, it only has 10 grams of carbs!" Well, there's a problem with this. When you drink alcohol, it's not the sugars, carbs, and calories you should be so worried about. It's the alcohol itself. And remember, the effects it has on your body don't just happen when its consumed. These effects can last the whole entire time your body is processing it.
Believe it or not, your body is at work to burn excess fat even when you're not working out. When you drink alcohol, your body immediately changes gears and treats processing the alcohol as its number one priority. This can cause fat oxidation (your body's ability to burn fat) levels to decrease significantly. And when I say significantly, I mean by 50% or more. Do you really want to tell your body to take it easy in the fat burning department?
If you don't know already, proper hydration plays a huge role in your fitness outside of your performance. It allows our minds to function properly, and allows our body to properly burn fat. So what does alcohol do to hydration even if you're not drinking an excessive amount?
Although alcohol is extremely hard on the liver, your kidneys take a pretty big hit too. Our kidneys take in a big portion of water while alcohol is metabolized, which means there's much less for your body to use for every other necessary function. Poor hydration can lead to decreased athletic performance, fat metabolism, and more.
Want a drink with your friends on occasion? Go for it. But take this article into consideration when you're trying to reach a goal. Assess your decisions. Where are your priorities?
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