Does Alcohol Affect your Workout?

by Pat Hanavan on November 1, 2012

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One of the many weekly struggles you need to overcome when getting into a serious workout routine is your drinking habits and alcohol consumption. When I say you, I am also saying me. You may have wondered how detrimental a couple drinks with your friends can be, you may have wondered if your workouts are hard enough, can you reward yourself with some drinks on the weekend.

So here is the question: Does Alcohol Affect Your Workout? The answer of course is Yes, but, how does it affect you? These questions lead me on a quest to see exactly how alcohol can affect your workouts, your body, and life in general. This is what I found:

Alcohol acts as a toxin within the body. The energy your body must exert to recover from this toxin is simply taking away from what your body already needs to recover from your workout. Where you are also run into issues is upon your return to the gym, energy levels are typically down due to your body working to recover. This hurts both your post-workout as well as your pre-workout…. as well as your workout-workout. The effects are full circle.

Your growth hormones play an extremely large role when it comes to building muscle, stimulating other cell growth, and development and promoting optimal bone growth. Ever hear someone say that your muscles rebuild while you sleep? That is because the growth hormone is predominately secreted during the early sleeping hours of the night. Alcohol tends to disrupt your natural sleep patterns thus disrupting the secretion of your growth hormones. While I may not be a scientist, I can clearly see how overtime that will hinder my progress.

The alcohol effects on testosterone is the next factor affected. Testosterone is another huge hormone associated with muscle growth and is the reason why men naturally have a great deal more muscle mass than women. Upon the consumption of alcohol, a substance released in the liver is toxic to the release of testosterone. When this substance is released, it decreases the concentration of testosterone resulting in lower muscle mass and definition.

If your goals are to get into muscular shape, it’s probably a good idea to stop drinking all together, for the greatest gains possible. It may take up to two weeks to get your body’s testosterone levels back to normal range, depending on how much, and how often you drink alcohol.

Next factor is dehydration and something you absolutely want to avoid when trying to build muscle. Alcohol consumption disrupts your natural water balance resulting in a number a negative effects on the body. Fatigue results in low physical performance overall especially in the gym. Your diet may also become disrupted as your appetite changes and you have a feeling of hunger leading you to binge on comfort foods.

Alcohol also affects the muscle glycogen. When you consume alcoholic beverages, the alcohol synthesis overrides the glycogen synthesis resulting in decreased stores in the muscle cells. This results in less energy for your body to run on overall. So guess what, that is less energy for your workouts!

Guess what else happens….. alcohol increases blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure means an increase in heart rate also affecting your aerobic performance. During an aerobic workout, your heart is already working at an increased rate and amplifying your heart rate with the help of alcohol only makes the workout seem harder.

If all that was not enough for you, add in the fact that this may be one of the easiest ways to stack up calories. Excluding specialty mixed cocktails that can sometimes skyrocket the calorie count, do not think that just because a beer or glass of wine has just a few calories that you will be in the clear. Most are likely to consume multiple servings quickly stacking up the calorie count to equal what could have been another meal.

If you do not set take the time and set aside room for this increase of calorie intake, fat gain will be the result. A good way to watch your calorie intake is with an app like MyFitnessPal.

I am probably only scratching the surface with the negative effects of alcohol but from what was found, I am seriously reconsidering my poor choices. I also do not want to scare anyone away from alcohol [trust me] and make you think it is a 100% negative. I just want you to be mindful of it’s negative effects and not to overindulge.

Next time you are out for Girls Night or Guys Night, just remember to think before you consume. Some simple suggestions are to include a glass of water with or in between drinks. Some have suggested eating a lot of vegetables as it will increase the nutrient content in your diet while decreasing calories. Also allow for some extra sleep, your body is going to need it!

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