Alcohol and your fitness goals
Most people know that alcohol is bad and can damage your health (if you drink a lot or regularly that is), but what can it do to your fitness goals?
Alcohol can interfere with many functions within the body that are trying to help with your fitness goals - whether that is gaining muscle mass, losing body fat or sporting performance. The effects of alcohol can actually stay with you for days, not necessarily the drunk feeling, but the effects it has on your body. That is why many athletes refrain from drinking it whilst competing. Alcohol is absorbed very quickly (hence the 'tipsy' stage) but is metabolised very slowly, meaning the effects of it can last for quite a while. 1 gram of alcohol is 7 calories, so it is fairly dense - similar to fats. It's extremely easy to drink calories, especially alcohol. Once the 'tipsy' effect hit you, it's extremely likely that you continue to drink more, the calories soon add up. Because your body treats alcohol as a poison, it processes that first, and any food you have eaten prior to your 'drinking session' get's left behind and can actually just get stored as fat. If your body continued to digest the food first, and then the alcohol, you wouldn't feel the effects of booze as quick as you do. If you have a match/competition 1-2 days after your last drink on a night out, you may experience a few symptoms (even when you think you have got rid of that dreaded hangover):
- A decrease in strength
- Become tired quicker than usual
- Reduced coordination
- Slower reflexes
- Reduced balance
- Reduced concentration
- Quicker dehydration
- Slower recovery from previous game/workout
Those side effects of alcohol will do no good whatsoever to your sporting performance, and that is why so many athletes avoid it while training/competing. When I used to play cricket for Essex CCC, I stopped drinking during the season (there were a few occasions when I did have a drink, but usually when I had no games or training coming up). I did feel the benefit- my training was more productive, my fitness was better, I performed better in my games, and overall I felt better. Nowadays I am concentrating purely on my fitness, body, shape and health, and I don't drink much alcohol at all. Obviously when it's Christmas, a party, or another function, I'll have a beer or something, but I don't drink regularly, I don't go out getting 'smashed', and again, I feel the benefits. Many people wake up on a Saturday and/or Sunday morning with a dreadful hangover, me? I wake up feeling great and have a good workout - a much better start to the day!
Now, am I saying you shouldn't have an alcohol drink at all? no, I am not saying that. What I am saying, is that you should be sensible. Why put all the effort in the gym, and in the kitchen, to then go and ruin it by drinking tons of alcohol? You can treat alcohol in a similar way to a cheat meal. A cheat meal shouldn't be everyday, and with some people, it's not even every week, or month! Alcohol can hit you for a few days, so if you know you are going to be having some drinks one night, my advice? kick ass in the gym leading up to it. Everyone has times where alcohol is present - Christmas, birthdays, weddings, holidays and so on. You want to stick to those kinds of events, rather than going out drinking every weekend just for the sake of it.