The Detrimental Effects of Alcohol Consumption While Trying to Stay Fit

Alcohol Eats Away at Muscle Mass

If increasing muscle mass and getting in better shape is one of your goals then think twice before you go out for a night of heavy drinking. Calories add up fast as 12 ounces of beer equals 150 calories, 5 ounces of wine equals 100 calories, and 1.5-ounces of distilled spirits equals 100 calories.

alcohol-fatConsuming alcohol in large quantities has a direct effect on your metabolism, causing fat to be stored instead of being utilized as an energy source. Alcohol contains seven “empty” calories per gram, meaning that these calories don’t provide you with any of the essential nutrients you need to build that muscle mass you desire.

Alcohol also hinders the body’s ability to repair itself at night and therefore you don’t recover as quickly and are more likely to be injured during workouts. No matter what kind of alcohol you’s still alcohol and it will slow your entire system down including your metabolism and your body’s ability to recover from workouts. When you intake alcohol the body takes a step back in performance in every aspect of daily life activities. One thing is for sure… Alcohol will NOT help you in any way, shape, or form when it comes to accomplishing your fitness goals.

Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption on Your Bodyalcohol-stop-ref

  • Muscles—Reduces blood flow to the muscles, causing weakness and deterioration
  • Hormones—Reduces testosterone in your blood and increases conversion of testosterone to estrogen, causing increased fat absorption and fluid retention
  • Liver—Creates imbalances that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatty liver and hyperlipidemia (build-up of fats in the bloodstream)
  • Brain—Cuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain, resulting in a “blackout” caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the brain that can kill tens of thousands of brain cells

Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption on Physical Performance

Alcohol is a known depressant that suppresses the brain’s ability to function. Even though you may feel a “high” after several cocktails, the truth is that your reaction time, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination and endurance all decrease dramatically.

Furthermore, the after-effects of a night of excessive drinking can be detrimental to your fitness goals. Alcohol is a diuretic that may result in dehydration. This dehydration is known to decrease physical performance, so that previous night of drinking will continue to affect you the following day.

Dehydration is a major setback in athletic performance and can have detrimental side effects when trying to compete in various endurance events. Once you are dehydrated it takes awhile for your body to recover and get back to normal operating levels associated with fitness.

Alcohol and Sleep

Alcohol consumption can cause sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time and the time required to fall asleep. It is popularly believed that a drink before bedtime can help a person fall asleep.

However, alcohol’s affect on sleep patterns results in increased fatigue and physical stress to the body. Therefore, alcohol consumption indirectly affects a person’s strength-training ability due to increased fatigue and a lack of healthy reparative sleep.

alcohol-trayAlcohol and Nutrition

Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable substances by decreasing the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Regular alcohol consumption also impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood.

In addition, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems. For example, folate deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in turn impairs the absorption of water and nutrients, including glucose, sodium and additional folate. Such interference of nutrient breakdown and absorption may impair the physical performance and recovery required to build and maintain muscle mass.

Putting on the Pounds

Many people under the influence experience “drunk munchies” that can result in the consumption of several hundred extra calories for the day. A study examining how alcohol affects caloric intake found that subjects who drank wine with their lunch consumed an additional 300 calories and did not compensate for those calories by cutting back at dinner.

Drinking alcohol and making poor food decisions are associated often and are essentially summed up in a lose-lose situation when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet.

Safe in Moderation

Now that you know some of the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, you might be scared to have that glass of wine with dinner. Don’t be. When alcohol is consumed in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men), it has been shown to have some positive effects:

  • Increased HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) within one to two weeks
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Reduced insulin resistance

However, after that first glass of wine or alcohol make sure to try and follow it up with a glass of water and/or tea. Drinking lots of water has massive benefits in keeping you hydrated and maintaining a steady metabolism. This does not mean that you can get away with drinking a vodka water as the alcohol is still entering your system and doing more harm than good.

The Take-home Message

In conclusion, if you want to increase muscle mass, decrease fat or improve general health, make sure alcohol is only consumed in moderation or not at all. Ask yourself this question every time you want to pick up a drink… ‘Is it really worth it?’ and ‘Do I really need it because the next day will result most likely in a hangover not often associated with being a very productive day.’

Last but not least, next time you are asked to go out socially, be the designated driver. Not only will your friends appreciate it and be much safer, but you will be one step closer to your fitness goals.

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Jack Nunn

Jack Nunn is the head trainer and owner of Roworx. Jack is a former national team rower who has competed in more than 100 triathlons, including 9 full Ironmans. He has created a system of rowing that prepares the whole body for both competition and fitness longevity.

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