The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness

The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness

The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness

As we head into spring, the days are getting warmer, the clothes skimpier, and many of us are heading to the gym to get in shape. And while a cold beer after a hard workout may sound enticing, you may want to consider the effects of alcohol on fitness before you indulge. Alcohol consumption, even moderately, can reverse all the work you just put in at the gym.

The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness: Athletic Performance

Athletic performance requires coordination and cognitive precision, so your ability to exercise and play sports can be negatively affected by alcohol. Alcohol impairs reaction time, balance, and hand eye coordination.

In addition, alcohol acts as a diuretic, which means it increases the speed at which fluids and electrolytes leave the body. This can impair the body’s ability to stay hydrated, especially while working out. Alcohol also increases the production of lactic acid-causing and increase in muscle soreness, and can dilate blood vessels which increases sweating and causes further dehydration.

The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness: Weight Gain

Alcohol contains what nutritionists call “empty calories.” This means that one of the effects of alcohol on fitness is that it contains a lot of calories with no nutritional value. Also, alcohol consumption increases belly fat.  Experts recommend that you limit your intake to one drink a day and keep an eye on overall caloric intake.

The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness: Muscles

One of the most negative effects of alcohol on fitness is the way that it inhibits muscle growth. Protein synthesis is the main way that the body builds muscle. It is the growth process within muscle cells. Drinking alcohol can inhibit this process. Excessive alcohol consumption slows the growth process down by up to 20%.

Another major way that alcohol affects muscle growth is that it affects the release growth hormone. Growth hormone plays a role in building muscle, stimulating cell growth, and promoting bone growth. When this hormone is low, it’s going to affect muscle growth. Growth hormone is usually secreted during sleep, and since alcohol can disrupt natural sleep, growth hormone production can be inhibited up to 70%.

Binge drinking can also cause a drop in testosterone levels while increasing cortisol, a hormone that destroys muscle. Avoid drinking alcohol right before or after hitting the gym.

The Effects of Alcohol on Fitness: Heart Health

Many people have heard that drinking alcohol can be good for your heart, but it must be pointed out that these health benefits extend only to moderate drinking (one to two drinks a day). Once drinking passes that point, alcohol can actually damage your health.  And keep in mind that the positive benefits of moderate alcohol consumption likely only apply to people who are 45 and older.

Overall, if you are looking to get fit this spring, its best to limit yourself to moderate drinking or cut out alcohol altogether. Most of the effects of alcohol on fitness are negative, and they can counteract the good things you are doing for your health like exercising and eating right.