How alcohol could sabotage your fitness goals

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  • If you drink alcohol, and have set out fitness goals, you might want to reconsider drinking
  • Experts say alcohol adversely affects your performance during physical activity
  • Consumption also slows down recovery after exercise and sporting activities

Alcohol has long been known to negatively affect health in general, but experts warn it also obstructs the efforts of those who are looking to become or remain fit. 

According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, alcohol usage decreases overall fitness, but engaging in regular exercise can significantly improve the negative effects brought about by alcohol use disorders. 

Weight loss and fitness goals hampered by alcohol

If weight loss is your ultimate reason for working out, steering clear of alcoholic beverages will be greatly beneficial because alcohol has what is known as "empty calories".

This means the calories contained in alcohol have no nutritional value and are not beneficial to the body in any way – therefore, consuming it means gaining unhealthy weight. 

Exercise and sport often require concentration to prevent injury, so drinking before engaging in these activities is also not advisable as alcohol impairs hand-eye-coordination and concentration

Negative effects on recovery

Recovery is an important aspect of training and exercise programmes – when you work out your muscles take a lot of strain and need to adapt – and alcohol after exercise can hinder recovery. 

This is due to the fact that the recovery process includes rehydrating the body, because a lot of water is lost through sweat when working out.

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the production of urine.

Increased production of urine means more and more water is being excreted from the body, and could result in dehydration.

Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the process whereby protein is produced to repair muscles after a workout, and it is also an important part of recovery.

Alcohol slows down the process of MPS, meaning that muscles will take longer to recover when one drinks after exercising. 

Does this mean alcohol should be avoided after training at all costs?

In a study on the impact of alcohol on sports performance and recovery, Professor Matthew Barnes from Massey University explains that because alcohol is a toxin, it should be consumed in moderation.

"[Athletes] themselves, should carefully monitor habitual alcohol consumption so that the generic negative health and social outcomes associated with heavy alcohol use are avoided.

"Additionally, if athletes are to consume alcohol after sport/exercise, a dose of approximately 0.5 g/kg body weight is unlikely to impact most aspects of recovery and may therefore be recommended if alcohol is to be consumed during this period," Professor Barnes stated. 

READ | Can exercise offset damaging effects of alcohol?

READ | How much alcohol is too much? A nutritionist weighs in

READ | Can running help cure your hangover?

Image credit: Burst, Pexels
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