In What Ways Can Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Fitness Goals?

How does alcohol affect your fitness? It does it in many negative ways. Booze is a staple of birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. If you’re on a fitness journey and insist on taking that glass of beer or shot of whisky, know its adverse effects on your training output and general well-being. Delve into how alcohol affects your training.

1. Makes You Dehydrated

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it alters the kidneys’ function by causing it to produce more urine. How does it work? When you drink, the ethanol — or compound found in liquor, signals the brain to suppress the release of vasopressin — a hormone that commands the kidneys to retain fluid. 

As a result, your filtering system goes out of whack and removes water from your body through urination instead of the opposite, making you lose plenty of fluids. You’re likely dehydrated if you wake up feeling extremely thirsty after a fun night’s drinking session. 

Going to the gym in this state can make you feel more tired. It can also elevate your body’s temperature and heart rate and weaken your mental ability, affecting your concentration and motor control during training. Focus is critical during gym sessions to avoid potential accidents.

2. Disrupts Your Metabolism

Another way alcohol affects your fitness is by slowing down your metabolism. Only about 10% of alcohol is removed from the body through urine, sweat and breath. The other 90% is metabolized by the liver with the help of enzymes at an average slow rate of 0.015% per hour. It takes a long time to sober up since there’s no way to accelerate the process of breaking down alcohol. 

If you go to bed at 2 a.m. with a blood alcohol content of 0.20, meaning your blood contains 0.20% ethanol, you’ll wake up eight hours later at 10 a.m. still with impaired judgment. If you attend an afternoon class at 1 p.m., you won’t be able to focus. You won’t feel sober and fully recovered until 4 p.m., which means it takes 14 hours to metabolize 0.20% alcohol in your system. 

You’ll likely miss your day’s training if you indulge in your favorite bourbon and wake up with a hangover. When you commit to a fitness goal, do the same with other areas of your life. Avoid vices that can derail your progress.  

3. Reduces Your Performance

An undeniable impact of drinking is reduced training performance. Experts revealed sports-related people are more likely to have problems with alcohol, especially heavy drinking for a short period. It’s echoed by another study that found 53.3% of student-athletes binge drink within a given month, while only 41.2% of nonathletes engage in the same activity. 

The same review revealed alcohol can cause skeletal weakness and atrophy or thinning of the muscle mass, leading to decreased performance in athletes. If you used to do 100 squats, a hangover could bring it down to 30. Moreover, it can delay muscle recovery after vigorous exercise, especially in men. 

Some of the mechanisms contributing to this muscle dysfunction are metabolism imbalance, increased inflammation in the liver causing fibrosis or tissue scarring and energy deficiencies since alcohol doesn’t provide nutrition to the body.

4. Impedes Muscle Growth

Regarding the skeletal system, alcohol doesn’t only harm them but also kills your gains. It will look like you’re training for nothing since drinking inhibits muscle growth in three ways. 

First, it disrupts protein synthesis or the process of building new muscles. When you lift weights, several signaling pathways are activated inside your body, telling the muscles to release the amino acids needed to grow muscles. When you drink, these communication pathways get blocked, obstructing the muscle-building process.

Second, experts believe alcohol interrupts the signals to build proteins. Instead, some molecules that cause muscle loss are activated, harming your system.

Third, ethanol increases insulin resistance — a hormone that stimulates skeletal growth by sending a message to the muscles to absorb carbohydrates. How does it affect your training goals? Without energy, your muscles can’t grow or recover well after those vigorous and multiple reps of lifting, running or doing flexibility routines. You’ll likely won’t see any progress if you drink and exercise simultaneously.

5. Degrades Sleep Quality

Alcohol negatively affects your training by depreciating sleep quality and impacting your physical activity performance and output.

It’s true drinking liquor makes you sleepy, but it does the opposite to the quality of your snooze. It changes sleep architecture and reduces the period for deep sleep. Low amounts of alcohol in your system degrade sleep quality by 9.3%, whereas moderate levels reduce it to 24%. Having more than two drinks for men and over one for women decreases it by 39.2%. 

Excessive drinking is associated with many sleep disorders. It aggravates sleep apnea symptoms, a disorder where your breathing pauses during rest and contributes to insomnia. The body recharges and repairs itself during slumber, so getting adequate rest is crucial. Training when you’re sleep-deprived lowers your output, may sour your mood and is a recipe for potential injury. Instead of your usual one-hour routine, you may cut it short to 30 minutes because you’re too tired and weak to continue.

6. Compromises Heart Health

Chronic alcohol consumption has also been linked to numerous health conditions, but most especially disorders of the heart. Several clinical trials pointed it out as a critical risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. 

Alcohol intake increases blood pressure levels, which in turn elevates hypertension risk that may eventually lead to cardiovascular complications. Long-term drinking of more than 14 grams of ethanol per day may provoke atrial fibrillation or an abnormal heartbeat — a common cause of arrhythmia. The most apparent of all — abusing it can lead to accidents that may affect the brain and heart. 

One way alcohol affects your training is by decreasing your endurance. It’s more challenging to train for cardio if your heart isn’t in good condition due to substance abuse. It can limit the exercises you can do. You may be required to work with a doctor and a professional trainer to determine which routines are safe to execute.

7. Increases Risk for Injury

All of the above risks point to alcohol raising the incidence of injury in and out of the training facility. 

One-tenth of the total impact of alcohol on health is attributed to injury. It’s a prevalent occurrence around the world. Consuming 120 grams of alcohol skyrockets your risk of motor vehicle accidents by more than 50 times. In addition, it amplifies the risk of falls across all ages. Every 10 grams of ethanol consumed shoots up the likelihood of falling by 1.15 times. If you’re a swimmer, a concentration of 0.10% in your body increases your risk of drowning tenfold.

If you’re intoxicated, it’s safer to skip your regular gym session even if it means you’ll lose your momentum streak. Otherwise, you’ll risk getting injured every time you lift, run or jump at the gym. 

Alcohol Affects Your Fitness Goals Negatively

It’s understandable to have a bottle or two of your favorite beer on special occasions. However, if you just started a fitness journey and are serious about achieving your targets, it’s best to give alcohol a pass. It can ruin your gains and put your safety at risk. Whether you want to lose weight or grow muscles, complement your fitness goals with healthy nutrition. Skip alcohol and opt for a glass of fresh juice.

Beth Rush
Author: Beth Rush

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