Do fitness and alcohol mix as well as whiskey and coke? I am sure many would laugh and answer with a resounding “Yes!”, but if you’re that dude…have you considered how alcohol can affect your fitness, physique, metabolism, recovery?…the list goes on and on…
This question comes up quite a bit in emails and comments. With the summer BBQ and party season upon us, there always seems to be more opportunities to drink. Should we avoid it altogether, or is an occasional drink okay with your P90X Nutrition Plan or Insanity Nutrition Plan, or just your overall fitness in general?
So back to the question, does “fitness and alcohol”… mix?
Not that anyone cares what my view on alcohol is…(but its my blog, soooo…lol). But I have never had a sip of alcohol since beginning my transformation back in December of 2010. In fact, I have not had any alcohol since 2005! Its not that I think its a sin to drink alcohol (Jesus drank wine, but did warn against drunkenness, but thats another topic for another day), but alcohol and getting drunk specifically was something I was very good at before I got saved. Once I had a relationship with Jesus, I simply no longer had the desire to drink anymore, which I caught a lot of flack for from “friends”. Since I personally have no desire to drink or get drunk, it makes it pretty easy for me to avoid it altogether.
But I know that my convictions are not shared across the board which is perfectly fine. You might have a few drinks on the weekends with friends or maybe you just like to have a glass of wine with dinner or in occasional social situations. But from a fitness and alcohol perspective, what should your approach be?
First, I want to take a look at alcohol from a nutritional point of view and see how it can impact your results.
Every gram of alcohol has 7 calories. This is more than carbohydrates (4cals per gram), but not quite as much as fat (9cals per gram). It is not considered a macronutrient (a protein, carbohydrate, or fat) because your body cant use it for survival. All the other nutrients are needed to sustain life. So nutritionally speaking, alcohol can add quite a bit of empty calories to your diet.
These alcohol calories add no nutritional value to your body. It won’t promote muscle gains. It won’t promote fat loss – it actually does just the opposite. Alcohol is a sedative and the calories are very easily stored as fat – that’s why the beer belly is a staple American feature.
So can alcohol bust your nutrition? Sure, just like that slice of birthday cake can demolish your progress!
But what if its just occasionally?
The occasional drink can hinder your progress just as much as the occasional slice of birthday cake. Am I saying that you can never have a drink? No…Am I saying you can never have a slice of birthday cake? Yes…Kidding (but seriously, lol). What I am saying though loud and clear is that if you are not careful, especially in a social setting, those calories can add up pretty quick.
I dont know what kind of alcoholic beverage you prefer, but where I am from – the Pacific Northwest, micro-brews flow as freely as the rain and rivers. On average our micro-brews have about 300-500 calories per glass. Add on top of that the fact that beer and drinking in general is more often than not accompanied by snacking…you can jack up your nutrition in a real hurry.
According to some studies, alcohol impairs reaction time, balance and hand-eye coordination, all of which you require to be at your peak performance during your workouts. Especially if you are doing something like Insanity: The Asylum or P90X2.
In addition, alcohol acts as a diuretic by speeding the loss of body fluids and electrolytes that your body needs to stay properly hydration. Alcohol can also increase the production of lactic acid, which can greatly increase fatigue when exercising. Other effects include dilation of blood vessels, increased sweating and dehydration…Nothing good really.
Reduced Muscle Gains?
Protein synthesis is vital for muscle grow and maintain. Because alcohol impairs this process, drinking can interfere with your ability to grow and maintain muscle. Studies have also shown that binge drinking can cause a drop in testosterone levels while increasing cortisol, which is a hormone that destroys muscle. So with this info…fitness and alcohol dont look like they mix so well.
But isnt alcohol good for your heart?
That is true in some cases that alcohol can benefit overall heart health. Some studies have shown alcohol to affect your body in a similar manner to exercise by increasing your levels of healthy cholesterol which reduces the risk of vascular disease. So when you combine moderate amounts of alcohol with a generally healthy lifestyle, you can significantly improve cardiovascular health.
…But here is the catch: Those same studies say that these effects likely apply only to people 45 and older. Excessive alcohol consumption is still harmful to overall fitness. Moderation is still the key to living a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
So we have established that fitness and alcohol dont actually mix well together in the grand scheme of things. You can also preach all you want about the healthy antioxidants and stuff in wine that promote a healthy heart, but you can get that stuff from fruit! I like what my coach says: “That would be like adding a spinach leaf to a Twinkie”…The positive aspects of alcohol on your health and fitness goals are overshadowed with greater disadvantages that will only hinder your progress.
My advice is to completely obstain from drinking alcohol if you are trying to lose fat quickly. If you are just maintaining and you can afford the occasional drink, then that’s fine – just be sure that you continue to account for it in your daily macros when tracking your nutrition. If you fail to plan, then plan on failing!
Stay focused…NO EXCUSES…You ARE RippedClub!
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