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Does alcohol affect fitness? I’ve looking been looking for this answer since I started taking my own fitness serious a decade ago. While it’s possibly an easy question to answer (YES it does!!!), the reality of it’s affects are something that should be reviewed. The reason I believe we should have our eyes wide open on this topic is because alcohol use is such a significant part of our culture.
I can vouch for this in my own life. I am a fitness professional. On every interview with a prospect I ask about their alcohol use. It’s pretty funny how hard I have to work to get an honest answer to this question too. I typically have to be forth coming about my own use in order to get some honesty. The fact is, most Saturday afternoons I have a few Tito’s and soda drinks. So the question doesn’t come from a place of judgement. It helps me see how fitness, fun and alcohol fit into their lives.
Does alcohol affect fitness? The first thing people associate with alcohol (typically) is calorie consumption. As stated about, most Saturday’s I consume alcohol. How does this fit into my nutrition for the day? Energy balance is nothing more than calories in minus calories out. So how does alcohol fit into your energy balance? The same way macro nutrients and empty calories fit in. Based on my example of Tito’s and soda, if I were to consume 3 drinks, that would be 98 calories per drink times 3 (296 total). If my recommended calories is 2,000 per day, then I’m left with 1,704.
The calorie counting part of how alcohol affects fitness is pretty simple.
However, alcohol does interfere with the body’s metabolism. Alcohol consumption causes an increase in insulin secretion, which leads to low blood sugar. During exercise the body requires normal levels of sugar in the blood to give us energy. So, after alcohol, blood sugar levels will fall, and our sports performance won’t be as good as usual not having consumed alcohol.
Does alcohol affect fitness? Alcohol is also a diuretic. Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration because the alcohol reduces the amount of urine the kidneys absorb. Exercise makes us sweat as the body temperature rises. When combined with sweating and the diuretic effect of alcohol, dehydration is much more likely.
Hydration is necessary when we exercise in order to maintain normal flow of blood through our bodies. This is also essential for oxygen and nutrients to reach our muscles and all the body’s organs.
It would be rare for me to recommend to a client or prospect to halt their alcohol consumption. In fact, there are many relational, emotional and mental benefits to alcohol. But like all things, moderation is important. In terms of our athletic performance, both energy balance and hydration are significantly affected by alcohol.