Alcohol, Fitness, and You

3 09 2010

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in America.  It helps us all relax and enjoy a night out with friends, and a good beer perfectly compliments any sporting event, whether it be on television or in person.  And lets face it, after a long day of work, there’s nothing better than kicking back in the recliner with a cold one or a nice glass of wine.  But is this substance healthy for us?  Will it inhibit the results of a fitness program like P90X?  Or results we see from time in the gym?  Or the diet we’ve been working so hard to adapt to?

The answer is yes, alcohol does have a negative affect on our health, and it will definitely effect our results from dieting and working out.  While alcohol does have a few positive benefits when taken in moderation, the negatives far outweigh the benefits of it.  Now I’m not trying to tell you that you can’t have a few brews with buddies every once in a while.  I would definitely be preaching to the choir.  But I just want to provide some facts as to why alcohol will hinder our progress toward a healthy lifestyle.

  • Alcohol slows protein synthesis.  Alcohol, when taken in excess, has been shown to slow the process of protein synthesis by as much as 20%.
  • Alcohol lowers testosterone levels.  Testosterone determines how much muscle one can gain.  Managing your testosterone levels is difficult, which is why you see so many body builders and professional athletes using steroids.
  • Alcohol is a diuretic which causes dehydration you.  We all know how important it is to properly hydrate with water throughout the day, and alcohol will take you in the opposite direction of that goal.
  • Alcohol interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy living.
  • Alcohol intake spikes insulin levels, which causes the body to store fat, dampening any dreams of weight loss.
  • Alcohol contains empty calories (seven empty calories, to be exact), empty meaning no nutritional value what-so-ever.  Many alcoholic drinks contain sugars as well, bumping the number of calories up even higher.
  • Alcohol increases your appetite.

Obviously, drinking alcohol while maintaining a healthy lifestyle can cause complications in your weight loss and fitness goals.  However, alcohol has become a part of every day living for many.  So how do we reduce the impact it has on our health?  A few tips:

  1. Set a limit – Ladies, limit yourselves to one or two drinks a night.  Guys, limit yourselves to two or three drinks a night.
  2. Start earlier and finish earlier – The later you drink, the more unhealthy it is.  If you have your last drink 4-5 hours before sleep, you will have more time to burn the empty calories off with everyday activity.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks – Try to avoid mixed drinks that incorporate heavy usage of juices, sodas, and artificial flavorings (think margaritas, screwdrivers, jagerbombs, etc).
  4. Plan ahead – Eat a meal that is high in protein before drinking and before going to bed in order to keep the body from going catabolic during sleep and to prevent muscle breakdown.
  5. Drink water – Have a half glass of water in between beers/drinks to reduce the alcohol intake, as well as keep your body hydrated.
  6. Recover – The following morning, eat a big breakfast that is high in protein (turkey bacon, egg whites, etc) to restore as many nutrients that were lost the night before.
  7. Cut back – If you are a beer drinker, stick to the light beers.  The lowest calorie beer is Miller Genuine Draft with only 64 calories and 2.4g carbs.
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