When it comes to getting the best results, there is a topic that always comes up with my online health coaching clients that no one really ever wants to talk about and that’s the effects of alcohol on fitness.
Alcohol is always a “touchy” topic. Drinking alcohol in any form is a personal decision that is driven by cultural norms and personal beliefs.
Personally, I remain neutral no the subject and my approach with my health coaching clients is the same with alcohol as it is with food.
As an online health coach it is my job to educate and inform my clients so they can make informed decisions about their nutrition and how it impacts their goals.
Below are the basics of the effects of alcohol on fitness that I cover with my clients so you can have all the information you need to make informed decisions about your health.
So let’s start with the basics of how alcohol impacts the body:
1. Alcohol is dehydrating.
Alcohol quickly dehydrates us because of how it works against our antidiuretic hormone (ADH). It causes us to lose water at a rate that is faster than we can replace it. So even if you are drinking water with your alcohol, you are going to lose more than you are able to drink back. At least in that sitting or for several hours afterward. This dehydration can have massive negative impacts on training performance not to mention lead to over-eating and nasty hang-overs.
2. Alcohol has been shown to slow or reduce protein synthesis.
Protein synthesis is the fancy name for muscle rebuilding. It is the process that your body goes through after a workout to help rebuild and repair your muscle. Not only is protein synthesis important if you have a muscle building goal- but it is important and necessary for proper recovery in any workout as well as recovery from an injury or accident.
3. Alcohol has negative impacts on sleep.
Sleep is the #1 thing to impact the overall health of your body. It regulates the hormones that control mood, hunger, digestion, and much more. Disruption of sleep therefore has massive impacts on reaching your goals. And alcohol has been shown again and again to always negatively impact not just the quantity of your sleep, but the quality of your sleep as well.
4. Alcohol’s impact on other areas of the body.
Alcohol consumption has also been shown to increase heart rate and cause irregular heart rhythms. It heightens anxiety, weakens your immune system, and has been linked to several different forms of cancer.
It’s not about eliminating or avoiding things forever, but it is about knowing how what you eat and drink impacts your body and therefore impacts your ability to see the results you are working so hard to achieve.
Whether you choose to drink or how much you choose to drink is absolutely a personal decision, but you should have all the facts so you can make an informed decision.
When it comes to performance and best health, these are the alcohol best practices I recommend to my clients:
Don’t drink after a workout to maximize muscle gains and recovery.
Don’t drink alcohol within 4-5 hours of sleeping to minimize negatives impacts on sleep.
Follow CDC recommendations for daily alcohol consumption which is 1 drink daily for women and 2 drinks daily for men.
Use a rehydration packet or drink water with electrolytes after drinking alcohol to minimize dehydration
I also encourage my clients to treat alcohol as you would any other “indulgence.” Depending on your goals, it may be most beneficial to abstain from drinking alcohol for a time in order to accelerate your results. Some goals can more easily accommodate the occasional or daily alcoholic drink. You will need to make the assessment for yourself what measures you are willing to take, what habits fit best into your lifestyle, and how quickly you want to reach your goals.
If you struggle to find balance with your nutrition or you are unsure if your nutrition habits align with your current goals then working with an online health coach can be a great tool to help you understand your nutrition and empower you to build the habits you need to achieve the results you want.
You can learn more about Poelhuis Performance online health coaching services here.
**Alcohol addiction is no joke! If you struggle with alcohol consumption or addiction, please reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or alcoholic’s anonymous chapter to get support, accountability, and freedom.