Alcohol and Your Fitness...How does alcohol affect performance and fitness levels?

Alcohol and Your Fitness...How does alcohol affect performance and fitness levels?

Whether you’re a regular gym goer or exercise on the odd occasion, it is extremely important to understand how alcohol can affect your body pre, during and post exercise. Whether it’s as simple as a weekend football game or you train on a dedicated daily basis, alcohol will have effects on your performance. Having a balanced and sensible approach to drinking alcohol is extremely important if you’re looking for a change in your body, performance or stamina. Reaping the rewards for all your efforts will be less likely without a sensible attitude.

The government agency, Sport England, have compiled evidence which shows that more people are getting involved in sports and exercise than ever before. An estimated 7 million plus adults are actively engaging with sport but then when you compare these figures with NHS ones which shows that 37% of men and 29% of women are drinking over the recommended daily unit guidelines, we’d imagine that there are some overlaps. It’s all well and good that Brits are getting more active but is alcohol consumption counteracting our best efforts?

Alcohol and Sports Performance

In the most basic terms alcohol has a detrimental effect on your sporting performance. This is down to the two ways in which it affects your body during exercise.

Alcohol is a diuretic, this means it causes your body to produce excess urine and consuming too much alcohol can result in dehydration. If you exercise too soon after drinking this dehydration can be further exacerbated or sped up as your body also sweats as your temperature increases. The combination of this sweating and the diuretic effects of alcohol makes dehydration much more likely. To exercise effectively and safely you need to be fully hydrated to ensure you keep your blood flow levels maintained throughout your body. Without maintained blood slow oxygen and other nutrients don’t reach your muscles. Similarly, keeping hydrated is essential for levelling your body temperature.

Secondly, alcohol has a significant impact on how your body makes energy. As your body is metabolising alcohol your liver becomes unable to produce as much glucose as you may need. This in turns mean you have low blood sugar levels and exercise requires high levels of sugar to provide you with the necessary energy to perform. Exercising intensely and at your peak will be extremely difficult with lowered glucose levels and this also goes for your coordination and concentration levels.

Exercising after a Night Out

The infamous hangover is not conducive to performing well in your exercise regime or chosen sport. Drinking alcohol the night before a planned exercise session or match is likely to have a negative effect on your performance. Even if you don’t suffer from the regular symptoms of a hangover such as dehydration and headaches, it can still have an adverse effect on your body. The quality of your session will, as standard, be of lower quality to usual.

You will naturally lack speed, strength and power. You won’t be able to make necessary split second decisions if involved in sports games and it’s more likely your body will feel tired. Your liver won’t be able to focus on clearing the lactic acid build up in your muscles because it’s focusing on clearing the alcohol toxins. Experts suggest you should always avoid alcohol the night before an intensive gym session or competitive team game. In the event that you feel alcohol is necessary, experts further suggest no more than one drink with food.

The Long Term

Alcohol is high in sugar which means it’s also high in calories. The calories in alcohol are said to be nearly the same as those you’d find in pure fat and therefore consuming too much will impact upon the speed of your weight loss and work on your body. As your body is not designed to store alcohol it works on trying to remove it as quickly as possible which means it can’t focus on absorbing food’s nutrients and burning fat.

Muscle gain can also be affected negatively as drinking alcohol can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and the hormones necessary for muscle growth are only released when you’re in deep sleep. Even more worryingly, evidence suggests that drinking can increase the likelihood of unusual heart rhythms developing. This risk is significantly increased if you exercise up to two days after drinking heavily. Your heart is put under far too much stress if you are still dealing with the after effects of alcohol and you choose to exercise. The long term effects of consuming too much alcohol also include heart disease, liver disease and cancer, all of which could mean you can no longer exercise at all.

Keeping your drinking in check is always a good idea if you’re interested in keeping your body in the best condition it can be. No one is suggests you should never touch another pint but moderation is key and it makes sense to assess whether you are regularly consuming over your daily recommended allowance and if you find this to be true, cut back. Your sporting performance is not the only thing that will be affected in the long term.



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