Nutrition / Food

5 Ways That Alcohol Affects Workouts and Your Progress

Learn how alcohol can have more of a lasting impact on your athletic performance than just a next day hangover.

After a night of drinking, most people discover that their bodies may be slow to respond. Commonly known as a hangover, the unpleasant feeling may cause next-day workouts to be a bit lackluster. Surprisingly, what appears to be a short-lived headache can actually have a lasting impact on your overall training progress. We reached out to top experts, to learn five ways that alcohol affects workouts and goals.

By Causing Dehydration

Our bodies depend on the H2O that we fuel ourselves with every day. Yet people often wonder about hydration and how much water is necessary daily. It’s recommended that we drink half of our body weight in pounds in ounces of water. This amount will keep you hydrated and support you through challenging and sweaty workouts. Alcohol, of course, dehydrates us in a big way. Plus, once you begin to rehydrate after a night out, the diuretic quality of your favorite adult beverage can challenge your existing water intake. This increases your chance of dehydration and can be dangerous. Registered Dietitian Becky Kerkenbush says that a decline in physical and mental motor skills can occur when just two percent (or more) of fluid body weight is lost.

Proper hydration is key for regulating your body’s temperature. When alcohol is present in your system, there’s a likely chance of overheating and causing an increase in heart rate. As training and workout performance can depend on your resting heart rate, this could set you back. Consequently, it could prevent you from reaching your fitness goals.  

By Eliciting Weight Gain

We all know about the added sugar hidden in your margarita. However, alcohol can also increase your chance of immediate water retention. This results in both additional pounds and long-lasting impacts on your waistline. According to Dr. Alex Tauberg, D.C., owner of Tauberg Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Practice, in sports, such as wrestling (where competitors are weighed in and placed into weight classes), a few pounds could make a huge difference. For other athletes, including runners, bikers, and triathletes, increased water retention means that they have more weight to carry around the course. This may potentially affect their time.

By Preventing Proper Recovery

It’s common to feel nauseous after a night of drinking. But alcohol can also place other stressors on our bodies. Dr. Carolyn Dean, M.D., author of the book “Future Health Now Encyclopedia,” notes that alcohol depletes a broad range of vitamins, minerals, and necessary proteins that help our bodies recover post-workout. These all directly impact our ongoing training progress, as these nutrients play a role in acting as our body’s building blocks. One vital nutrient, in particular, magnesium, is lost with the presence of alcohol. Magnesium is responsible for relaxing muscle tension, lowering our pulse rate, and reducing stress levels. All three support proper exercise recovery.

By Stopping or Decreasing Muscle Building

According to Ellen Wermter, FNP-BC from Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, alcohol intake has been shown to decrease growth hormone production. Growth hormone is responsible for producing and regenerating our body’s cells. This is very important for athletes, as it’s crucial for the development of our muscles. This hormone promotes muscle building, muscle repair, and can help heal muscle damage from training sessions. For proper muscle building, it’s also important to regulate your body’s nutrition and allocate nutrients to different areas. Growth hormones also stabilize this process.

By Impacting Your Sleep

A good night’s sleep can give an athlete a huge competitive edge. It increases accuracy, endurance, pain tolerance, and sound decision making. There is no doubt that alcohol affects one’s quality of sleep. As Wermter states, it can also alter sleep cycles by delaying rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. While alcohol may seem to initially aid in falling asleep, frequent sleep disturbances will occur. Your overall sleep quality will suffer as your body metabolizes the alcohol.

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