Health / Expert Advice

How Drinking Alcohol Can Affect Your Workouts

For many people, drinking and sports go hand-in-hand.

A pickup game may be followed by drinks with friends. While the occasional drink may not present a problem to the casual athlete, drinking can have a negative effect on your workouts and your fitness goals. When you’re trying to meet certain fitness goals or even just stay in good health, you may want to assess your drinking habits.

Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol on the body are not always evident. However, there are many reasons why athletes may avoid alcohol.

Aside from its addictive properties, alcohol in general can negatively affect fitness in the following ways.

Increased Risk of Dehydration

As you may know, alcohol works as a diuretic in the body. This means that while you are drinking fluid, the overall effect is that your body is going to get rid of its fluid stores. If you have been drinking the day or night before your workout, you run the risk of working out dehydrated. If you’re even a small amount dehydrated, you can expect to see a significant effect on your workouts. Drinking alcohol comes with several risks, but dehydration is a serious concern. Be sure to always hydrate well and rehydrate during an extended workout as needed.

Changes in Metabolism

When your body has to process alcohol, it requires a great deal of work. The primary system in your body that metabolizes alcohol is your liver. Since alcohol is actually a toxin, your liver has to work to neutralize it and this then affects your entire metabolism. Since your liver is responsible for storing carbohydrates to use as fuel, your workouts are going to be less effective.

If you’re exercising with any type of endurance, you’ll notice that you tire quickly after drinking. You’re also more susceptible to having a low blood sugar, which can be harmful. If you plan to do any type of endurance activity like running or biking, you’ll want to avoid drinking before that exercise.

Decreased Muscle Recovery

Another negative effect of alcohol is how it extends your recovery time. This is primarily due to the dehydrating effects of alcohol. This is an important effect to note for people who tend to drink after a workout. Although some of the negative effects are not present, drinking can still affect your fitness level. By delaying your body’s recovery mechanisms, you may find that you’re more sore between workouts and may have to extend your recovery time.

Although this may not seem like an important factor for some people, recovery times are actually incredibly important if you’re trying to be competitive or even just maintain good fitness. Usually recovery times are 1-2 days, depending on the intensity of the exercise. With alcohol ingestion, this can increase your time significantly and even increase your risk of muscle damage. Since your entire body works as a system, it’s important to note that alcohol ingestion before and after your workouts will have an effect.

Though many people don’t think about drinking when it comes to exercising, it’s important to note that alcohol doesn’t benefit your fitness. In fact, it can be incredibly harmful if you’re not careful. Make sure that you avoid or limit alcohol consumption when training and you’ll find that you have much better workouts. This is why many seasoned athletes avoid alcohol altogether.

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