How alcohol affects your workout and recovery

How Alcohol Affects Your Workout Routine and Recovery

Exercising – or working out – brings about a bevy of health benefits. Apart from helping you lose weight, it can boost your mood. Exercise can also help control your blood sugar levels, as it can lower your risk of heart disease. It can improve your sleep, as it can help make you live longer.

With the sweating that comes with exercise, hydration is key to keep the body moving. But while the better choices are water and energy drinks, some people are turning to a more harmful alternative: alcohol. Unfortunately, this can affect your exercise performance – and your general health in the long run.

how alcohol affects your workout routine and recovery

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Workout

Alcohol affects the body in several ways. Unfortunately, they have negative impacts on your exercise performance.

Alcohol can make you less energetic.

Energy is needed for workouts, especially the more intense ones. Sadly, you will not be able to make as much energy if you are under the influence of alcohol. That’s because the liver prioritizes alcohol metabolism instead of other more important functions. A busy liver is unable to produce glucose, which is needed to make energy. Without enough glucose, you will not be able to make much energy. This will make you more tired – even if you have managed to do this exercise easily before.

Alcohol can make you sluggish.

Alcohol can make you relaxed because it can slow certain processes in the body. Unfortunately, this is can direly affect your workout performance. Since alcohol depresses most body functions, you may find yourself having difficulties with balancing or coordination. It can also affect your accuracy and reactions, thereby making your exercise regimen a messy one.

Alcohol can dehydrate you.

Alcohol is a diuretic. It can force the kidney to make more urine. As such, drinking alcohol can dehydrate you as you work out. Since sweating is an integral part of any workout, the effects are more pronounced when you exercise after drinking.

Unfortunately, dehydration can negatively affect your exercise performance. If you find yourself unable to do more reps than usual, then you have alcohol’s diuretic effects to blame.

Why You Shouldn’t Exercise After Drinking Alcohol

Most people believe that it’s okay to exercise a day after drinking alcohol. While you might feel well enough to do so, know that alcohol has residual effects on the body. Such can affect your workout – even if it’s been several hours since you drank alcohol.

You will not be able to perform as well as you used to.

Let’s say that you can always do 20 reps for 5 cycles easily. Sadly, alcohol can alter your performance for worse.  Since it can dehydrate you, alcohol can make you feel tired quicker. The headaches that usually come with drinking can affect your performance as well.

You are more likely to suffer from cramps.

Cramps are muscle contractions that can last for several seconds – up to a few minutes. Alcohol can make this happen, especially if you try to exercise a day after getting hammered.

To wit, as you exercise, your muscles burn glucose for energy. This leads to the production of lactic acid. The liver is in charge of removing this from the body. However, as it continues to metabolize the remaining alcohol in your system, it is unable to get rid of lactic acid. Such results in lactic acid buildup, which leads to cramps and eventual muscle fatigue.

Other Health Effects

More than just impairing your workout performance, alcohol can lead to changes that may affect your exercise regimen in the long run.

Poor Muscle Growth

Wondering why your bicep size remains the same, despite all the workouts and whey protein supplementation? Well, you can blame it on the alcohol. After all, it can affect your sleep patterns. Liquor can produce a light, non-restful sleep. Most of the time, it can make you wake up more often.

Unfortunately, these sleep disruptions can affect the release of growth hormones. These are vital for muscle growth, among many other functions. With that being said, alcohol can hamper muscle growth, no matter how hard you exercise.

Delayed Recovery

A rigorous exercise regimen can tire the muscles. As such, they need to recover before you can exercise well again. Unfortunately, alcohol can affect the immediate recuperation of muscles (as well as other body parts). That’s because alcohol can make the blood vessels widen. This increases the blood supply to certain areas, making it inflamed and slow to repair. With that being said, alcohol can delay recovery – leaving you sore and unable to exercise well.

Further Stress on the Heart

When you exercise, your heart beats faster to deliver blood to various areas in the body. Unfortunately, alcohol can double the heart’s workload since it can make it beat faster as well. With that being said, drinking and working out can lead to arrhythmia – a change in the heart’s rate or rhythm. Should you continue to drink while exercising, this arrhythmia may progress to heart attack or heart failure.

Weight Gain

If you are working out to lose weight, know that this purpose will eventually be defeated should you continue to drink alcohol.

According to the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, a gram of alcohol contains about seven calories. One standard beer contains 220 calories, while a margarita has 350 calories. So even if you spend hours in a gym every day, alcohol can easily replace the calories you have just burned. To make matters worse, drinking alcohol usually comes with eating high-fat finger foods that can further accelerate weight gain.

What You Can Do

Drinking alcohol may be tempting, especially if you are used to it. But if you want to make the most out of your workout sessions, then you need to follow these tips:

  • Drink copious amounts of water or sports drinks while exercising.This will keep you hydrated during and after the workout.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before, during, or after a rigorous workout.This can lead to the performance problems stated above.

In a Nutshell

Drinking alcohol while or after exercising can have dire effects on the body. Liquor can make you less energetic, sluggish, and dehydrated during a workout. It can affect your performance, as it can make you suffer from cramps. With that being said, it is best to skip alcohol if you want to exercise the following day.


Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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