The harmful effects of alcohol on someone’s mental and physical health seem pretty obvious. From DUIs to liver failures to estranged family members, the dark-side of drinking is felt everywhere, by nearly everyone. That doesn’t stop people from drinking, and the truth is the majority of drinkers will never experience adverse effects from alcohol. Or will they?
Negative affect of alcohol
According to a recent survey, more than 75% of Americans want to be in better shape and “look good.” This isn’t surprising, but what is surprising is that many people continue to erase many of their gym gains by drinking alcohol. Consuming alcohol damages the human body’s ability to recover and build muscle after cardio and muscle-building exercise.
Trends of Alcohol Use
More than 56% of American adults drink monthly, and more than 1 in 4 people indulge in binge drinking (defined by a woman having more than four drinks and a man having more than five drinks, in 2 hours). Those numbers increase, with nearly one-third of college students and athletes, reported binge drinking. Alcohol consumption is responsible for the third most preventable deaths in the United States, accounting for more than 88,000 deaths from alcohol-related causes each year.
Alcohol and Gym Gains
A recent study on the possible effect of alcohol on muscle growth and recovery has been making the rounds on the internet. The 2014 study from New Zealand’s Massey University argues that drinking the equivalent of two shots of hard liquor for a 150 lb. person is “unlikely to impact most aspects of [muscle] recovery.”
It is common to walk into a bar and see many healthy-looking, extremely fit men and women drinking. You probably have friends that you drink with but have trouble keeping up in the gym. But looks can be deceiving. Besides, you never know how much more muscle can be gained by eliminating alcohol from your life.
However, research published in PLOS One in 2014, found that binge drinking within eight hours of physical exercise greatly impaired the recovery response in human skeletal muscle regardless of optimal nutrition and protein intake post-workout. If you have trouble controlling the amount of alcohol you drink, or you find yourself regularly drinking more than five alcoholic beverages a day, the second study is more important.
People who have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) may not only find it more difficult to achieve their goals in the gym, but they likely experience decreased work performance, job loss, relationship problems, financial insecurity, or other health problems like hypertension, “beer belly,” and a whole litany of other health conditions.
Alcohol before a workout is never a good idea.
Because alcohol acts as a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, it compromises many of the motor functions that would make exercise difficult while negating many of the benefits.
Some of the adverse effects of alcohol include:
Malnutrition: alcohol prevents the body from adequately absorbing many vitamins and minerals in the food that you eat, even good food.
Decreased coordination: negatively affects balance and coordinated motor skills.Increased muscle cramps: alcohol can dehydrate the body, causing an increase in cramping at the gym.
Thins bones: alcohol is linked to an increased risk of weak and thinning bones, also known as osteoporosis.
Diarrhea: drinking too much can damage the gastrointestinal systems of the body leading to diarrhea and stomach pain. Diarrhea is a leading contributor to dehydration, which again leads to cramps and decreased athletic performance.
What to do about it?
This can seem very discouraging and upsetting if you are like me and have big goals physically but also like to enjoy a few drinks now and then. How do you balance it all, what should you do? Well the answer is far from simple. Every individual and individual goal would require a different answer and even though I could make some “cookie cutter” statement like, “make sure you drink your required daily water intake before drinking alcohol,” I won’t. The wisest choice you could make is to speak with a professional about your personal needs, trends, habits, and goals to develop a solid plan of how to make the most of your gym time and recovery without sacrificing your entire social life!
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