All right, I know what you’re thinking, this is just another article telling me all the reasons why drinking alcohol is bad for me. While there may be a grain of truth to that statement, this post digs deeper into your nights out at the bars and just exactly how it may be setting you back from your fitness goals.
Decreased Athletic Performance
Alcohol is known as a depressant, which in terms slows your brains ability to function. Even though you commonly feel a “high” after several drinks, the reality is all of your reaction time, balance and accuracy are dramatically decreased. As I’m sure we all know, exercise and sports require a great deal of coordination and cognitive precision. Alcohol consumption impairs ones reaction time, throws off your balance and slows your hand eye coordination. With a decline in cognitive function, alcohol consumption can also lead to increased sports related injuries. Try and imagine Jerry Rice scoring a touchdown at the super bowl with delayed reaction time and accuracy, not likely right? (Check out what the NCAA officials have to say on alcohol effects to athletic performance NCAA More Then Just A Drink)
Additionally, alcohol acts as a diuretic that speeds the loss of fluids and electrolytes through the body that are required for proper hydration. This explains your endless bathroom runs in the middle of your dance sessions at the bars. Through alcohol’s increase in production of lactic acids, alcohol can worsen fatigue while exercising. This level of dehydration can leave you feeling dizzy, weak and sluggish which in turn decreases your athletic abilities. Other effects associated with dehydration include dilation of blood vessels that increase sweating and therefore loss of body fluids. Dehydration also leads to painful muscle cramping that can play a number on your performance in the gym or on the field.
Many people underestimate the amount of calories that are associated with a night of drinking. Alcohol is filled with “empty calories” that contribute significantly to the tipping number of the scale. The calories associated in alcohol are considered empty, as they don’t provide you with any of the essential nutrients your body needs to build lean healthy muscle. One 12-ounce can of beer is filled with 150 empty calories as 5 ounces of wine is filled with 100. To say that an average college student drinks exactly one serving of alcohol would be quite the understatement.
The calories in your drinks add up fast and by the end of the night have the potential to equal your daily value of calories. But the calories don’t just stop at the drinks, the calorie count increases after your drinks when it’s time for a snack, otherwise known as the “drunk munchies”. Making your way home from the bars turns into a McDonalds run and ordering Rosa’s pizza, which we both know is also filled with empty calories.
Reduced Muscle Growth
That’s right, you read it correctly, consuming alcohol has a direct correlation with decreased muscle growth. Protein synthesis (the rebuilding of muscle tissue that is torn from training) is essential for muscle development and maintenance. Alcohol impairs the process of protein synthesis and therefore interferes with your body’s ability and speed to grow and maintain muscle. In addition, heavy drinking causes a drop in testosterone levels, a hormone primarily in males associated with muscle growth and definition. Alcohol consumption also increases the level of cortisol in the body (a hormone that destroys muscle). Just think of all the positive effects lifting weights can have on your body without the impact of alcohol and hormone manipulations, pretty amazing right?
Safe in Moderation
Now that I have shared with you the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, you’re probably scared to ever enjoy an ice-cold beer with your dinner. The good news is, not all alcohol consumption has to detrimental to your health. In fact, when consumed in moderation, alcohol has the power for some positive effects to the body such as:
- Increased HDL (“good” cholesterol) within two weeks
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced insulin resistance
- If you want to know more about healthy drinking habits, be sure to check out Mayo Clinic: Alcohol Use guidelines to keep your health moving towards the right direction.
In the end, were all busy college students who are just trying to balance school, work and some kind of social life. Having a drink once and while with friends isn’t going to kill you or ruin ALL of your hard work in the gym. They key is moderation and focus to your fitness goals. If your goals are to increase your muscle mass, decrease fat or improve your general health and fitness, think twice before your weekly trips to the bars. Don’t let a night filled with drinks ruin all of the hard work and dedication you put into your body during the week.
~Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Mind. Body. Spirit.~