What effects does alcohol have on your fitness, performance in sports, muscle building?
Does alcohol make you really fat?
In this article you will find answers to the following questions:
- What happens to your metabolism when you drink alcohol?
- Alcohol and sports: What dose is still okay?
- How you continue to make progress without giving up everything.
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Now, of course, I could make it easy for myself, and – in the spirit of the Toten Hosen – say:
If you have been following my articles for some time, you know that I am a realist and not a fan of total prohibition.
Apart from that, the following principle applies to me practice what you preach.
How I preach water when a glass of red wine in good company is a pleasure I wouldn’t want to miss out on?
Alcohol is part of social life for many of us, and some may even see the drink as social cement among friends and at parties.
Whichever way you decide to go – total abstinence, moderation or "I don’t care": It’s your personal decision.
My goal is to explain to you the effect of alcohol and exercise and give you some recommendations on how to balance alcohol with your exercise plan.
The idea is this: By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make a informed Decision to make.
Does drinking alcohol make you fat?
When you drink alcohol, your liver converts it into the substance acetate, which your body can then use as an energy source.
Now it gets "tricky.
As long as your body has access to acetate, it will use it exclusively as a source of energy – and all other metabolic processes (incl. fat burning) switch off.
And it gets "better": studies show that alcohol stimulates the appetite.1
Your body burns only "alcohol", stores all other energy sources and your appetite increases: We only have to put one and one together to realize that regular alcohol consumption makes our waistlines grow.
ConclusionIf you want to lose weight and lower your body fat percentage and drink alcohol regularly (several times a week), this will at best slow down your success noticeably. You may even regress.
Alcohol and sports: How does alcohol influence muscle building??
It is scientifically proven that spirits negatively affect hormonal balance even 24 hours after consumption: Alcohol increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol and lowers that of the muscle-building hormone testosterone.2
ConclusionCortisol and testosterone are two of the main switches that tell your body whether to build or break down muscle. Alcohol switches both to "muscle breakdown".
Mental effects: Alcohol and psyche in training
Let’s leave the two topics of muscle loss and fat gain aside for a moment: We know from our own experience that alcohol has significant effects on our psyche and mood.3 The mental effects of drinking on our training are many, here are the two biggest success-breakers:
- Lack of motivation: We have less fun training.
- Lower intensity: We can not strain ourselves so much when training.
RecommendationIf you find that your alcohol consumption leads to the two "side effects" mentioned above, you should seriously reconsider your behavior. At the risk of sounding cliche, your key to long-term health and fitness is moderation – and I don’t mean the beer measure.
How much alcohol is still okay?
If you want to lose fat, you first have to take in less energy than you consume. This is true, but due to the effects on our metabolism and hormonal situation after alcohol consumption, the energy balance equation (energy intake – energy expenditure) no longer fits. The easiest way to do this, therefore, is to look at your weekly alcohol consumption.
RecommendationA glass of wine one or two evenings a week will not significantly affect your training and may even have a positive effect on your health.4 Dry red wine is a better choice than white wine and especially beer due to its low carbohydrate content.
And on the weekend..?
I’ve had good experiences with not paying too much attention to a perfect diet one day a week and, on occasion, drinking a glass or two more than during the week. Let’s be clear: I speak of the benefit with sense of proportion, not of unrestrained drinking binges.
It would be a pity if you would destroy the successes of the week again..
Alcohol in the preparation for competition
I think it is unrealistic to ban alcohol completely. I sometimes don’t drink a glass of alcohol for weeks, but have also enjoyed a glass of red wine among friends one or two nights a week during competition preparation without noticing any negative effect on my training.
Recommendation: What a physician named Paracelsus said half a millennium ago applies here as well: "The quantity makes the poison!" There is a life besides training that makes our lives worth living and in turn gives us energy and balance for our sport. If for you a glass of wine on 1-2 evenings per week belongs to it – you have my blessing.
Conclusion: alcohol and sport during the year
As so often, it is a question of what goal you are pursuing and how quickly you put on fat.
If you want to be slim and defined throughout the year, I recommend keeping the amount of alcohol at a moderate level throughout the year, as mentioned earlier.
Excessive alcohol consumption can unfortunately quickly lead to the fact that your hard-earned six-pack disappears again under a layer of fat.
In my experience, 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per week are absolutely fine for a top figure, health and fitness.
You should be aware that alcohol is only part of the equation: if you hold back on alcohol and instead reach for convenience foods, sweets and soft drinks, you will most likely train for your dream body in vain.
What experiences have you had with alcohol and sports? Write a comment.