Alcohol consumption can have a significant impact on your fitness

When it comes to working out and alcohol, the two don’t really go hand in hand. Especially if you are trying to improve your body shape and fitness levels. That’s not to say going teetotal is the answer though – after all, having a drink or two is not only a fun way to socialise, but can also prove beneficial when it comes to helping you relax and reduce stress levels!

However, cutting back on the booze is a good thing if you want to up your exercise goals. Just take a look below at how alcohol has a negative impact on the body and why reducing your intake is such a good thing if you are aiming for beach body perfection this summer.

  • Alcohol is fattening (it contains seven calories a gram). A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, and a pint of lager has about the same calorie count as a packet of crisps.
  • There are no nutrients in alcohol, hence why it is referred to as ‘empty calories’.
  • Alcohol can make you far more prone to injury. It alters the sequence of the different phases of your sleep cycle, which reduces your body’s ability to store glycogen – a crucial energy source that you need for endurance – as well as increasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and that slows down the healing process.
  • Alcohol is a powerful diuretic, a substance that promotes the production of urine, meaning it can severely dehydrate your body for up to a week, depending on how much you drink.
  • If you are working out when the body is dehydrated then you are at greater risk of suffering with cramps, muscle pulls and strains.
  • When you start drinking, the more alcohol you have, the more your appetite levels will increase. Once you’ve had a few drinks you’re more likely to crave calorific foods and less likely to want to work out the next day.
  • Excess drinking can make you lose all inhibitions – whether that means you overeat/miss a workout, or worse, lose your balance when drunk, it can be a disaster for your training schedule, never mind your health.
  • Alcohol can have a negative effect on muscle growth. Excessive amounts affect the levels of the muscle-building ‘male’ hormone, testosterone.
  • The ‘beer gut’ isn’t just a myth. Men (and women) who drink a lot can’t choose where all that extra weight ends up, but the body tends to accumulate fat in the abdominal area where it can be extremely difficult to get rid of.
  • Alcohol interferes with the way your body makes energy. When you’re metabolising, or breaking down alcohol, the liver can’t produce as much glucose, which means you’ll get low blood sugar. Exercise requires high levels of sugar to give you energy.

Controlling your alcohol consumption can lead to positive changes

Although this may all sound like doom and gloom, as with all nutritional advice, provided you drink in moderation you should be fine. After all, relaxing with a pint, being sociable and having fun is an essential part of your mental wellbeing too!

‘The amount you choose to cut back on your alcoholic intake will depend on how quickly you want to see progress,’ explains Rob Smith. Rob is the founder of MobFit office fitness classes that provide personal training and nutrition advice for individuals and companies (mobfit.uk).

‘If you are happy making smaller incremental improvements whilst keeping involved in an active boozy social life, then you can definitely do that. However, you will make greater progress when reducing alcohol to moderate amounts, such as two to three drinks maximum two days a week.

‘Not only is it lowering your calorie intake, so those looking to lean up will benefit, but it has a big impact on your energy levels through the week. Alcohol is a toxin and requires energy to be metabolised by the liver.

‘It saps micronutrients, making your body run at a suboptimal rate, affecting strength and endurance. The odd drink here and there won’t hurt, but regular weekly heavy drinking sessions will definitely have an impact on progress.’

In total agreement is 20-year-old David Jake Sluszny, personal training instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp, London (barrysbootcamp.com). ‘Training is all about mind-set and sustainability. I would never say cut out booze completely, since that would be an unachievable and unsustainable goal for many. However, I would say that you should keep in mind the disadvantages of drinking excessively when considering factors such as nutrition and clarity of mind.’

So what are the guidelines when it comes to alcohol consumption?

According to latest guidelines on the NHS website, men (and women) are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

That is the equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer, or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine. Spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink 14 units a week or more.

And if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week.