We are all familiar with the common effects that alcohol has on our body. Many people enjoy its sedating influence and it’s hard to deny that it does play a vital role in many of society’s traditions and practices. One effect alcohol has, which is not widely discussed, is its impact on body composition. In its purest form, supplies seven calories per gram, almost twice as many as proteins and carbohydrates, bumping up ones total energy balance whenever it is consumed. Although, unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, alcohol supplies what nutritionists often refer to as empty calories: calories without nutrition. To make matters worse, it is the first fuel to be used when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and contributing to greater fat storage.
In general, alcohol consumption affects rational thought, emotions, mood, judgment, speech and muscle coordination. Alcohol is specifically detrimental to athletes and can inhibit recovery, protein synthesis, hydration, motivation, and nutrient intake. It interferes with many of the processes so important to success: focus, performance, recovery and rebuilding. Although alcohol is absorbed rapidly, it is metabolized very slowly and its effects may still impact performance up to 48 hours after the last drink.
As little as 2-3 standard drinks can directly:
- Decrease strength, limiting workout intensity and muscle growth and development
- Impair reaction time
- Impair balance and hand/eye coordination
- Increase fatigue
- Interfere with body temperature regulation
- Cause dehydration
- Deplete aerobic capacity and negatively impact endurance for up to 48 hrs after the last drink
- Impact cellular repair, lowers testosterone and increases estrogen
- Impact fat oxidation, meaning fat burning stops all together. The Kreb cycle which normally involves burning fat will instead be burning the alcohol off to detoxify your body. So not only will you not be burning fat but you’ll be consuming extra calories which lead you to put on more fat
- Impact cardiovascular system, raising blood pressure.
- Disrupt sleep
- Cause vitamin and mineral depletion
- Impair digestion
- Cause cognitive impairment and lessened inhibitions
As you can see a simple drink has far reaching consequences especially if you are attempting to improve your physique. Your performance in the gym and your recovery and nourishment from food are severely impacted. Try not to negate all of the discipline and hard work you devote to improving your health and reaching your goal. Keep a clear head, and a properly functioning body, by refraining from alcohol when looking to improve your physical fitness, or in other cases, at least be aware of the trade off you are making!