As we know, exercise provides a plethora of health benefits to the body both physically and mentally. It is also found that people who engage in a healthy behavior such as exercising, also tend to participate in other healthy actions as well, such as maintaining a healthy diet and getting sufficient rest/sleep. With the Holidays coming up there always seems to be something that hinders these healthy behaviors, including alcohol consumption, which can alter performance in the gym. The question is, how much? During this time of year, it seems impossible to make it through the holidays without having a casual drink or 10. But what a lot of us don’t know is the effect it has on our healthy behaviors such as exercise. Hormone imbalance is the main side effect when drinking alcohol, supported by a study from Penn State revealing that alcohol decreased the production of human growth hormone, a key part of muscle repair and growth process up to 70%. Other research revealed that alcohol can interfere with muscle growth as well a longer post exercise recovery process. Lastly studies have shown that alcohol can impair protein synthesis, the process that helps build new muscle. People don’t realize that when drinking alcohol your body responds to it as if it’s a poison, which pushes all other calories consumed during this time period to the back of the line. Your body prefers to burn the alcohol first, riding the body of the poison. As a result, your fat burn slows drastically, which each drink you consume. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that consuming 24 grams of alcohol (about 2 drinks) slowed fat metabolism by 73%. These studies do not keep in mind that most people tend to reach for much less healthy options when intoxicated. Including this variable, you have the alcohol slowing your metabolism as well as a massive surplus of calories that are being burned at a much slower rate. This proves that even small amounts of alcohol can lead to packing on some extra pounds. Assuming we wanted to break this down further. Studies can also include the variables on how people consume alcohol i.e. mixed with water or chasers /mixers. Not only does alcohol contain 7 calories per gram, or roughly 165 calories per serving, but one has to keep in mind the sugary high caloric mixers.
Finally, I’m sure many of us can relate to this, is the dehydration effect it has on our bodies. Alcohol being a diuretic leads to dehydration and not having enough fluids can decrease blood flow to the muscles, in turn slowing one’s recovery. This dehydration is the major cause of a ‘hangover.’ The body is lacking certain nutrients as well as having an electrolyte imbalance resulting in physical side effects such as headaches, muscle soreness or even nausea. As everyone knows, the body does not react this way when treated properly so these kinds of side effects should be a clear signal that it is not only being fueled improperly but also intoxicated with what could be detrimental ingredients.