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“Can I still reach my fitness goals if I go out and drink”

This is a very common question that gets asked when individuals are starting their fitness journey's or are on their journey yet not seeing the progress they want or believe they should be obtaining.

The short answer is yes, BUT this is dependent upon your knowledge around alcohol, how it affects you and how it might alter your healthy habits- which then might make it harder to achieve your goals. This is due to the lack of understanding around calorie control and taking into account the extra calories a drink can provide you. It could then prolong the process with a lot more ups and down along the way that might make you lose motivation and give up.

You therefore need to ask yourself if the drinking at the weekend (or week day!) is detrimental to the healthy choices you make prior to or post the consumption of alcohol, i.e. does drinking negatively affect your eating habits? Do you miss a workout based upon drinking? How much are you drinking and how regularly?

Lets delve into more detail.

The reason why a lot of individuals in the fitness industry cut alcohol out or are ‘anti-alcohol’ is largely due to the nutritional content of alcoholic beverages. Many alcoholic drinks, cocktails, wine and ciders (to name a few!) are high in calories and packed with sugar, with alcohol containing 7 kcals per gram (52+ calories per shot!). Therefore not only is the straight spirit adding to your daily calorie intake, the sugary juice or soda that it is commonly paired with is a double hit to your goals. Not to mention the alteration in individuals judgements after one too many that results a late night trip to the take-away shop or full-english fry up the next morning! Furthermore, the alcohol found in drinks (ethanol) is know to produce toxins that, when you’ve consumed a few to many, is the cause of that nauseous feeling. When alcohol is consumed on a regular based for a long period of time, it begins to alter your ability to digest efficiently, making it difficult to absorb key nutrients such as amino acids and b vitamins and also impairs protein synthesis (building blocks to muscle growth!).

Other effects of alcohol:

  • Alters the bodies main energy source. During every day activities (walking, breathing, climbing stairs) and exercise, we use mostly carbs and fats as our source of energy. However, this shifts when we drink and alcohol (ethanol) becomes our main energy source, altering the livers ability to convert fat into energy and making it harder to lose weight.

  • Dehydrates your body, which will result in a reduced ability to recover from training sessions as it will cause an imbalance of electrolytes. This increases muscle soreness and increases your risk for muscle cramps, pulls and/or stains.

  • Alcohol reduces the amount of human growth hormone, a hormone that aids muscle growth and repair. With binge drinking also reducing the amount of serum testosterone levels, which can lower lean muscle mass and recovery.

  • Reduction in quality of your sleep. This lowers the body power output the morning after a session as well as decreasing brain functioning that can increase the desire for carbohydrates, sugary snacks and typical ‘hungover food’.

I am by no means demonising alcohol and telling you to stop drinking, I am simply informing you on how alcohol could affect your fitness goals and how you can reduce the impact of alcohol on your health journey in order for you to still see results. One thing that you should take note of it how much alcohol you are drinking, track how much you are consuming, how it alters your food choices and note when it impacts your ability to get to the gym. It is thought that the consumption of alcohol can reduce aerobic performance by up to 11%, meaning that the exercise you do the day after a night of drinking will not only demotivate you when you don’t feel as good as normal, it also increases the risk of injury and further dehydration.

Tips on how to drink whilst staying fit

  • Like everything, moderation is key. Tracking alcohol correctly so that you are aware of how many calories and carbohydrates you are consuming so you are able to alter your weekly food and drink intake to allow for the ‘extra’ calories at the week- note, this does not mean going carb free for the week so you can just use them all at the weekend!

  • For those not tracking macros, the easiest thing to do is to plan lean proteins and vegetables within your earlier meals (add carbs- grains) if you are training.

  • Keep protein high as this is the macronutrients that is most satiating (filling) and has a higher thermogenic effect.

  • Don’t let one night ruin your progress, have the drinks and don’t “regret” or feel “guilty” about it that then make you have the f*ck it mentality, making you binge the next day with high carb and high fat foods! Have the night out, start fresh the next day! Even prep a post-night out meal to have when you get in vs a take away.

Be mindful, be flexible and don’t over consume.

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