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Alcohol And Exercise

The following is a real dialogue I had with one of my clients.

Client: Why do you keep adding weight to my squat?

Me: Because if we’re trying to gain strength then we need to add weight to progressively overload and allow your body to adapt to a new stimulus.

Client: I know another way I can add weight to my squat.

Me: How?

Client: I can just drink more wine.

Me: *Facepalm*

You see what I have to deal with on a daily basis?! Joking aside, I do want to talk just a little bit about alcohol.

Before I start bashing on alcohol, I want to be upfront and say that I enjoy having a few drinks from time to time… And on occasion I enjoy having more than just a few drinks ;). I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having a good time with alcohol. It’s a good idea though to understand the impact it has on exercise and recovery so you can make educated choices to optimize your training.

“I drink wine for the polyphenols”, said nobody ever. Polyphenols are the things in red wine that are supposedly good for your heart. Drinking any alcohol for the health benefits is pretty silly in my opinion. If you take “having a good time” out of the equation, the cons clearly outweigh the pros when it comes to alcohol... Especially when combined with a training plan. Here are just three side effects (out of a long, LONG list) of drinking more than just a drink or two of alcohol.

  1. Weakened immune system- You know what else temporarily weakens your immune system? Hard workouts. Combining hard workouts with drinking alcohol drastically increases the odds of getting sick, missing training, and losing fitness.

  2. Sleep disruption- When does our body recover most from our workouts? When we sleep! If our sleep is disrupted because our body is working on metabolizing alcohol then we’ll recover slower and disrupt our training schedule.

  3. Dehydration- After we break down our muscles in a hard workout, our bodies go through a process called protein synthesis to repair them and make them stronger. This process requires adequate hydration in our muscles. If we dehydrate our bodies with alcohol then we are inhibiting a crucial process to our progress.

Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Avoid heavy drinking before a tough workout to optimize workout performance.

  2. Avoid heavy drinking after a tough workout to optimize recovery and adaptation.

  3. Be prepared to catch up on sleep the days/nights following a night of heavy drinking.

  4. Drink plenty of water the night of and morning after a night of heavy drinking. (I like adding a Nuun tablet to my water for some electrolytes as well.)

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