Alcohol and Exercise

November 2009

It’s finally Friday and you just got off work. You’re thinking about going out and having a few drinks with your friends. You worked hard all week and you certainly deserve a little fun. But… if tomorrow is a workout day, here are a few things to consider before heading out to the local pub.

We know about liver disease, drunk driving, hangovers and things we did that we don’t want to talk about, but what about the actual effect on our body?

Alcohol acts as a diuretic, causes dehydration, and therefore impairs the body’s cooling system. Dehydration in general causes overall fatigue. So if you enjoy a cold one even the night before you exercise, expect to not be at peak performance, to feel tired and have muscle cramps while exercising.

The diuretic effects of alcohol deplete the body of valuable electrolytes such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, as well as B vitamins and minerals such as zinc. So the hangover cure is not more alcohol…contrary to popular beliefs, but to drink as much water and Gatorade as possible to replace fluids and electrolytes and eat foods high in B vitamins and zinc.

Do your joints hurt more after a night out drinking? Alcohol will not only dehydrate you and keep you from sleeping well, but it will also increase swelling around your soft tissues. It will delay your recovery if you have been injured. So don’t sulk in your misery, do your physical therapy instead.

Why did you eat so much at that party last night? Alcohol weakens your body’s ability to convert food to energy (which is why we eat) and reduces your blood sugar levels causing you to feel hungry. Alcohol has no nutritional value AND has seven calories per gram so excess consumption can lead to weight gain as well.

If you’ve made the time and effort to improve your physical conditioning and your overall health with exercise, why take steps backwards and impede your improvements? If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation – men, 2 per day – women, 1 per day.