Rehab 4 Addiction

The amount of alcohol you consume has a very clear effect on your fitness levels.

This happens for several reasons, ranging from a direct impact on metabolism to the demoralising experience of a hangover.

In this article, we will look at precisely how alcohol impacts fitness goals and the body in general, as well as how to minimise these negative effects.

Alcohol use

Social Drinking

Just looking around it is easy to see that alcohol consumption is still a popular way to relax and unwind.

For many people, getting together with friends, going out for a meal, or just settling down in front of the TV at the end of the day would all normally include a drink or two.

However, throughout the pandemic rates of daily alcohol consumption have risen considerably, both in terms of how many people report drinking daily, as well as an increase in the amount consumed.

Tragically, this change in behaviour related to alcohol use has had serious consequences.  In England Wales, there was an almost 20% increase in deaths caused by alcohol between 2019 and 2020.

How much alcohol should I drink?

How much alcohol should I drink

The advice of the UK Chief Medical Officers is that it is safest to keep regular drinking below 14 units of alcohol each week.

It is also advised that drinking should be spaced out throughout the week, with a day or two without alcohol between occasions in order to give the body time to recover.

Just one or two occasions of heavy drinking within a week can significantly increase the risk of long term illness.

What illnesses can alcohol cause?

Alcohol illness

Alcohol is linked to the development of as many as 60 different medical conditions.  Alcohol is a causal factor in various cancers, including:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Liver
  • Bowel

Alcohol is also a significant cause of high blood pressure and depression.

Besides these more serious illnesses, any amount of alcohol will have an effect on your mind and body.

If you are trying to reach certain goals when it comes to health and fitness, it may be time to think seriously about the impact of alcohol on your ability to achieve those goals.

How can alcohol affect fitness levels?

Alcohol and fitness

Alcohol causes several effects on the body which can have negative repercussions for health and fitness. 

Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic (which is why it causes you to go to the toilet more).  This means that the overall amount of water in the body is actually decreased by alcohol consumption.

We need the body to be well-hydrated in order to be fit and healthy. Hydration helps maintain blood flow through our bodies, which brings oxygen and nutrients to our various organs and muscles

Maintaining hydration is even more important when we are exercising.  

Also, when we do exercise, we tend to sweat which leads to further loss of fluids.  Alcohol consumption on top of physical exercise can lead to serious levels of dehydration.

How is my body affected by alcohol the next day?

Alcohol the next day

Even before we reach the next day, we have to ask ourselves, how does alcohol affect my sleep?  Many people still believe that alcohol helps them sleep and use alcohol in the evening as a way of helping them drift off when they go to bed.

We now know that whilst alcohol may help a person to actually fall asleep, the overall effect on sleep is much more negative.  

Alcohol consumption in the evening affects the body’s ability to go from the deep sleep stage of the sleep cycle into the more important REM stage.

This means that you will actually be more tired after a night’s sleep following alcohol, no matter how long you actually sleep for. 

This lack of healthy sleep can quickly affect our ability to perform the next day physically, mentally and emotionally.

It doesn’t take too much to realise how much your performance in the gym is affected the day after an evening of even a little drinking, let alone drinking to excess.

Alcohol and enthusiasm

Alcohol enthusiasm

Most people who have drunk alcohol know the feeling of lethargy that can follow the next day.  

Whether it be getting up for work, jobs that need to be done, or the plan to go to the gym, finding the enthusiasm to get moving after a night of excess can be a huge challenge.

For some people, the reality the next day is simply that plans need to change and, when it comes to going to the gym, a small postponement is needed.  

Others force themselves to go to the gym in order to try and fight off any feelings of guilt about having a bit too much the night before.

Whatever your personality, if you don’t want to make that gym commitment any more difficult to maintain, giving yourself a night off the alcohol the evening before is certainly in your best interest.

Does alcohol cause weight gain?

Weight gain

Alcoholic drinks, in whatever form, contain lots of calories.  Alcohol consumption is subsequently a very easy way to gain weight, particularly around the stomach area (leading to what is sometimes called a ‘beer belly’).

Excess weight around the stomach is the most dangerous form of weight as it leads to fatty liver disease, heart disease and forms of cancer in our internal organs. 

Excess weight is also a chief cause of Type 2 diabetes which can have serious knock-on effects on many areas of health.

If you are trying to lose weight, cutting down on the amount of alcohol consumed, or quitting entirely, is a necessary step in being able to lose pounds.

Alcohol and the heart

Heart health

Drinking more than is suggested on a regular basis can lead to serious heart disease.  

This is because regular drinking increases blood pressure and when this is consistent over time it can develop into hypertension which is one of the key factors behind heart attacks and strokes.

High blood pressure can also be caused by the weight gain that occurs due to excessive alcohol consumption. 

Consistent excessive drinking can also weaken the heart muscle. This is called Cardiomyopathy and can be fatal.

There is a belief that a certain amount of alcohol is good for you.  This belief is only partly true – it has been proven only to be the case for women over the age of 50.  

Also, as soon as the amount of alcohol consumed goes beyond the recommended amount, the negative effects outweigh any possible benefits.

The rhythm of your heartbeat can be affected by just one session of binge drinking. The definition of binge drinking in this instance is around 15 units, which equals one and a half bottles of 13% wine.

Does alcohol have an effect on muscle growth?

Muscle growth

Developing muscle mass involves the creation of small tears in the muscles through exercise, which then heals in a way that causes the muscle to grow. 

This process is why we have sore muscles after exercise.

Alcohol slows down the release of the growth hormone required in this healing process, meaning that muscle growth is slowed.  

Binge drinking has an even more marked effect as it releases large amounts of cortisol which is catabolic (breaks down molecules), making it harder to build muscle.

What can I do to reduce alcohol consumption?

Mocktails

If you want to increase your fitness and work on increasing weight loss, decreasing alcohol consumption should be high on your to-do list.

Alcohol reduction shouldn’t be agony – try simple, easy steps to begin with. Perhaps try:

  1. Having an alcohol free day after every day that you drink.
  2. Drinking a non-alcoholic drink between each alcoholic one.
  3. Offer to be the driver when you go out socialising.
  4. Try some of the very popular selection of “mock-tails”, alcohol-free cocktails that are just as tasty.

If you are finding it hard to cut back on or quit drinking, or are worried that your drinking is getting out of hand, get in contact with us for some expert advice on what might be the best avenue to follow to start gettings things sorted.

References

[1] Alcohol-specific deaths: Office for National Statistics: 2021,

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/quarterlyalcoholspecificdeathsinenglandandwales/2001to2019registrationsandquarter1jantomartoquarter4octtodec2020provisionalregistrations

[2] Public Health Burden of Alcohol: Public Health England: 2016,

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/733108/alcohol_public_health_burden_evidence_review_update_2018.pdf

boris

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.