A lot of fitness fanatics wonder whether you can drink alcohol on resting days. Of course, it is not really wise, but which alcoholic beverages are the worst?
Downsides of Alcohol
Alcohol has a couple of annoying downsides, which can last up to 48 hours after consumption. These cons include the following.
- Decrease in strength
- Slower responsiveness
- Decrease of balance
- Decrease of hand-eye coordination
- A change of body temperature
- Decrease in endurance
- Light sleep
- Decrease of vitamin B levels
- Brain damage
In reality, alcohol is potentially damaging to all cells and organs. If alcohol concentrations in the body get too high, the liver, stomach and brain can get damaged.
I’m sure that everyone has had a hangover once or twice in their lives. Headaches, thirst, nausea, vomiting and heartburn. All of these symptoms are caused by dehydration and the swelling of blood vessels in the forehead.
A study done by the University of Massey, showed that alcohol consumption after a heavy workout slows down the recovery process . This is harmful to your muscle strength and it decreases growth stimuli from your workout. The researchers state that (top) athletes would do better if they wouldn’t drink any alcohol during training seasons.
The Best Remedy Against a Hangover
Drink lots of water. You should avoid coffee and tea, as they both have a dehydrating effect on the body. In order to prevent a hangover as good as possible, it is recommended to eat a lot of fats.
This ensures that the alcohol gets absorbed at a slower rate, giving your liver enzymes more time to break down the alcohol.
Does Alcohol Make You Fat?
The same rule applies to alcohol as it does to food: having lots will make you fat. To put it simple, alcohol contains empty calories. What does that mean? It means that alcohol has zero nutritional value, while still adding to your energy balance.
One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories.
Furthermore, a lot of alcoholic beverages contain high amounts of sugar, which increases the amount of calories you take in even more. All of these excess calories on top of your normal intake, will lead to the storage of extra fat.
You could cut down on your overall calorie intake, but drinking (lots of) alcohol on a relatively empty stomach might not be the smartest idea ever. Therefore, just be moderate.
What Happens to Your Body if You Drink Alcohol?
About 20% of the alcohol you consume, gets absorbed through the stomach. The rest gets absorbed in the small intestine. The majority of the absorbed alcohol then gets converted to acetyl-CoA by the liver. This compound then gets converted into ATP (energy). Alcohol cannot be stored anywhere, as it is toxic to the body.
The thing is that glycogen, which is found in the muscles, is a way more efficient energy source than the breakdown of acetyl-CoA.
Our liver is able to break down alcohol at a fixed rate (about 1 glass of beer per 1.5 hour). If you are drinking more than the liver can handle, the surplus gets dealt with by yet another enzyme in the liver: MEO-enzymes (microsomal ethanol system), which is trying to make the alcohol less toxic to the body.
The more alcohol you drink, the more MEO-enzymes you will have, which is one of the reasons for tolerance. This doesn’t mean that you should drink more because your body gets to deal with it better.
Pros of Alcohol
Of course, alcohol has a couple of pros. It relaxes you and lets you have fun after a couple of drinks. It also increases your confidence. Actually alcohol is more of an antidepressant, rather than a stimulant.
Furthermore, alcohol causes blood to become ‘thinner’, making blood flow easier. Moderate drinkers have a smaller chance of dying from heart disease than heavy drinkers or people that don’t drink any alcohol.
The exact mechanism of why this is, has not been figured out just yet. It is believed that alcohol increases the amount of HDL-cholesterol. This type of cholesterol decreases the chance of LDL-cholesterol to stick to blood vessels, causing better blood flow.
Furthermore, it makes platelets less ‘sticky’, resulting in a less risk of thrombosis.
What is Best to Drink?
It is wise to not drink too much. Of course, you can have yourself a party once in a while, but if your muscles are in an anabolic state (meaning they are growing), it is recommended to not disturb this process too much.
A lot of fitness models have one or more glasses of alcohol every once in a while. They often drink red wine or hard liquor, such as vodka. I would not recommend beer as beverage, though. Studies have shown that beer causes a drop in testosterone . Furthermore, drinking beer increases the concentration of female hormones (estrogen) . You don’t want this, as testosterone increases muscle growth.
Try to not drink any alcohol on training days of the day after. The absorption of protein will decrease after a night of drinking. You will want to take at least 2 days of rest. Also, try to plan your drinking escapades sometime when your muscles aren’t in an anabolic state.
Especially red wine is supposedly good for the heart. Studies show that consuming 1-2 glasses per day decreases chances of cardiovascular disease. Red wine contains flavonoids from grape skins. These contain lots of antioxidants, and it protects LDL-cholesterol from free radicals.
If you prefer hard liquor like vodka or whiskey, try to not mix it with sugary drinks. This will only increase your calorie intake, which may result in you getting a higher fat percentage. You could however mix it with water, but whether you like that is up to you.
- Alcohol and strength training don’t mix.
- Drinking lots of alcohol can cause health issues.
- Alcohol slows muscle recovery.
- The ‘best’ types of alcohol are red wine and vodka.
- Try not to drink if your muscles are in an anabolic state.