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How Alcohol Effects Your Fitness Goals

How Alcohol Effects Your Fitness Goals

It’s Friday, 5pm. For many Aussies that means one thing: bring on the booze! Enjoying a glass or two is fine in moderation, but it’s important to understand how alcohol can affect your sporting and exercise efforts, so we’ve got the lowdown:


Alcohol may help you nod off quickly, but the quality of your sleep may not be so good. Those who drink close to bedtime don’t get enough rapid eye movement (REM) sleep where important processes of dreaming and restoration occur. This lack of sleep impairs muscle recovery and zaps energy, meaning your workouts the next day will suffer.


Sipping a beer after a tough workout can have disastrous effects on muscle growth. In a 2014 study, subjects who were given a heavy dose of alcohol, accompanied by either protein or carbohydrates, reduced their post-workout protein synthesis by 24% and 37% respectively. Reseachers in this study also found a significant decrease in peak power output 36 hours post-exercise. In other words, poor recovery equals poor performance.


Ever wonder why you’re ravenous at the end of an all nighter? Here’s why: alcohol sends your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride. This is especially true for fancy cocktails, where the high sugar content sends your blood sugar soaring, only to crash a few hours later. Couple this with decreased inhibitions and you’ll likely find yourself hitting up the nearest burger joint to rid those hunger pangs.


Your body isn’t designed to store alcohol, the same way it can store kilojoules from food. So when you drink your body has one priority: get rid of the alcohol! As a result, normal metabolic processes stop. This means kilojoules from the recent food you ate get stored as fat to be dealt with later. What’s more concerning is that alcohol especially decreases fat burning around your abdomen. And a bigger belly means bigger health risks, too.


Binge drinking is associated with higher levels of central adiposity (fat around the mid-drift) than the same number of drinks spread throughout the week. Research has shown that binge drinking can increase girth size by up to 10cm. If you’re aiming for a flat stomach, better to drink small amounts over time than everything in one night.

It’s not all bad news though! With a few simple tips, you can enjoy alcohol in moderation:

  • Eat a protein and fibre-rich meal, such as lean steak and vegetables, before you go out. This slows the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream and stabilises blood sugar levels.
  • Choose your drinks wisely. Skip the fancy cocktails in favour of simple spirits with soda water and fruit.
  • Think low-carb alcohol drinks are a better choice? Think again. If you’re watching your waistline, light beer or wine have less kilojoules and are a better choice.
  • Always stay hydrated by having a glass of water between drinks. This slows down your drinking pace and can help prevent a hangover the following day.

How much is too much?

The Australian Government recommends a maximum of two standard drinks per day for men and women, and at least two alcohol free days per week. Fitness and physique goals differ for everyone, so it’s important to assess where alcohol fits in your nutrition and training plan. Six-pack abs and a six-pack of beer don’t need to be mutually exclusive. With a little planning and consideration, you can enjoy both things guilt free.


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