How Alcohol Affects Your Fitness

by Doug Jackson, M.Ed.,CSCS

I receive a lot of questions regarding alcohol and fitness. The following is my perspective on the issue....

After recently ending my business relationship with Fitness 21, I decided I needed to go enjoy the South Florida nightlife a little bit. After all, just about everybody I know told me that I needed to work a little less and enjoy life a little more.

Trying to take a hint, last Friday night I drove south to Bongo's nightclub in downtown Miami. As I walked in, I heard the famous song phrase, "Play that funky music white boy..." That song has always put me in a good mood, but it's not quite my normal, conservative, Midwestern style.

"Hmmm", I thought. "Just a little different than John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" that I heard in my car a few minutes before. "I need something to drink, pronto."

A few drinks later, I was feeling a little less "white boy-ish", as I boogied down for the next couple hours to old disco, classic salsa, and a newer infatuation of mine... Shakira???.

As you can see, even with my fitness lifestyle, I don't mind having a drink or two or three every now and then. I just don't do it often.

So, let me break it down for you: The impact of alcohol on fitness.

From a trainer's perspective excessive alcohol consumption can drastically increase our calorie intake, create blood sugar irregularities, and tilt our hormones to a more fat-storing, muscle-losing environment.

Caloric Content of a few popular alcoholic beverages:

-Budlight bottle (12 oz.) = 110 calories

-Budweiser bottle (12 oz.) = 146 calories

-Shot of 100 proof liquor (1.5 oz.) = 124 calories

-Shot of 80 proof liquor (1.5 oz) = 97 calories

-Pina Colada cocktail (4.5 oz) = 245 calories

-Merlot red wine (5 oz) = 123 calories

-Pinot Grigiot white wine (5 oz) = 123 calories

Let's say that a client of mine goes out and has two lite beers and two shots. On average, that might be about 450 calories. As you might imagine, those extra calories add up quickly, and can put a halt on any fat loss goals in a hurry.

Not only is it easy to consume too many excess calories when drinking alcohol; alcohol also puts the body in a state not conducive for fat burning and muscle building. Alcohol intake spikes insulin levels (which can lead to fat storage), and then can quickly drop a person into a hypoglycemic state where they continue to crave sugary drinks and junk food.

In addition, although it's hard to come to any firm conclusions, scientific research suggests that alcohol drops testosterone levels in both sexes. Lower testosterone equates to less muscle and more fat. Too much alcohol can literally make a man less of a man, and can lower a woman's sex drive as well. Oh...the misery! What is this world coming to?

To summarize, while alcohol can help get the party started, keep it to a minimum if you want to have a body impressive enough to be featured in the next Shakira video. That lean, muscular, and fit look that is becoming more rare in America by each passing day is built off of wholesome foods, and hard physical exertion.

The final word on this topic: The more you indulge in alcohol, the more you put the brakes on your fitness program.

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