Is It OK to Drink and Exercise?

Is It OK to Drink and Exercise?

Physically fit individuals are more than twice as likely to be alcohol drinkers compared with those who don’t exercise. Researchers found a strong relationship between alcohol consumption and physical activity.

The recommended alcohol intake for men is 2 drinks or less per day, and 1 drink a day or less per day for women, based on the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One drink is 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol which is equivalent to a 12-ounce beer (350 ml) that contains 5% alcohol content or a 5-ounce wine with 12% alcohol content.

Excessive drinking, as classified by the CDC, is equivalent to 15 or more drinks per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women. Take note that most people who drink excessively are not alcoholics. However, with the quantity of alcohol they consume, they run the risk of suffering from long-term health problems including liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, certain types of cancer and dementia.

Why You Should Stay Away from Alcohol

The most obvious issue with drinking alcohol and exercising is impaired judgment, impaired coordination and impaired balance. Alcohol can affect brain chemistry and lower inhibitions. If you drink and then hit the Fitness 19 gym after, you could injure yourself or those around you.

Another issue is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic which means you may need to urinate more when you drink. Add this to workout sweat and it’s easy to see how you can become dehydrated.

Other serious problems with drinking include heart arrhythmia, which happens with chronic alcohol use or heavy drinking.

Experts agree that alcohol and fitness don’t really mix however there are things you can do to reduce your risk for serious injury:

  • Give yourself a few hours between drinking and working out.
  • Drink lots of water so that you’re properly hydrated and also to flush out the alcohol from your system.
  • Eat a solid protein-packed meal before you drink.

Effects of Alcohol on Performance

Alcohol affects the body during exercise and it also has adverse effects on the brain’s functions. As mentioned, alcohol is a diuretic and when you combine it with sweating, dehydration becomes so much more likely.

During exercise, we need to be hydrated so that blood can flow normally throughout the body, which is essential so that oxygen can get to our cells, tissues and organs. Another issue with alcohol is that it gets in the way of metabolism. It causes insulin spike which leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Your body needs to have normal sugar levels so it can provide energy otherwise you will get fatigued quickly.

Exercising a Day After Binge Drinking

Even a mild hangover can affect our ability to perform at our best. Exercising when you have a hangover will lead to poor performance, low training quality and difficulty in recovering. Remember that alcohol also affects sleep so you’re more likely to be tired and sleepy the next day.  If you want to make the most out of your workout, it would be wise not to exercise the day after a drinking session.

Final Thoughts

The link between fitness and drinking could be explained by a mechanism known as the “licensing effect.” When a person achieves a certain goal such as increasing their PR in running, it makes them feel as if they have the “license” to indulge in unhealthy behaviors like drinking beer as a form of “self-reward.” But it doesn’t mean you should. It’s OK to drink a beer or two a couple of times a week but if it becomes a daily thing, it could very well impact your training, jeopardize your fitness goals and even lead to long-term health problems.

Check out this video to learn more about the effects of alcohol to your body and how it could negatively impact your fitness goals:

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