Can Drinking Sabotage Your Workout?

Monday, May 30, 2016
Can Drinking Sabotage Your Workout?

Dear Coach,


I have been exercising for many years now, and I can’t imagine my life without working out. I work hard every day, and I enjoy drinking; I regularly permit myself to drink beer or hard alcohol since I hardly ever miss out on my training regimen. I figure that it will all balance out between exercising and drinking to maintain a good level of fitness. What is strange to me, however, is that after exercising I often find myself craving alcohol, and end up drinking more than I usually do. I have two questions:


  • Can exercising undo the alcohol damage on the body to keep it fit?
  • Is it normal to drink or crave for more alcohol after exercising, or is it my imagination?


Thank you,

Claude M. A.

Dear Claude,


Exercising is one component of a fit lifestyle, which should include a sensible and well balanced diet along with healthy habits and activities. Some exercisers think that working out is a passport to all you can eat and drink. It is not. In fact, exercising should bring about awareness to complement the time one invests in hard training and muscle toning to maintain a level of steadiness in one’s fitness level, rather than going on a roller-coaster of training, and then abusing your body.


Regular consumption of alcohol for an exerciser, who is trying to remain in shape, can be pretty harmful mentally and physically. The damage done to the brain by alcohol consumption is known universally; it is irreversible, resulting in brain cell death and memory loss. On the physical level, however, it can hinder you from keeping an ideal weight for good reasons: first, the high caloric value of alcohol; second, sleep disruption during which the greater part of muscle growth occurs; third, once the alcohol is in your system, it becomes a priority for your body to metabolize, neglecting the fat and carbs in process. Ultimately it translates into more kilos on the scale.


It is not uncommon for regular drinkers to ‘justify’ their drinking action – perhaps out of guilt, or because of an addiction – and try to compensate by exercising hard for the damage done by alcohol. Actually, there have been many studies on the topic of exercising and drinking.


In one study, conducted by the Department of Sociology at the University of Miami, the relationship between alcohol consumption and physical activity were investigated; understanding whether there are common determinants of health behaviors is critical in designing programs to change risky activities. Their results strongly suggested that alcohol consumption and physical activity are positively correlated. The association persists at heavy drinking levels.


In another study, it was evident that alcohol and exercising seem to have a similar effect on the brain. According to J. David Glass, Ph.D., a professor at Kent State University, and a brain chemistry researcher: “Exercising stimulates the release of serotonin, which is your natural antidepressant, as well as dopamine, which is the primary neurotransmitter in your brain's reward center. It makes us feel good."


The bottom line is… moderation remains the key element, where one can enjoy a little bit of everything and maintain a healthy life. If you feel that your drinking is excessive and out of control, I would suggest that you seek professional help to assist you on this matter. Now, if you feel that your drinking is socially motivated and a matter of having fun with friends, then you would have to reconsider your choices and set your priorities straight. Keep it light.


Best of luck!

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