Have you been looking for a way to enhance your sports performance, or to beat your personal best in exercise? We may have just the answer…
Okay okay, so it might sound obvious – but alcohol, being a diuretic and a substance that changes how your body metabolises foods, can lead to a negative impact on your health and fitness levels. However, as obvious as this seems, many people are still surprised to know how alcohol might be holding them back in their fitness goals, or perhaps, would just prefer to remain in the dark about alcohol’s role in this regard.
How alcohol can negatively impact fitness:
- Alcohol can cause the body to become dehydrated – being hydrated is incredibly important when exercising in order to maintain blood flow to circulate oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
- Alcohol changes the way your body metabolises food, meaning it interferes with how it produces energy. Specifically, it means your body cannot produce as much glucose, lowering the body’s blood sugar levels which adversely impacts your energy levels.
- Drinking can negatively impact sleeping patterns leading to reduced energy levels.
- That’s not to mention the mental impact that alcohol can have on your motivation to exercise the day after a drinking session!
Making the most of your exercise
It is important to understand how alcohol impacts the body, and the benefits to your fitness and sports performance if you were to limit the alcohol you consume. By reducing or removing the amount you drink, either long term, or while training for a specific fitness or sporting goal, you are likely to see more of the hard work you put into your exercise pay off, which will enhance your performance.
Fuelling your body
One of the most important bits of advice that experts give when talking about training, fitness or even just being healthy in general is to fuel your body with the right things. This means a balanced diet, lots of water and a good night’s sleep. If we take a look at each of these individually, we can see how alcohol might impact this advice.
A balanced diet
Establishing and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can be tricky enough as it is, without factoring in the empty calories in alcohol that we may consume, or even the less than healthy food choices we may make whilst drinking. However, this is not where alcohol’s role in diet ends… in fact, drinking alcohol, even a small amount, can flood your blood with sugar causing blood sugar spikes. This leads to your body having to rely on the hormone insulin to help process the sugar – one way it does this is by increasing our fat stores. The blood sugar spikes caused by alcohol during a drinking session, followed by the lack of glucose production after the fact means your blood sugar goes on a rollercoaster ride leading to reduced energy levels and could result in poor sleep quality.
On top of this, your body isn’t a big fan of alcohol, so it tries to process it out of your system quickly. Breaking down alcohol takes precedence over the digestion of foods and other bodily functions which then means your body is not absorbing the vital vitamins and minerals you get from your food. This means that even if you are eating a rich diet of healthy foods, alcohol may mean you are not reaping the full rewards from them.
Thus, by reducing your alcohol intake you are likely to feel the full force of the nutrition you consume, which will be the driving force in your workouts meaning that you can perform at your best.
Drinking lots of fluids (the good kinds!)
As mentioned above, a crucial element in reaching peak sporting performance goals is to be hydrated in order to allow the body to be fully oxygenated throughout the physical activity.
Alcohol being a diuretic causes our body to lose fluids meaning we are not able to maintain the level of hydration needed to perform well physically, and the effects can be as noticeable in the form of headaches, joint pains as well impeding our ability to concentrate and think clearly. Additionally, you need to be hydrated during exercise in order to be able to regulate your body temperature. By reducing your alcohol intake, you are improving your body’s ability to sweat to keep you from overheating.
Go to bed!
Another area where sports performance and fitness are intrinsically linked to alcohol consumption is in sleep. In order to perform at your best (sports related or not!) a good quality night of sleep is crucial. Even as little as one glass of wine could interrupt your REM sleep, the restorative sleep that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and recharged. Reducing how much you drink can improve how quickly you are able to fall asleep, and heighten the quality of sleep you are able to achieve each night, boosting your energy levels and leading to enhanced performance during physical activity.
A case study
Not sure you believe us yet? Okay, here is Cliff, one of our brilliant OYNB members, who took the 90-day challenge in order to reach a fitness goal. He found that many areas of his life improved by taking a break from alcohol, including enhanced sports performance!
“As an avid cyclist who still likes to dabble in the odd event, drinking grew to be very detrimental to my performance and deeply frustrating given how much effort I was committing to the sport. I joined the OYNB 90-Day Challenge eight weeks prior to a 3,000km, self-supported, often off road, cycling event down the length of New Zealand. It was just what I needed to help me become focused
I have made a lot of improvements. Physically, I just feel better. My stomach doesn’t ache, I lost 5kg and I feel I’m a better husband because of my better quality of sleep and reduced level of crankiness. I was far more prepared for the challenge of cycling the length of New Zealand.
In the modern world, cycling and drinking the post ride beer[s] has become the norm. People pay a lot of money for their bikes and gear. A lot of these same people would see much greater performance gains if they’d manage their alcohol consumption versus buying the lighter bicycle.”
Do you want to run faster?
Or further? Or cycle? Maybe you want to become the best in your sport at something. Or maybe you just want to beat your own personal best? Regardless of what your fitness goals are, it is unlikely that alcohol will help you get there. Taking a break from alcohol is not a punishment for wanting to succeed at something, instead, it gives a lot more than it takes away. Improved sleep, heightened awareness, optimised digestion and nutrition absorption and so much more – give it a go, and see what could become achievable.