“When you have a glass or two of wine or a couple of pints, you’ve essentially cancelled out the calories burned during your workout”
It is estimated that in the UK, 9.7 million of us have a gym membership and there are approximately 151,000 sport clubs, each having an average membership of 141 people. These are of course encouraging numbers, but how many of us are attaining the best results from our workouts? Smashing our goals week after week, building muscle and improving our health? Realistically, very few.
Case and point
It’s not uncommon for many of us to have a drink after a training session or workout, in order to relax or socialise. I know I certainly did back in my rugby playing days. Whether it was a mid-week training session or a Saturday afternoon match, our post rugby ritual was to always go for a drink (read: lots of drinks). Needless to say, we weren’t winning many trophies.
During my time as a Personal Trainer, I would be confused as to why clients weren’t seeing the expected results, despite following their training and food plans. Then they would go on to tell me about their booze fuelled weekend antics…Yep, alcohol has a lot to answer for when it comes to stopping us being at our physical peak. It can affect all aspects of our lives, which play a big part in letting us perform at our best, both physically and mentally.
Physical benefits of being alcohol-free
Promote fat loss
It may be surprising to know that one gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. That’s only 2 calories less than a gram of fat. On average, a 60-minute workout will burn anywhere between 200-400 calories. However, a large glass of red wine contains up to 250 calories and a beer is usually in the region of 175-200. So, when you have a glass or two of wine or a couple of pints, you’ve essentially cancelled out the calories burned during your workout.
Not only is alcohol calorie dense, but it is also nutrient void, what we would call “empty calories”. Due to the calories having no nutritional benefit, they do little to make us feel full, which is why we are often inclined to head to the takeaway on a night out, or raid the cupboards for that satisfying savoury snack after a few drinks. All of which just adds to our total daily calorie intake.
By going alcohol-free, we can give ourselves a much better chance of keeping within our calorie requirements, making our time training in the gym more effective and helping our body fat percentage keep going in the right direction, down. Just like Darren managed to achieve, by losing 8 stone, AF.
Increases muscle and strength
Our muscles are 70% water, so in order for them to perform and recover properly, we need to keep them well hydrated. Unfortunately, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases the amount we urinate, which can cause our muscles to become easily dehydrated. Ensuring we are well hydrated when exercising is vital to avoid our muscles cramping, keeping our focus and to avoid feeling sluggish. A well hydrated body also allows blood to flow freely through our veins and arteries which is essential to transport essential nutrients to our muscles post workout in order to promote recovery.
Being able to effectively absorb nutrients plays a key role in building muscle mass and increasing strength. Over time, however, alcohol can inhibit the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, particularly protein and vitamins, both of which are crucial to muscle repair and growth. In doing so a domino effect is created from workout to workout, slowing down progress, if not stalling it altogether.
To top it all off, research has shown that drinking alcohol after exercise can also intensify and prolong DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) which is the stiffness you feel in your muscles up to two days after exercising and so further delaying the recovery process.
Mental benefits of being alcohol-free
Being healthy and achieving your fitness goals requires you to be physically active, of course, but the challenge begins between your ears. Before we get active, we first have to be in the right state of mind and alcohol doesn’t do us any favours here either, a hangover may just be the single biggest cause of missed workouts in history.
Get a good night’s sleep
When it comes to improving fitness, sleep is probably the most underrated aspect. It is during sleep that our brain processes newly learnt skills. A study from Harvard University, found sleep to be the only thing to significantly improve physical performance. However, when we consume alcohol prior to sleeping, although it may help us nod off, it actually reacts havoc and has a massive impact on our sleeping patterns and processes.
Not only will this impact our recovery but will leave us feeling tired and sluggish the following day, making a visit to the gym or an early morning jog, not hugely appealing or likely.
Increases motivation & adherence
“Drinking alcohol steals happiness from tomorrow” along with it, the motivation to do just about anything.
Motivation can be fleeting at the best of times, but the best way to increase our enthusiasm to take action, is to see progress from the effort we put in to something. Smashing your goals, whether it be setting a new 5km race time, hitting a new squat personal best or seeing weight loss results in the mirror, will all fuel our motivation to keep pushing and improving.
When we drink though, not only are these things less likely to happen for all the reasons discussed prior, but also because you are just less likely to be inclined to make the effort. You’re going to feel less energised and your mood will be affected as prolonged drinking reduces the amount of serotonin (the happiness hormone) in your brain, which coincidentally, exercise elevates.
Improve your fitness and make your whole life great alcohol-free
The great thing about improving your fitness, is that it spills over into every other aspect of your life. You’ll have more energy to play and keep up with the kids, your confidence will sky rocket, your ageing process is slowed down, the risk of certain diseases can be prevented and by being alcohol-free you’ll have saved a few pounds that you can use to go out and treat yourself to a new wardrobe, to compliment your new physique.
“It is a shame for a man (or woman) to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his (her) body is capable.” –
Find out just what you are capable of physically. Chances are, it’s more than you ever thought possible.