Alcohol And Workout | How Bad Is Alcohol For Fitness?

As you leave the office after a stressful and hectic week, you receive an invite from your friends to go the nearest bar. You can probably say no but you really want to say yes. After all, you deserve a night off.

However, you’re reminded by your smartwatch of your scheduled workout the following Sunday morning. Confronted with both choices, what do you do? Before you chug that beer, here are some things to help you decide whether alcohol will do your body good, especially if you have a fitness goal in mind.

If you have a routine that you’ve been doing for a while now or a specific weight to maintain, it is important to understand that drinking alcohol have significant effects on performance, even on your body.

Although, in moderation, it won’t do considerable damage, drinking too much can block you from gaining all the rewards from your hard work. It can undo all the gains.

How does alcohol affect your workout?

Alcohol can adversely affect sports and athletic performance or any physical tasks because of what it does to your body in several ways.


It bears stressing that owing to its diuretic nature, alcohol can dehydrate the body. The kidneys will produce more urine when alcohol is present in your system.

Hence, drinking so much alcohol will push your body to urinate more, thus, leading to dehydration. This can get worse if you will exercise after drinking [alcohol] since you will abundantly sweat during work out.

As the body excretes urine, essential electrolytes for muscle contraction like magnesium, calcium, and potassium are also expelled.

If the body is already dehydrated before working out, blood flow cannot function properly which is very critical in exercising since the muscles need more oxygen and nutrients, resulting to sub par performance. The muscles will fail before you even get to try that last repetition.

Weak body

The body can also feel weak after drinking too much alcohol. The liver breaks down food particles and nutrients such as glucose which is necessary for energy.

When there is an excessive amount of alcohol in your system, the liver will try to break it down before the important minerals and nutrients. Less glucose production in the liver will make you tire faster and easier.

Since alcohol cannot be converted into glycogen which is the body’s main source of energy, they are just stored there and idly waiting for it to be expelled therefrom. It takes up space which the body could have used for useful fat and calories.

Hang over | Affecting Alertness

Ever had a bad hangover? Alcohol can blunt your nerves and alertness. The body feels too weak which makes you want to sleep all day. Alcohol affects coordination, balance, and body accuracy so it’s never a good idea to lift heavy weights after a night of drinking.

This can cause accidents to yourself and the people at the gym. Impaired motor skills and poor bodily coordination are evident after having had a drink or two. A study of people who did CrossFit after drinking showed higher rates of injury.

Impaired motor skills | Poor blood circulation

Alcohol sedates inhibitory nerves which impairs reasoning, judgment, and large muscle control. This impairment of motor skills and exercising is a fatal combination.

Alcohol also affects blood circulation. It dilates the blood vessels which makes the body push more blood out to the legs and arms and out of the core.

This lowers blood temperature which decreases performance. For people with cardiovascular problems, the problems are much worse when drinking alcohol.

Does alcohol reverse a workout?

Alcohol is not a source of energy. An alcohol has an average seven (7) calories per gram which is almost as pure as fat. Some drinks may have as high as 400 calories in them.

Empty and unusable calories

Alcohol contains a lot of calories the body cannot utilize. The build-up of these calories contributes to weight gain. Some people also feel the need to eat high-calorie food after drinking which will further prevent the body from burning up the excess calories.

The body’s recovery process also takes a hit after drinking alcohol. In a study in Australia, it has been shown that people who have had a drink after working out had lower protein synthesis rates. Protein synthesis is the process in building muscles size and muscle repair.

Slows down muscle recovery

In strenuous workouts which cause a lot of muscular damage, alcohol can dramatically slow down the body’s own process of healing. Depleted amounts of protein in the body combined with alcohol delays muscle recovery. Failure to synthesize protein will definitely reverse the gains after a workout.

As earlier mentioned, high levels of alcohol replaces and inhibits glucose which is an important energy source. Glucose is also necessary for muscle recovery so when alcohol outnumbers this important energy, the body will take a lot more time to repair damaged tissues and muscles.

Sleep disruption | Preventing restorative doze

Drinking alcohol may also disrupt sleep. Initially, the body will fall asleep easier; but then, sleep disruptions occur which prevents restorative sleep. More frequent sleep disruption prevents the body to produce human growth hormone which is essential for body recovery and muscle production.

Blood vessels dilation

Injuries also take a lot more time to heal because alcohol makes the blood vessels in the skin and limbs to dilate which increases blood supply in those areas. This results to more bleeding and swelling causing recovery time longer.

Stress, pressure, & tension

Alcohol may put a lot of stress in the body. Physical exhaustion combined with mental stress induced by alcohol greatly affects the body’s ability to cope up.

Cortisol activity is decreased by alcohol intake which diminishes the brain’s control over movement, speech, and decision-making. This is always unhelpful especially after the body has not yet recovered from a work out.

Can I drink alcohol after gym?

Drinking alcohol after sweating it out at the gym may sound like a fun idea. You may think you deserve just a little sip since you’ve burned a lot of calories right?

While it will not greatly affect your body if done in moderation, excessive alcohol intake may cause a lot of harm to your well- being.


A study conducted in New Zealand put two groups of athletes in an experiment. One group was asked to drink alcohol while the other abstained. The group who drank alcohol after working out only slept at an average of two hours.

This has significant effects on the body’s ability to repair itself since less growth and repair hormones are produced. This greatly increases anxiety and stress. If this becomes habitual, sleep problems may also result.

Alcohol after workout

The lower body’s power will also decrease significantly which can demotivate from working out the next day or performing well in the next workout routines. The body which has already faced intense activity after a workout will feel more groggy if alcohol is taken right after.

Dehydration is also more apparent if the body has not consumed enough water before the exercise. Drinking alcohol after sweating will cause the body to lose more water than it can consume leading to fatal dehydration.

Testosterone decrease

Alcohol also decreases testosterone levels which adds to the general feeling of exhaustion and demotivation.

Reduced protein synthesis decreases the ability of the body to build muscle mass and muscle size. Whatever potential muscle mass the body has gained after a heavy workout will be cancelled out by high levels of alcohol in the body.

Veering away from alcohol

Experts say, however, that the effects of drinking alcohol after working out depend largely on the person’s fitness goal. A bodybuilder would want to avoid alcohol after lifting weights since any benefit derived from muscle stress is negated by alcohol.

People who want to lose weight should also stay away from alcohol since it contributes to weight gain. However, drinking moderately for a person who has a high metabolism and focuses on strength and endurance will not cause long- term effects.

Does one night of drinking affect fitness?

Generally, drinking alcohol in high amounts can negatively affect a person’s health especially if there is a specific fitness goal in mind. If the aim is to build more muscle, alcohol should definitely be avoided since it causes sleep disruption, slower protein synthesis, and poor body control and coordination.

Alcohol does not have any significant benefit to the body’s health. Experts advise beer over other liquor since beer has some electrolytes. But this should always be done in moderation otherwise any benefit derived from exercising will be put to waste.

Drinking alcohol affects the mood and general disposition of the mind. It is primarily a depressant since it slows the body down.

The presence of alcohol in the body decreases the heart rate and blood pressure which helps the body feel relaxed or sedated in the worst scenario. Ultimately, alcohol and fitness are incompatible especially if drinking becomes a habit.

Striking a balance, what to do next?

For many people, drinking is part of socializing and a way of finding a leisure time after an exhausting day. Even if a person has a particular health and fitness goal, alcohol does not have to be totally avoided.

There are practical ways on how alcohol can be enjoyed without ruining the healthy gains after a workout.

Make a schedule – Alcohol should always be in moderation; this is more apparent for a person with a healthy lifestyle. It can help if there is a schedule and routine to planning leisure times. This can also lessen the likelihood of going out whenever a random invite from friend and family to go on a night out comes.

Drink lots of water before and after drinking alcohol – To lessen the probability of being dehydrated, the body should consume a lot of water if alcohol is to be consumed. This should also be done right after drinking alcohol since the body will urinate more.

Choose the right drink – Some alcoholic beverages contain more calories than others. Avoid sweetened drinks because this has unhealthy levels of sugar. Beer is generally preferred over hard liquor.

Eat nutritious meal after working out – The body should be replenished with food rich in protein and carbohydrates after strenuous activity to help it build back the muscle mass. A full stomach will also lessen the appeal of alcohol.

Drink slowly – It is important to drink small amounts rather than gulping a bottle of beer in one take. This gives the body more time to process the intoxicating effects of alcohol. This will also help to appreciate the taste more.

Pick the alternative – There are already great products that can replace alcoholic drinks. Companies have developed alcohol-free beers that also taste great, there are also alternative stouts and cocktails. If alcohol can be totally avoided, there are other leisure activities that are healthier like camping, playing video games, and board games.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that alcohol and exercising are not ideal partners. There are no practical benefits in consuming alcoholic beverages, especially on binge drinking. It cannot boost fitness and health. It may be a product of imagination only to justify such consumption.

However, exercising and fitness workout should not stop anyone from having fun while being conscious of their health. If done in moderation and in a balanced manner, drinking alcohol is not entirely incompatible with fitness. Appropriate rest, as well, may e a welcome addition into your fitness journey and pleasure, among others.

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