Why Alcohol May Be Hurting your Training & Diet Progress + Tips to Drink Smarter
Hope you are all having a fabulous summer!
If you’re like me, the warm weather has you spending more time outside, whether at the cottage, at the beach or on a patio, in the company of friends and family. And with these activities, it is likely you are enjoying a drink or two .
While having some drinks in moderation is no biggy, being unaware of our drinking choices can get in the way of our health and fitness goals.
This can mean not being conscious of how much we are drinking, the types of drink choices we are making, and what happens before and after we drink.
What are the side effects of alcohol?
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, meaning it makes us pee more than normal. This can quickly lead to dehydration, which can impair your exercise performance the next day, mental functioning, and increase your chances of a nasty hangover.
Drinking can reduce the quality of your sleep by shortening the length of sleep and time spent in REM (aka deep) sleep. Deep, quality sleep is essential to muscle building and recovery, and of course, general health and energy.
Alcohol does contain calories, in fact, it is the second most dense macronutrient - 7 calories per gram (more than protein or carbs, which are 4 calories per gram). On occasion, extra calories from a few alcoholic drinks is fine, but if you consume empty calories from alcohol this can add up over time. Drinking can also replace calories from nutritious food.
5 oz glass of wine (12% alcohol): 130 Calories
12 oz glass of beer (5% alcohol): 150 calories
1.5 oz of hard liquor (40% alcohol): 100 calories
May Affect Body Composition
Consuming alcohol can certainly impact the work you are doing in your training sessions. As alcohol diminishes sleep quality, it slows down your recovery process by interfering with muscle repair that occurs during restful sleep. It can also contribute excess calories which may be stored as fat.
Tips to Drink Smarter
It is probably not realistic for most of us to never consume alcohol. So how might we limit some of the negative effects of drinking on the occasion we want to enjoy a drink, or two?
1) Have 2-3 drinks max
We hear that we should “drink in moderation” but what does that really mean? Current guidelines for alcohol consumption are 1-3 standard alcoholic drinks for men, and 1-2 drinks for women, per day. No, this does not mean that you can save all your drinks for one day a week but if you are going to drink on multiple nights, pace it out.
If weight loss, performance and body composition are your goals, I would limit drinking to no more than 1-2 nights per week.
Set out the limit before you go out, so you are more likely to stick to it.
2) Pace Yourself
If you find it hard to pace yourself, try choosing a larger volume drink like a dry cider with ice, wine spritzer or tall mixer with soda water. In between drinks, try having a low-calorie mocktail like flavoured soda water with a splash of grapefruit juice & lime slices.
3) Make Better Drink Choices
Most drinks are loaded with sugar. Having mixed drinks like rum and coke, cocktails and sweetened ciders can contribute a lot of empty calories.
Instead, make better choices and the spare the extra calories and carbs. Avoid sugar-sweetened colas, juices, liqueurs (which are sweet/ syrupy), tonic water, cocktail mixes, and sweetened ciders. Ask for half sweet or no syrup for cocktails. Have your liquor neat or ask for it with club-soda which is calorie free. Choose dry wines, and if you like cider, choose the ones with no added sugars.
My favourite lower sugar drink options are vodka sodas with a splash of orange juice, socialities, and dry ciders with ice.
4) Don’t skip food!
Don’t skip a meal just to save on the calories you are going to consume from alcohol later! Drinking on an empty stomach can make it harder to pace yourself, and also sets you up for a munchy binge later. Have a meal around 1-2 hours before you plan to drink. Focus on lean proteins and complex / higher fiber carbs.
For you active folks…. If you plan to drink after a training session, it is absolutely crucial that you ensure that you rehydrate and recover FIRST. This means drinking enough water, using electrolytes if needed, and having a substantial meal containing protein and complex carbohydrates after your activity.
5) Plan Ahead
Alcohol acts like an appetite stimulant. plus it can lower your inhibitions (aka ability to make smart choices). It is super important to decide BEFORE you go out how much and what you will drink, and also what you will have to eat later on. Plan out some healthy food options for the end of the night so you aren’t as tempted to have that pizza binge.
As alcohol reduces your ability to digest fats, keep your post-drinking snacks light (aka low fat…. so no, poutine is not a good option). Keep it carb and protein-focused, such as:
Scrambled eggs + whole wheat toast
Banana + peanut butter
Crackers + smoked salmon
Apple + hummus
Combat the dehydrating effects of alcohol by having two glasses of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. The day after drinking, ensure you continue to drink lots of water throughout the day and use electrolytes if you engage in an activity involving a lot of sweat loss.
Hope you enjoyed todays post!
Until next time,