Written by Jack Boardman
On The Thirst Day of Christmas
Christmas is a time for making merry with family, friends, colleagues and teams – the list goes on, and for those who play as hard as they work in the gym, that is an awful lot of making merry.
Far be it from us to ruin the fun; in fact, it is widely acknowledged among avid gym-goers that mental health should be considered as highly as physical condition so that you retain your drive and motivation. After all, stress can have a considerably detrimental effect on achieving your workout goals, so taking advantage of the rest and merriment of the happy holidays should far from be avoided.
That said, should you imbibe over the Christmas holidays, how does this affect your gym goals and what can you do to counter any negative affects?
How Does Alcohol Affect Exercise?
Alcohol does indeed have a detrimental effect on your sports performance. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, which means that drinking excessive amounts will result in dehydration.
Dehydration most definitely leads to a reduced workout performance.
Hydration is of paramount importance to your gym performance as it allows the flow of blood through your body that circulates oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Hydration also helps you to control your body temperature, so if you think you’re usually working up a sweat in the gym, that’s nothing compared to how you’ll overheat after a night of drinking alcohol.
Booze will also affect how your body makes energy as you liver can’t produce the same amount of glucose when it is metabolising alcohol. What affect will this have? You would be running on empty, drawing on fat supplies instead of blood sugar, making your workout a lazy, slow effort with your body unable to cope as well with the surplus of lactic acid, putting your liver to work more than the muscles you really want to be targeting in the gym.
Recovering From The Effects of Alcohol
Hydrate! While you’re drinking alcohol, aside from not drinking at all, you could attempt to stay hydrated between alcoholic drinks. Alcohol suppresses the release of the antidiuretic hormone that regulates how much urine you produce and, in doing so, you will be expelling electrolytes. Drinking water in between alcohol can also alleviate the effects of a hangover.
Residual levels of alcohol will still be in your system the morning after a night out so it’s recommended that you don’t have a match or epic workout planned after your Christmas work do.
One option you have is to make the morning after the night before a rest day. Whereas this may sound appealing and easy, rest days for the serious exercise enthusiast does not mean neglecting nutrition and the bigger picture of your workout plans. Rest days should be used for muscle recovery and fuelling, and by drinking alcohol you have compromised the gains you could be making on your day off.
But how can you combat the adverse effects of alcohol on your health gains? If you’re reading this too late, think medicinally – what does your body need? Most likely, you aren’t remotely interested in anything to eat if your hangover is making you nauseous. The fact is, especially for weight lifters whose bodies and growth depend on the consumption of the right fuel as much as the amount of weight they lift, you need to replenish. The answer is copious amounts of water, vitamins, protein, fats, carbs and electrolytes. If you think that sweating out a hangover in the gym or sauna is a remedy, understand that you will dehydrating even more. It may feel like a short term fix, but in the long run this is a serious hit on your health gains. Take lengths to replenish and hydrate with sports drinks and supplements that contain electrolytes and protein.