Juggling Alcohol And Your Gains
It's finally summer, and after a long winter it's only natural to want to come out of hibernation and have some "get togethers" with friends and family. Due to Covid-19 and social distancing this may not be a reality for some time, however it doesn't mean we can't enjoy the sun, some good music, and a few alcoholic beverages at home.
Today we're talking about the effects of alcohol on your training, how to manage it while still enjoying yourself, and how to limit the negative side effects of it!
First off, we're definitely not in the business of telling you that you need to cut alcohol completely out of your diet. It's not realistic or sustainable unless you already abstain from drinking by choice. We just want to try and help you maximize your results in the gym, while still acknowledging there are good times to be had.
How does alcohol affect my training in the gym?
As long as you're not showing up to train hammered (we don't recommend this), the main affect that alcohol has on your training is the recovery. When you put in a solid week of training while sticking to your diet, you build up momentum towards your desired results. However, when you decide to go out and have 10-15 drinks and an XL pizza on Saturday night, you just put yourself back 5 steps.
Excessive drinking causes dehydration and shedding of electrolytes, which in turn depletes your muscles of valuable nutrition needed for recovery and performance. The weight you were hitting last week for 5 reps might feel like a 1 rep max effort on Monday.
The next thing is the weight gain that can come with drinking. Fat is burned in 2 places; your liver and your muscles. Since alcohol is a toxin to your body, when you ingest it your body immediately makes it a priority to metabolize it. This is where the fat gaining problem starts. While your hammering back the natty lights you send your liver into overdrive trying to metabolize all the alcohol. Doing this causes the fat from the burrito you just dummied to sit there and not be metabolized, but instead stored throughout your body - leading to that Dad Bod.
How can I still have some drinks while sustaining my progress in the gym?
The #1 point here is pretty simple; drink in moderation. Roughly, this means up to 4 drinks for guys and 3 drinks for girls. You don't necessarily need to overdo it every time your friends want to go out. In fact, you can probably have a more memorable and social experience by capping your alcohol intake.
As mentioned before, when you drink, your liver prioritizes alcohol breakdown and puts fat breakdown on the back burner. So if you know you will be drinking, try to limit the size of the meal you ingest prior to it, and definitely try to keep it low fat. As well, try to limit the snacking while you're drinking - especially the salty snacks (nuts, chips, etc). Salty snacks actually lead you to wanting to drink more! If you do have to reach for something though, some functional food, that's high in protein can help curb those cravings.
What is the best way to limit the negative effects of drinking?
Of course a no brainer here is to drink LOTS of water. Ideally, you want to mix in a water with every couple drinks while you are out. A rule of thumb would be to rotate between a water and an alcoholic beverage to keep that 1:1 ratio. Another #fitfam hack you could do is mix your vodka with BCAAs rather than coke or cranberry juice. BCAAs can add extra electrolytes and hydration to your drink. Consider checking out ANS Performance's Quench BCAA, with high amounts of amino acids, as well as electrolytes for hydration, it's a great mix in. Plus the flavours are unreal.
But as noted, many of you avoid water while drinking to avoid "killing your buzz". We're realists here and we understand the situation. For a lot of college kids "killing the buzz" is one of the worst things you can do, behind tapping the keg out at a frat party 3 hours too early.
Let's go worst case scenario here - You decided to crush 15 "light bevys" and dance your face off at the local nightclub all night (all while excessively sweating and dehydrating yourself even further). In between Bieber remixes on the d-floor you were grabbing some salty snacks that were hanging around, and washing them down with Jägerbombs. Now, instead of heading straight home, you stop by the local pizza joint and crush a couple panzerotti's to yourself.
The best thing you can do is crush some electrolytes, such as the Vega Electrolyte Hydrator, before jumping into bed, and ensure you have another one or a big glass of water on the nightstand. The next morning you should get a smoothie of some sort loaded with fruit and veggies to get an influx of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into your system. Continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day, and in between reciting the line "I'm never drinking again", you should probably apologize to your body.