Are Your Cocktails Stalling Your Fitness Gains?

We humans are a funny group. We try to do the right thing – eat well, exercise, follow a healthy lifestyle, get enough sleep – but we also sabotage ourselves at too many turns.

Take for instance your cocktails.

Could it be that all the time you spend in the gym is actually stalled when you enjoy your favorite adult beverage? Science says, unfortunately, yes.

Anybody can tell you that drinking too much makes exercise the next day a less than pleasurable affair but the chemistry behind alcohol’s effect on your body influences your strength gains and performance on a long term basis.

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Here’s the skinny on that margarita:

As the largest internal organ in your body, your liver is constantly working overtime. One of the most important jobs is to break down food and convert it into energy when you need it.

When you have a drink, your liver goes into overdrive trying to metabolize and eliminate it. The liver changes alcohol into a substance called acetate. When your blood acetate levels increase, your body uses acetate instead of fat. In fact, fat metabolism is reduced by as much as 73% after only two alcoholic beverages. 

The sobering fact is that this process stops your body’s ability to use your fat stores for energy. So all that clean eating and strength training you are doing is compromised as your liver produces more acetate and in the process becomes fatter itself.

In addition, while your liver is busy metabolizing that margarita, its glucose production -- which fuels your muscles -- is compromised. Less glucose means lower blood sugar – effectively starving your muscles of energy.

The effects of alcohol don’t stop there. Check out these other unwanted consequences:

  • Alcohol causes dehydration – robbing your muscles of blood flow and nutrients.
  • Alcohol increases appetite – potentially adding hundreds of fat storing calories.
  • Alcohol reduces your body’s ability to eliminate lactic acid – resulting in loss of strength and increased soreness.

Alcohol also disrupts your sleep patterns. This has a direct effect on muscle gains. Your body produces less growth hormones and testosterone – key factors in muscle growth. 

Finally, the truth behind beer bellies is they aren’t because of beer after all. They are the result of the 300% increase of estrogen from alcohol – the bad news is biochemically, the higher your estrogen level, the more readily you absorb alcohol but the slower you break it down.

So pause for a moment before you raise your glass. If you are going to indulge, consider this tip: pay attention to how much you consumer and become a two fisted drinker – follow every drink with a water chaser.

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Reid PetersonComment