Alcohol and fitness – can it work?

12 September 2017 by
First published: 23 September 2017

Alcohol and fitness – can it work?

Can you train hard while still enjoying a couple of nights out a week? Or will doing so really hinder your progress? We spoke to the experts to find out if alcohol and fitness can work together.

AJ Odudo, fitness influencer and Superdrug Fitness Ambassador

‘In short, it’s not good to drink when training. Alcohol dehydrates, which makes you overheat as your body can’t effectively regulate temperature. There’s lots of sugar in booze so you consume more calories, and you feel tired quicker as your liver is too busy trying to get rid of the alcohol toxins rather than your lactic acid. It even affects your rest as you can’t sleep properly, a vital component when it comes to building muscle. Sad but true, alcohol and exercise don’t go hand in hand.’

Top tip: ‘Take regular days off from drinking or spread your intake out evenly over the week so that your body doesn’t build up a tolerance to alcohol.’

Matt Fiddes, celebrity fitness trainer and martial arts guru (mattfiddes.com)

‘I would always recommend cutting down alcohol intake when training as it can lead to reduced performance. While alcohol isn’t detrimental to your training programme, you will notice your hydration levels are drained quicker due to the diuretic effect alcohol has on the body combined with excess sweating. You will also notice your energy levels are lower due to your liver working overtime to produce glucose while breaking down the alcohol. If you want to feel and see noticeable results from training quickly, then I would suggest cutting your alcohol intake.’

Top tip: ‘Alcohol holds water and is one of the biggest causes towards abdominal fat. Cutting down will aid a flatter stomach.’

Steve Tansey, head of programming and research at Les Mills

‘We all know a glass of alcohol every now and then is an enjoyable part of life. However, too much can have a detrimental impact on your training regime. Alcohol can negatively influence nutrients being absorbed into your muscles. This means that they can’t repair and build after exercise in the way we’d like. Alcohol dehydrates the body because the body excretes water to clear the blood. This reduces performance massively as it inhibits brain function increasing. Plus, the fatty foods we tend to eat when we’ve overdone it can outweigh the results we’d hoped for as part of our weekly workout.’

Top Tip: ‘Keep alcohol intake to a minimum and opt for a red wine, which has antioxidants. Also remember if you do overdo it, it’s not the end of the world. Hydrate yourself and get back to training.’

Steph Elswood, fitness influencer and lead ambassador for protein brand Gen P (gen-p.com)

‘As a 21-year-old girl that loves to exercise, but also party, I get inundated with messages from people asking how often I drink alcohol. My views on drinking alcohol and training are the same as my views on diet and nutrition in general. I enjoy everything in moderation and have a very balanced lifestyle. I base my meals around feeding my body the fuel it needs to perform and repair, but am also very partial to allowing myself ‘treats’, every once in a while, and I class alcohol in that category. I’m a strong believer that one day ‘off’ won’t make you lose your progress entirely. However, if you aren’t seeing progress, question if that’s because you’re going for work drinks every evening during the week. Alcohol is made from distilling starch and sugar so it is packed full of calories. The way I visualise it is, a night out on the town knocking back cocktails and shots is similar to eating a whole pizza and a tub of ice cream – both scenarios will hinder your progress. You can allow yourself that every now and again if you wish to, but it isn’t advisable to do it all the time.’

Top tip: ‘I never go harder at the gym or run for miles the day after a night of drinking to ‘burn it off’. If you’re going to treat yourself and indulge a little then embrace that! Don’t punish yourself for enjoying your life.’

Nicole Aristides, personal trainer (@nicolearistides)

‘Alcohol consumption is seen to be “normal” and part of most people’s lives. There have been many studies which indicate some health benefits to drinking alcohol, too. However, when aiming to gain results in the gym, we want to consider our alcohol intake. Drinking one to two days before a training session can decrease our concentration levels, which can lead to less muscle activation and a less productive session. More importantly, drinking can have a negative impact on our body’s hydration. However, drinking alcohol shouldn’t be a reason for underachieving in the gym. To enjoy moderate drinking while keeping performance high in the gym, stay hydrated, opt for lower calorie options and stick to high nutrient-dense foods when you’re drinking.’

Top tip: ‘Give yourself one to two full days to recover before hitting a big session (especially a weight session) so you can mentally make the most of your session. Your body will also recover better and you can receive the results you deserve.’

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