Alcohol and Exercise

Alcohol in your system is detrimental to any kind of fitness activity (except maybe on the dance floor). Here’s how booze wreaks havoc on your regimen.

1. Slower Recovery
Hard workouts drain the glycogen stores (carbs stored in the liver and muscles) and leave your muscle tissue in need of repair. “Pouring alcohol into your syste

m as soon as you finish stalls the recovery process,” says Tavis Piattoly, R.D. High levels of alcohol displace the carbs, leaving your stores still 50 percent lower than normal even eight hours later, according to one study. Sip or snack on a combo of muscle-repairing protein and carbs (think low-fat chocolate milk or peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers) before tipping back.

2. Packed-On Fat
When booze is on board, your body, besides having to deal with the surplus of calories, prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol over burning fat and carbs. Alcohol also breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat. “For some reason this process is most pronounced in the thighs and glutes,” says Piattoly. “Excessive alcohol consumption really chews up muscle in those areas.” It also increases levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), which further encourages fat storage, particularly in your midsection.

3. Disrupted Sleep
Boozing also blows your muscle recovery and performance by sapping your sleep. In a study of 93 men and women, researchers found that alcohol decreased sleep duration and increased wakefulness (particularly in the second half of the night), especially in women, whose sleep time was decreased by more than 30 minutes over the night. “Disrupting the sleep cycle can reduce your human growth hormone output—which builds muscle—by as much as 70 percent,” says Piattoly.

4. Depleted Water and Nutrients
Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, which can reduce your capacity to absorb nutrients (the reason you have an upset stomach after a few too many), says Brian R. Christie, Ph.D.—not to mention that alcohol makes you pee. For every gram of ethanol you suck down, you pump out 10 milliliters of urine (that’s about 9.5 ounces for two beers). As little as 2 percent dehydration hurts endurance performance. And by the way, you can’t rehydrate with a dehydrating drink (e.g., beer).

TWO RUNNERS WALK INTO A BAR…

No, this isn’t the beginning of a tired joke, it’s an increasingly common real-life occurrence. And research shows that, once inside, those avid runners—and other frequent exercisers—tend to accrue bigger tabs than the average bar patron. Picture the Cheers gang clad in head-to-toe sweat-wicking spandex.

A 2009 study from the University of Miami found that the more people exercise, the more they drink—with the most active women consuming the highest amounts every month. It’s a peculiar phenomenon that has had scientists scratching their heads since 1990, when research first pinpointed the alcohol-exercise connection. But they expected that, at some point, the script would be flipped—that the biggest boozers would exercise less. Never happened.

Instead, this landmark 2009 analysis of more than 230,000 men and women revealed that, on average, drinkers of both genders and all ages (not just wild twentysomethings) were 10 percent more likely to engage in vigorous exercise like running. Heavy drinkers exercised 10 minutes more each week than moderate drinkers and 20 minutes more than abstainers. An extra bender actually increased the number of minutes of total and vigorous exercise the men and women did that week.

“There’s this misconception that heavy drinkers are exercise-averse couch potatoes,” explains study author Michael T. French, Ph.D., a professor of health economics at the University of Miami. “That may be true in some cases, but that’s certainly not what we’ve found.”

This trend seems particularly pronounced in women—especially active, educated women, who, according to recent research from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, are drinking more than ever. In part, progress may be the root of this evil: With growing numbers of women in the workplace and other male-dominated arenas, it has become increasingly socially acceptable for women to go out and belly up to the bar alongside their male counterparts—and to overdo it.

Working Out to Work It Off
One simple theory scientists have to support the drinking-exercise connection is the morning-after phenomenon. In this case, the party girl who downs a few appletinis (and maybe some mozzarella sticks) feels the need to repent for those calories by banging out five or six miles the next morning.

“Women who consume alcohol could simply be exercising more to burn it off and avoid weight gain,” says French. “Likewise, they may drink more simply because they can, as they know they’re burning calories, so they’re less worried about the weight gain.”

But exercising to atone for the sins of the night before doesn’t explain why someone would chase an indoor cycling class with a round of drinks, which also happens with staggering frequency. This, researchers say, could be the product of a “work hard, play hard” personality type. “There are people who are sensation seekers,” says Ana M. Abrantes, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School. “They engage in activities that produce intense sensations and can be quickly bored by things that don’t produce those feelings.”

For others, it might be a matter of blowing off stress. Which may be why some women offset their tension with a boot-camp class, or by getting loaded, or both. “Exercising stimulates the release of serotonin, which is your natural antidepressant, as well as dopamine, which is the primary neurotransmitter in your brain’s reward center. It makes us feel good,” says brain chemistry researcher J. David Glass, Ph.D., a professor at Kent State University. Alcohol has a similar effect—hence, the buzz you get soothes your worries (if only temporarily).

BE SOCIAL & SHARE

Article first appeared in:
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/exercise-and-alcohol,
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/drinking-and-exercise

Advertisements

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: