People who exercise regularly indulge in alcohol more often than people with sedentary lifestyles, a recent study from the University of Miami reveals. The instance of drinking was found to increase the probability of vigorous exercise by roughly 10%. In fact, combining exercise with alcohol consumption is becoming a popular trend — just look at wine yoga and wine barre classes. But does drinking derail your fitness efforts? It turns out it’s possible to live a healthy lifestyle that incorporates both alcohol and exercise.
The impact of alcohol on your body post-exercise
Alcohol can interfere with your body’s ability to recover, repair micro-tears in the muscle, and grow stronger after a workout. When you drink alcohol, your body becomes preoccupied with metabolizing and breaking it down into acetic acid. In order to make gains, however, it’s crucial that your body is allowed to repair and build muscle. Reaching for alcohol after exercise rather than a nutritious and balanced post-workout snack (which includes fat, proteins, and carbs) can also further worsen these negative impacts on muscle repair and development.
In fact, a study published in Sports Med found athletes who drink alcohol at least once a week are two times more likely to sustain an injury compared to athletes who don’t drink. Researchers believe this is primarily down to the impact of hangovers, which significantly diminish athletic performance. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: alcohol consumption also kills brain cells, thins the blood, and potentially damages heart health, and interferes with sleep (which is another crucial element of recovery after exercise).
Fitting alcohol into your fitness routine
Fortunately, it’s still possible to enjoy the occasional tipple without seriously affecting your fitness goals. Tracking your fitness progress can help you determine your personal threshold of how much alcohol you can consume before it starts to hinder your athletic performance. So, if you find yourself failing to reach your goals, taking a look at your lifestyle choices (which includes alcohol consumption) should be your next step.
Additionally, it’s best not to consume alcohol right after a workout — especially in the one-hour timeframe after exercise, which is critical for recovery. Wait at least one hour after working out or, ideally, six hours. In this timeframe, it’s important to focus on drinking water, replenishing electrolytes, and re-fueling with nutrient-dense food.
Enjoying alcohol the right way
You may feel pressure to opt for the lowest calorie alcoholic drink, however, there’s no need to forgo your favorite higher-calorie beverages in the name of fitness. Instead, focus on enjoying the drink you’re really craving mindfully. Attempting to satisfy a craving with something that doesn’t hit the mark will only end up intensifying that craving and lead to feelings of deprivation.
When it comes to alcohol, portion control can be a struggle for many and not everyone finds it easy to stick to drinking just a glass or two. An increasingly popular beverage, canned wine is a great solution to this struggle as it offers built-in portion control. A standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine holds roughly 25 ounces (or five five-ounce glasses). Alternatively, a 375-milliliter can of wine gives you just enough to share with your partner or a friend. Remember to always drink a glass of water between each glass of alcohol. This means you end up drinking slower, helps you maintain control, and works to prevent a bad hangover the next day.
Indulging in one or two drinks after your workout is a fun way to reward yourself for your hard work. And it’s something you can enjoy guilt-free without it derailing your progress. An approach that embraces everything in moderation can keep you fit and healthy without feeling deprived.