We have seemingly unlimited occasions to socialize, especially in a city where you can eat something different every day of the year. For some of us, alcohol is a regular companion in these situations; for others, alcohol helps to calm down after a stressful workday.
It has been a matter of research for decades, and we now know that a short-term but risky side effect is blacking out. Much more severe damage to the body is done through higher and regular consumption of alcohol. Balance, reaction time, and vision are strongly impacted by alcohol consumption. It even reduces the quality of our sleep by shortening the duration of Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM). Especially women tend to be more susceptible to side effects such as damage to the heart muscle and damage to the liver and the nervous system. Even the growth of new brain cells is compromised by alcohol.
Alcohol can cause an increased chance of experiencing muscle cramps and pain, although the underlying reason is still unknown. A potential explanation may be the risk of dehydration because of alcohol consumption. This is when people lose essential minerals and trace elements as well.
Another common effect of alcohol consumption is disturbed carbohydrate metabolism. I have seen firsthand how people quickly get into a state of low blood sugar and throw up during training. Alcohol is completely messing up the body’s ability to provide energy from sugar from the liver and muscle energy storage. If the body cannot set point free from within the liver storage, it cannot stabilize blood sugar levels during exercise. The blood sugar tends to be low, which impacts the speed of recovery after a workout directly because the availability of glucose (sugar) is crucial. The typical beer, after a strenuous hike or football game, is not beneficial for recovery because it impacts glycogen synthesis, which is the uptake and storage of sugar in the muscles.
An important aspect of alcohol consumption is its impact on our hormones. “Chronic alcohol exposure, in contrast, induces a decrease in LHRH, LH, testosterone, and progesterone and an increase in estradiol and FSH. These alcohol-induced hormonal dysregulations cause many reproductive disorders, such as menstrual cycle irregularity, decreased fertility, and hypogonadism.” (Rachdaoui N, 2017). This shows the direct impact of alcohol on the ability to build muscle and lose fat. High testosterone levels support muscle growth and fat loss, whereas the opposite happens if testosterone levels are low.
In conclusion, there is no benefit of alcohol consumption to our physical performance. It clearly shows a negative effect on recovery, muscle growth, and fat loss. Alcohol does not help us achieve our goals.
I suggest finding an alternative to reduce stress, such as reading a book or working out!
Rachdaoui N, Sarkar DK. Pathophysiology of the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Endocrine System. Alcohol Res. 2017;38(2):255-276. PMID: 28988577; PMCID: PMC5513689.
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