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Here’s how to maintain a well-structured workout schedule, but also have a good time now and then.
Look, we all like to have a good time every once in a while, and with those good times comes the occasional cocktail or adult beverage. While they’re a staple of socializing, they may be doing some harm to your training progress.
It’s no secret that excessive alcohol consumption isn’t exactly healthy, but can the occasional bottle of beer or glass of wine do serious damage to your workout regimen? Is there a way to balance drinking and fitness in a sustainable, efficient manner?
The simplest answer is to stop drinking entirely, but that’s not practical or a worthwhile tradeoff for everyone. Drinking can be a big part of life to trade away just to maximize your potential within a power rack or atop a rowing machine. While there are ways to efficiently drink while on your fitness journey, the first step is to understand how alcohol affects your body, and how those effects can be a detriment to your in-gym performance.
Alcohol, when consumed in excess, can lead to a number of health issues including liver disease, high blood pressure and more, but we all have somewhat of an understanding of that (Thanks, D.A.R.E.). But in the short term, hangovers are your biggest enemy, temporary though they may be. If you’re trying to combat those morning aches and regrets with a heavy squat day, you may be feeling less than ideal when getting under the bar. This is for a few different reasons
A drink or two may make it easier to fall asleep but studies have shown that once alcohol is metabolized — which can be hours after you start counting sheep — there can be a negative effect on your REM cycle. This can lead to groggy mornings, and less performance in the gym.
We know the benefits of recovering after a workout, and that a rest day is good every once in a while. If your evening habits are leading to less efficient sleep, however, you can’t exactly skip the gym entirely for extended periods of time.
You surely know alcohol isn’t exactly a health drink, but it’s crucial to pay attention to the amount of calories contained in each drink, especially if your fitness regimen is tied to any weight loss goals.
Alcohol itself has calories, there’s a limit to how low-cal any meaningfully strong drink can be. Alcoholic beverages can also vary in terms of caloric intake depending on the amount of sugary additives — a punch will have more calories than a tumbler of whiskey — and nearly all of these calories are “empty,” meaning they hold little to no nutritional value. If you’re big on counting calories and want to stay within your limit, be sure to set your planned amount of drinks beforehand and adjust your daily intake accordingly.
Alcohol can have a wider effect on your diet decisions, especially after you’ve indulged a bit. Alcohol is a diuretic, and as a result of this dehydration, your body could be craving saltier snacks to help replenish electrolytes. Additionally, you’re less likely to make healthy food decisions once alcohol gets in your system, throwing any diet restrictions you may have set for yourself out the door.
There are still ways to enjoy a bubbly beverage without compromising the work you’ve put in the gym. Planning ahead will not only make a night out less impactful on your training goals. It’ll also allow you to enjoy the evening, knowing that you aren’t throwing your fitness entirely out the window.
You already know how important it is to have a scheduled set of goals and expectations regarding your workouts. Well, that same notion can be applied to your drinking habits. Before you paint the town red, be sure to have a game plan regarding the amount of drinks you consume and which drinks you choose.
Light to moderate drinking — roughly 14 drinks per week for men and 7 drinks per week for women — can be a great starting point, but it’s also important to consider what you’re ordering. Below are the definitions of a standard drink according to the CDC:
In terms of mixers, opt for lean alternatives like diet cola or seltzer to minimize the calories without skimping on the booze. This can help lessen the caloric impact of each drink on your diet.
Now more than ever, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options out there that can give the same tastes and aromas of their alcoholic counterparts without the worry of sleep deprivation and other booze-based negatives. (Or, of course, the buzz.)
In the beer sector, breweries like Athletic Brewing are diving deeper into the category offering up plenty of craft options to keep your evening festivities well hydrated without sacrificing your training.
You will still need to count your calories; non-alcoholic beers aren’t calorie-free. But if you want a beer with dinner or something to hold in your hand at the party but without the hangover, this could be a great option for you. Be mindful if you’re headed to a bar, that non-alcoholic options outside of soda and seltzer aren’t always plentiful, but they are increasingly available.
As stated previously, alcohol can have a negative affect on your sleep patterns. If you know you’re headed out for the evening, try and plan your workouts around that and allow for a recovery session that won’t tax your body more than you’ve already done. This can be a great time to let the body regain some of its energy — and allow your head to stop spinning.
While this can be an effective strategy to allow for drinking and workout progress, these recovery days don’t need to be completely stagnant. Going for a walk, prepping your meals or taking part in a healthy yoga session can be great disciplines to partake in during these planned “hangover days.” The important thing, though, is to keep these planned dates to a minimum, because if you look to progress in any fitness discipline, being sharp, energized and ready for the workouts ahead is the best solution.
Drinking and fitness don’t need to be polar opposites. Follow the above tips and you can indulge and improve all at the same time. Drink responsibly, train effectively and enjoy the life you set before you.