You probably know that drinking the night before competition is ill advised, but what about having just a few drinks during training? It’s not the end of the world, but even a night or two on the town can have adverse effects on training and performance.
Alcohol is a toxin. From the cheapest beer to the finest red wine, alcohol—especially consumed in large quantities—can hurt your bodies’ ability to train. Alcohol has been shown to:
• cause dehydration leading to early fatigue
• decrease power and strength
• decrease muscle endurance and muscle recovery
• decrease reaction time, balance, and information processing
From Bad to Worse
To make matters worse, alcohol has very little nutritional value and is a prime source of “empty calories.” Not only do those calories add to your daily intake, but also they have a seriously negative effect on your body’s ability to burn fat. Research has shown that fat metabolism reduces by as much as 73% after only two drinks in a one hour time period.
Alcohol decreases vitamin and mineral absorption, increases cortisol (stress hormone), and decreases testosterone levels for up to 24 hours post heavy drinking. Due to alcohol’s disruption of sleep patterns, it can also lead to a decrease in human growth hormone (HGH is primarily secreted during sleep).
The Lesser of 2 Evils
For an elite athlete in the weeks prior to a big event or for someone wanting to increase strength and lean mass, alcohol is not your friend. If you’re not that serious or on a break from training, there are certainly some healthier choices if you’re going to indulge. So,what’s the “healthiest” cocktail to order? The most commonly available, low calorie drinks are:
• red or white wine (4 oz): 100 calories
• ultra light beer (12 oz): 55 to 95 calories
• vodka soda (1.5 oz vodka, club soda):97 calories
• gin and tonic (1 oz gin, 4 oz tonic water):104 calories
Sweetening the Deal
Using diet soda and sugar-free mixes is also an option, but most contain artificial sweeteners, which have been shown to have a myriad of negative effects on your health. If you’re playing bartender at home, stevia based sweeteners such as Truvia and Pure Viaare the newest, all-natural, zero-calorie sweeteners on the block.