How much Does Alcohol Affect Reaching My Fitness Goals?

Alcohol vs. Fitness Results

Alcohol and Fitness
Alcohol Can Be a Fitness Goal Setback. Sofie Delauw/Getty Images

The “work hard play harder” mentality just may be the setback in reaching your fitness goals.  If obtaining a lean physique and gaining muscle is a priority, you may want to consider putting down that next adult beverage.

Enjoying a drink has become the liquid “cheat meal” and reward for completing a hard workout. Unfortunately, one drink usually leads to two or more. The issue with alcohol is a weakness when it comes to moderation. The U.S.D.A. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends “no more than one alcoholic drink per day.”

Research has discovered some health benefits linked to moderate alcohol consumption. Additional studies indicate the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to losing fat and gaining muscle.

 Are you serious about getting in shape and hitting your fitness goals? The following facts will provide some insight into alcohol as a fitness setback.  

Alcohol Suppresses Fat Burning

Alcohol and Fat
Alcohol is Linked to Suppressed Fat Oxidation. Daniel Allan Photographer's Choice R/Getty Images

The body is a smart machine when it comes to adult beverages. Drinking stimulates your body to rid itself of toxic by-products, acetaldehyde, and acetate. These toxins are created from a chemical reaction started by alcohol consumption.  

You may notice an almost immediate urge to head to the bathroom after just two drinks. The body is using the unwanted by-products as fuel and slowing the ability for the natural metabolic process of adipose tissue or fat to be burned. The Journal of Clinical Investigation revealed, “in conclusion, we have shown that under the conditions of this study, ethanol replaced fat as the predominant fuel for oxidation providing approximately two-thirds of basal caloric requirements.”

This certainly should be an eye opening statement on how alcohol impairs our ability to burn fat and cause us to think twice before we belly up to the bar. 

Alcohol Lowers Testosterone?

Drinking High Doses of Alcohol is Linked to Reduced Testosterone Levels. Phil Ashley Stone/Getty Images

Alcohol lowering testosterone is the “booze buzz” going around. An article published in Europe Pub Med Central and on Nutrition Metabolism indicated “higher doses of ethanol, 1.5 g/kg (average dose of 120 g), have been demonstrated to suppress testosterone by 23%." According to research, there was no significant difference in testosterone levels after acute alcohol ingestion measured over a 16-hour period.  

Science is saying in laymen terms approximately 8 or 9 drinks for an 180lb man would need to be consumed to lower testosterone hormone levels post exercise. This does not mean a green light to drink like a fish is being supported. Research has simply  brought forth clarification of alcohol-related statements and the human body.

Alcohol does negatively impair fat oxidation (fat burning) and protein synthesis (muscle recovery). According to sports nutrition research, keeping alcohol reduced and/or eliminated is still the wisest choice to reach your fitness goals and protect overall health. 

Drink More, Eat More

Alcohol and Food
Drinking Alcohol is Linked to Overeating. Vulcain David Vincent / EyeEm EyeEm/Getty Images

Drinking leads to lowered inhibitions and mindless eating. According to an article published in the British Journal of Nutrition “in the long term, energy ingested as alcohol is additive to energy from other sources, suggesting that moderate alcohol consumption results in long-term passive over-consumption alongside short-term active over-consumption of energy through appetite stimulation.” 

Simply stated, drinking and eating go hand in hand and the outcome will be an expanded waistline. The famous saying, “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” can really apply here.  Numbing the brain with alcohol and consuming too many calories will not get you any closer to your fitness goals.  

Alcohol Creates Restless Sleep

Alcohol and Sleep
Alcohol is Linked to Restless Sleep and Reduced Muscle Recovery. Ayd?n Mutlu/Getty Images

Some may think having a drink or three may bring on a sound slumber, but this is far from the truth. Sleep is important for exercise recovery and is the time for muscle and tissue repair. 

The American Council on Exercise reported “alcohol’s effect on sleep patterns results in increased fatigue and physical stress to the body. Therefore, alcohol consumption indirectly affects a person’s strength-training ability due to increased fatigue and a lack of healthy reparative sleep.”

Before hitting the sheets try other methods of relaxation and keep the shot glass on the table.  

Alcohol Contains Empty Calories

Alcohol is Empty Calories Absent of Nutritional Value. JLVarga/Getty Images

Alcohol is nothing but empty calories, the “white bread” of drinks, and absolutely brings no nutritional value to the body. Alcohol contains a whopping 7 calories per gram and many drinks are blended with sugar-filled mixers adding even more “nothing” calories to the body.

Regular alcohol consumption is also known to impair nutrient absorption so even healthy food is potentially unable to be used to benefit the body. Research has made positive antioxidant links to red wine consumption in moderation but overall, alcohol is not recommended for a healthy lifestyle.

The takeaway: think before you drink!  


American Council on Exercise (ACE), Fit Facts, Cardiovascular Exercise, Alcohol Eats Away at Muscle Mass

Health and Human Services Author Manuscript, Relationship between alcohol intake, body fat, and physical activity – a population-based study, Suthat Liangpunsakul, MD MPH et al., 9/10

RESEARCH ARTICLE, Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training, Evelyn B. Parr et al., 2/12/14

Journal of Clinical Investigation, Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance, J J Shelmet et al., 4/88

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