In an effort to increase energy when exercising, some may wonder will a small shot of liquor increase energy before weight training. After all, when we drink don’t we feel more awake and alert? The answer to this is a strong no! While we may feel more alert when we drink, alcohol is a depressant that can have several negative side effects when combined with working out.
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When you are lifting weights your body’s hydration, focus, and protein synthesis need to be at their peak. Alcohol negatively impacts all of these processes. Not only is alcohol bad for you immediately before a work out, but when you have been drinking heavily a night or two before working out it will still have an impact.
What are the negative effects of working out while under the influence?
Even if you do not feel drunk a small amount of alcohol, such as the quantity contained in a can of beer or one shot glass, will impact your ability to complete your workout. Alcohol limits the metabolism of several substances in the body including carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are not metabolized properly, glucose production and uptake is limited. Muscles do not have enough glucose, which results in several problems:
- Fatigue sets in much sooner
- Endurance, strength, and speed are all impacted
- Muscle recovery is much more difficult and takes more time
- You become exhausted more quickly during your next work out, even if you have not had any additional alcohol
In addition to the problems alcohol causes with metabolism and glucose production, drinking alcohol causes dehydration. When you are working out you want to increase hydration, and never want to exercise while dehydrated. Dehydration will decrease your performance by 10-20% or more. A drink with just 4% alcohol (a typical wine cooler or light beer) or more can cause the body to lose 3% more body fluid in a four hour period as compared to someone who has not consumed any alcohol.
Alcohol causes an increase in your heart rate. For some time it was thought that due to this fact a small amount of alcohol consumed before working out was helpful for losing weight. We now know that this is not the case. A heart rate raised through alcohol consumption and not natural means such as cardio exercise, will lead to increased cardiovascular strain and fatigue. Once again, when you drink before working out, you will become exhausted much more quickly.
Finally, alcohol impairs your level of focus and judgment. Just one drink can be the difference between lifting and holding onto a large barbell or dropping it to the floor. Whether you are weight lifting with free weights or machines you and those around you are at a much greater risk for injury when alcohol is in the mix.
Does alcohol impact my workout plan in other ways?
Whether you are taking that shot just prior to working out or you are drinking heavily a few evenings a week, you will find that alcohol will impact your ability to meet your fitness goals in several ways. Besides impacting your performance during your work out itself, alcohol can have many negative side effects that we often do not consider.
- Alcohol contains many empty calories. If you are working out to lose weight drinking alcohol will not help you reach that goal.
- In addition to containing all of those calories, alcohol in the body will slow fat loss by slowing down your metabolism.
- Alcohol depletes the body of crucial vitamins and minerals.
If you are a man with a goal of increasing muscle size and bulking up, alcohol will make this difficult. It increases the amount of estrogen in the body, a female hormone which impacts the amount of muscle you can gain.
What does that small shot of alcohol do to my workout?
If you are starting a weight lifting or other exercise plan alcohol will not help you reach your work out or fitness goals whether they are losing weight, staying physically fit, or gaining muscle mass. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol prior to lifting weights will not only decrease your ability to benefit from your work out, it can be dangerous. Drinking alcohol excessively when you are following an exercise regimen will impact your ability to meet your goals. So keep the drinking in moderation and you will meet with much greater success.
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