Alcohol and recovery
I don’t think I’m going to make a lot of friends with this blog, but believe me, I’m doing this for your own good.
As accountability coach I regularly get the question if alcohol fits into a healthy diet. While most people who ask this question probably know the answer secretly they hope I have good news for them … unfortunately.
“What about a glass of wine? That’s healthy, isn’t it, 2 glasses of wine a day?”
What is alcohol and what does it in your body
Alcohol, at 7,1 kcal per gram, is actually a macronutrient, like protein (4 kcal/g), carbohydrates (4 kcal/g) and fats (9 kcal/g). Awesome! I can almost hear you think but before you get too excited… I have to disappoint you, again. The body isn’t good at processing alcohol very well which causes it to store calories from other sources as fat. The absorption of essential nutrients is also inhibited when alcohol is present in our system.
After exercise, it is important that nutrients are exchanged between muscle cells and the blood as efficiently as possible for, among other things, building muscle. So after a workout it is important that you replenish lost fluid quickly and effectively. The ADH hormone, responsible for the fluid balance in your body, is inhibited by alcohol so that you have to pee more. This makes it more difficult to keep the fluid balance at the right levels.
If you have a hangover the day after an evening of drinking, you can’t recover properly that day due to an imbalance in fluid. So you actually lose that whole recovery day, which means that you only start your recovery a day later, perhaps on a day that you are already training.
Because alcohol has a narcotic effect on our brains, it makes our priorities shift. The positive effects are that you feel a bit more carefree and less inhibited. Unfortunately, that positive aspect often also has a negative effect on our diet; many people combat the hangover with a double whopper and other fatty foods. The carbohydrates and proteins you need according to your training schedule are often forgotten or not optimally absorbed the next day. So a healthy diet is disrupted by alcohol. Moreover, alcoholic drinks themselves contain a lot of sugar.
The body recovers when you rest, especially during (REM) sleep. Alcohol may make it easier for you to fall asleep, but the sleep quality is less good, your sleep is more restless and less deep. Since many people already have a lack of sleep anyway, the quality of rest is all the more important. Alcohol therefore has a negative effect on your sleep and thus (muscle) recovery.
All of the reasons above (dehydration, reduced absorption of important nutrients, unhealthy dietary choices and sleep deprivation) weaken your immune system, making you more prone to illness and that this is not beneficial to your training results is not a big surprise.
So I can never drink alcohol again?
For many people, a glass of wine or a beer after a game of tennis is ‘just part of the good life’. If you’re not focused on optimal performance, it’s fine to have a beer it once in a while. Keep in mind that ‘just’ in this context actually means ‘habit’ and that you can change habits if you want to.
The slogan ‘Enjoy, but drink in moderation’ is compulsory for all TV and cinema commercials and all printings of alcoholic beverages for good reason (as are warnings for all kinds of trouble on tobacco packaging).
If after reading this blog you are inspired to tackle less favorable eating habits and improve your training results and recovery, please feel free to contact me!
Starting the year with my help?
Do you want to start 2020 well and healthy and do you need a little push in the right direction (or a kick in the butt)? We have a personal, tailor-made nutrition plan with 6 weeks of accountability for you. With the complete package you get three body measurements, before and after photos, a consultation, a personal nutrition plan, if necessary 6 extra credits to sign up for workouts and an accountability coach to consult for questions and for motivation and planning.
If you would like more information, please send an email to email@example.com and I will contact you for an informal intake interview.
All the best wishes for a healthy new year!