A hot Saturday – let’s talk beer and wine!

By: Quinton de Bruin

I have a colleague who works in Auckland now, but when he lived in Hamilton he used to run mini bootcamp type workouts with 4-6 friends just from his home. In conversation one day he mentioned that he trains like a mad man so that he is able to enjoy life and have a few beers with his mates. After a bit of time out on the lake today, I could have murdered an ice-cold Heineken – I didn't in the end, being so close to the end of the 30-day challenge. It did get me thinking about this discussion we would rather not know too much about because ignorance is bliss … right? Well in this specific case, ignorance would be weight gain.

Alcohol has become a big part of our social activities and so I think it is important to know what happens when you consume it. The great news to start with is that 1-2 drinks a few times per week is still considered OK.

That would be roughly where the good new stops when talking about drinking alcohol and mixing that with a weight lose objective. Alcohol is really high in calories (almost twice as many per gram as that found in carbs or protein) that give us no nutritional value – empty calories. Once it enters our body, the liver starts dealing to it; all fat burning activity stops because alcohol is the easiest source for the body to burn for energy. While the body stores only a very small portion of alcohol calories as fat, it is the food we consume with the drinks. The carbs and fat is not being burnt so likely the body will stores these calories as fat.

Then there is the numbing of resolve after a few beverages. The by-product then of consuming alcohol is that you may choose foods and quantities that you wouldn't otherwise allow yourself to eat, aided to our ruin by the fact that alcohol also increases your appetite. Not to mention for men, did you know that alcohol can decrease your testosterone by up to 23%! Testosterone has a powerful fat-burning effect, but the alcohol will blunt that. Testosterone also assists the body to produce lean muscle mass. With this being lower, the result is less muscle gain. Less muscle then means a lower metabolic rate, resulting in slower fat lose.


When you decide to have a few beers one night, you may not realise the impact this will have on your physical performance going forward. From a hydration perspective, 1-2 days after drinking, since alcohol consumption is very hard on the kidneys, drinking will have a negative impact on your body's hydration. Your body's water will go to the kidneys to metabolize the alcohol when it should be used to help process other substances!

Hydration is key to performance in sports or weight lifting because water is needed in all energy-creating reactions. It can take the body awhile to become re-hydrated, so I suggest if you are out drinking, have a glass of water as well, to maintain proper hydration.

For 1-2 days after consumption, alcohol diminishes the function of the mind through various processes. It affects many of the hormone functions in the brain within 1-2 minutes of consumption. Besides that, alcohol intake slows glycogen metabolism. This means the brain receives less glycogen, so it doesn't have much energy.

Since the mind plays a large role in any exercise to aid in motivation and focus, decreased mind function due to alcohol should be avoided!

Anabolism, or protein synthesis, is negatively affected by alcohol. Alcohol hurts the absorption of protein in the body, just like it hurts the absorption of any other substance. Because less protein is being turned into muscle tissue, you are not growing to the fullest!

This decrease in protein synthesis doesn't just slow down growth, it also hurts recovery, because less protein is going to repair muscle tissue.

Alcohol's blood thinning effects might help the heart somewhat, but don't be misled - alcohol's negative effects on the heart are more numerous than its positive effects.

Decreased cardiovascular activity can make recovery in lifting and sports more difficult in between sets or drills.

Because of many of the aforementioned processes that alcohol can have a negative impact on, strength performance takes a hit as well. When you are not properly hydrated, and recovered, how can you expect to perform at optimal strength levels?

Diminished mind function can also be a very bad thing when it comes to strength performance- you might not have the same level of mental focus, as you did while not on alcohol.

Alcohol tends to limit the metabolism of other substances in the body. One of these substances is the carbohydrate. By limiting carbohydrate metabolism, muscle glycogen levels are limited. This means that fatigue sets in earlier and endurance, strength and speed are compromised.
Sounds terrible and yet I am hanging out for a hot Saturday next weekend so I can enjoy a few beers with the mates after the challenge. The aim would be to stick to one or two drinks and make sure you have a glass of water between each wine. Also, plan when you are likely to have a few beers. You may want to reduce your caloric intake before and during this session, stick to the green salads and meat – leaving the pasta salad, bread or bread rolls and garlic bread for someone else. Getting fit and making health a priority doesn't mean stop drinking. It means bringing this into your plan so that you can work with it and around your social events.

The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.


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