You have every intention of going to the gym after work. You’ve brought in your kit, reserved your spot at spin and are already giving yourself a mental pat on your healthy back.
But then your colleagues go and test your resolve by inviting you for a post-work cocktail. If you go for just-the-one, or even two, you could still make your class, but you’re not so sure that’s the best idea.
And you’re so, so right.
Because when it comes to alcohol and exercise, the two really shouldn’t mix. Not only does alcohol affect your gym-performance but its side effects can also have an impact on your overall health.
“If you have blood sugar, thyroid, adrenal or gut issues, and if you are highly stressed then drinking lots of alcohol is going to impact you a lot more the next day; I’m not just talking just a hangover here, I’m talking about general health,” explains Danny Fox, Director of Fox Physique.
And there are some other totally legit reasons you should rethink the bubbles before the burpees:
It makes you dehydrated
“For all of us, drinking also causes excess urination and therefore dehydration (a key reason for hangovers),” explains Danny Fox. “This level of dehydration will in turn effect your electrolyte balance (a mixture of calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium),” he continues.
So why is it so important to have an electrolyte balance? “calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium play a huge role in muscle contraction so when you are low on these, the efficiency and effectiveness of muscular movements can be compromised. Ever had cramp or muscle twitches the day after drinking? That’s why!”
It affects your co-ordination
Yeah, if you don’t fancy face-planting mid-plank, it’s probably best to save the beer for after the burpees. “Drinking alcohol has a massive effect on our nerves and motor neuron control which includes reactions and other coordinated movements,” explains Fox. “If we are lacking the minerals calcium, potassium, sodium and magnesium through dehydration, this can have a big impact on our ability to undertake physical activity.”
“Dehydration can also lead to lacking mental clarity and focus so – just like the other muscles in your body – it impacts on your brains function and effectiveness,” he continues.
It makes you more prone to injury
Not only does drinking alcohol alter the sequence of the different phases of your sleep cycle, which reduces your body’s ability to store glycogen – a vital energy source needed for endurance – it also increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down healing.
Plus alcohol is a major diuretic. Quick biology lesson: a diuretic is a substance that promotes the production of urine. Imagine you’re already off-the-scale sweaty from pounding the treadmill. Last night’s porn star martinis are just going to tell your kidneys to excrete more fluid.
The result? Dehydration on a major scale. And while dehydrated, we’re at greater risk of sustaining musculoskeletal injuries such as cramps, muscle pulls and strains.
But while all this might sound like the end of hangover-hued workouts, according to Fox, you can still go the gym the day after a booze blow-out. You just need to put things in place that will allow you to exercise after excess.
Choose your alcohol wisely
“Red wine, beer, cider, and sugary alcohol mixes are by far the worst choice due to the amount of sugar and calories they contain,” says Fox. Instead, choose something with the lowest toxicity and as little calories as possible. “Drinks like gin, vodka and tequila will all offer this as well as causing less bloating and irritation of the stomach and digestive system.”
“Ensure you are replacing the minerals you are losing through excess urination so drink plenty of water before going to bed and eat a banana (that night or in the morning) to replace these missing electrolytes,” advises Fox. And when you are exercising, continue to drink more water to continue your route to replenishment.
Fox advises making time to incorporate a ten minute stretch in the morning. “Muscles will be full of tension after being inflamed through alcohol consumption so this will help to loosen them back up and have them working more effectively again,” he says.
Choose your food wisely
“Wake up and have a protein/fat breakfast such as eggs and bacon,” says Fox. “This will replace the salt you have lost, stabilise your blood sugar levels and keep you fuller for longer therefore reducing the urge to binge throughout the day.”
He believes this will also help you to choose better foods throughout the day, which will help to keep reducing inflammation: “Eating a variety of unprocessed foods such as meat, fish and eggs, and good fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil and nut butters will all be much better choices for food. Not only will these reduce stress and inflammation on your gut, but they will allow you to focus more clearly in your exercise or training.”
“Once you have completed your training or exercise, you can then have some carbs or a ‘cheat meal’. By limiting these to post-exercise, you will be structuring your nutrition to continue keeping blood sugar levels stable for the following day (trust me this structure will make you feel much better at work on a Monday after a big night!).”
Structure your workout
“Start with cardio first to assess how you’re feeling in areas such as focus, energy and hydration,” he says. “If that’s all good, then you can move in to the weights area but be mindful not to push yourself 100% for an ‘all out session’. Your performance and ability to lift weights will still be affected (even if you’ve done all of the above) so just be mindful that this session should be a way to ease you in to the week ahead – not a chance to break any personal records!”
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