Alcohol is a sedative that slows down functioning. It weakens hand-eye coordination, impairs judgement, and slows down reaction time. PHOTO/COURTESY


How alcohol affects your fitness levels

What you need to know:

  • Binging at the weekend may not short circuit a whole week of regular exercise and healthy food choices, but it could certainly slow your progress with both weight and fitness goals.

Herbert Okeny was eager to lose a potbelly that has become such a burden, making breathing difficult while climbing stairs. For some time now, he has been consistent with jogging in the morning but nothing has changed. 

However, despite his diligence and tenacity, every evening, he meets up with friends at his favourite bar for a few beers before heading home. 

For some, alcohol and fitness are two peas in a pod where they will come out of a steam bath or sauna and then drown a few bottles of liquor. For others, it is a beer party after a marathon in form of celebration.

However, experts have every reason to believe that the two cannot mix and never should. Here is why:Negatively affects performance.

Dr Ataro Stephen Ayella, a public health consultant, says when someone regularly drinks alcohol, it will act as a sedative, hence hampering functionality. That weakens hand and eye coordination, impairs one’s judgement, slowing down their reaction time.

“With slow reaction, one is likely to easily miss a step when working out. They may also not be aware of their environment, which will impair their optimal performance. That will not only affect how the person functions in their daily activities but also how they work towards their fitness goals. That is not forgetting the high possibility of sustaining injuries,” he says.

Hampers weight loss targets
Jonah Kirabo, a fitness trainer at Go Fit Centre, says during a workout, muscles build up and get trained, which in the long run leads to weigh loss. However, alcohol often contains empty calories that will fill you up without giving you any nutritional value. 

“Therefore, when one takes alcohol right after exercising, they scale back on their weight loss goals because they are simply piling calories they hoped to lose. This also slows down muscle recovery and building while fat burning is not as expected,” he says.

Owing to its high concentration of processed sugars, consuming alcohol also means the body gets an overload of glycaemia (presence of glucose in blood) whose sudden increment causes bloating, making exercising difficult. 

Dr Ataro adds that alcoholic malted drinks such as beers, and local millet brew (Ajono) have a high calory content and can lead to weight gain (pot belly). 

“Malted drinks also overwork the kidneys and can cause hypertension (high blood pressure),” Dr Ataro says.

Increased dehydration

While exercising, one will sweat, hence lose some water. That is why Dr Ataro says it is important to drink water before and after exercising. However, if one is to drink alcohol after exercising, dehydration is worsened since alcohol also causes dehydration. 

“Combining exercise with alcohol consumption can lead to a worse hangover which further increases fatigue. That then hampers one sticking to their workout routine as well as their ability to function well the next day,” he says.

Reduced metabolism
Owing to fatigue from alcohol consumption, the digestive system also becomes lazy and the rate at which the body absorbs necessary nutrients reduces, thus slowing down metabolism. 

“With low metabolism, one will burn fewer calories at rest and during activity, which affects weight loss. In order to avoid becoming overweight, one must eat less which then affects one’s ability to exercise because the energy levels also reduce. Ultimately, the essence of exercising gets compromised,” Kirabo says.

Muscle soreness

With every workout, muscles are stretched so some get tears, causing soreness which should heal during rest days. However, when one takes alcohol after exercising, Dr Ataro says, efficient muscle healing is deterred because the human growth hormone responsible for healing is secreted in small measures. 
“That means muscle repair is delayed as soreness takes longer to subside, which may affect one’s performance at the gym the next day,” he says.

Dr Ataro adds that for those who binge drink, results from exercising are reduced due to the increase of cortisol levels rather than testosterone in their body. 

“Cortisol is the hormone responsible for causing stress and its presence means downplaying any efforts to build muscles,” he says.

Unhealthy cravings
After some alcoholic drinks, the next day, people tend to crave unhealthy foods such as fatty foods as well as those high in sugar or salt content such as crisps. Kirabo says this the reason why many opt for fatty breakfasts. 

“Alcohol consumption triggers the brain to produce galanin, which brings about an urge to consume fatty foods yet they have low on nutrients. That then births sluggishness, a combination that makes exercising burdensome and unrewarding,” he says.

Therefore, while exercising is good after taking alcohol as it rids the body of the effects of the habit such as weight gain, sluggishness, and fatigue, taking alcohol is bad for exercising. Therefore, alcohol should be taken in moderation or avoided completely.

Keen to reduce your alcohol intake on a night out?
Whether it is a few drinks after work or a night out with your team, there are ways to cut down on how much you drink.
● Take a few minutes before you head out to plan how much you will be drinking and what your limit is. The simple act of thinking ahead could stop you heading to the bar for that last drink.
● Start your night with water or a soft drink, so that your thirst is quenched. Space out each alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic one.
● Opt to be the designated driver. If you are heading out with a big group, volunteer to drive everyone home at the end of the evening, giving you a reason not to drink.
● Avoid getting into rounds. When you are in a round, you are drinking at the pace of the group, not at your own pace, so stick to your own drinks tab where possible.
*Additional information


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