Alcohol, body composition and performance a drunk mans tale.

Lets face it most people fall into two groups when it comes to the subject of alcohol in fitness, first alcohol does not impact fitness when used in moderation and within calorie constraints, or the other side of the round table is the belief that it should be avoided at all costs by anyone serious about there athletic pursuits.

Lets face it most people fall into two groups when it comes to the subject of alcohol in fitness, first alcohol does not impact fitness when used in moderation and within calorie constraints, or the other side of the round table is the belief that it should be avoided at all costs by anyone serious about there athletic pursuits.

The truth lies in grey.

It comes down to level of consumption and frequency

You dont have to be a brain surgeon to workout that one cocktail a week is going to be different then 3 cocktails and 2 shots of whiskey before closing every day. the more you drink, the larger the effect will be the good and the bad a double edge sword of sorts, body size will mediate the effects to some degree, with those of a larger stature being able to consume more before experiencing more of the negative effects.

Uk Chief medical officer advice available on DRINK AWARE


Single occasion drinking
The Chief Medical Officers’ advice for men and women who want to keep their short term health risks from single occasion drinking to a low level is to reduce them by:

Limiting the total amount of alcohol you drink on any single occasion

Drinking more slowly, drinking with food, and alternating with water

Planning ahead to avoid problems; an example of planning ahead is making sure you can get home safely or that you have people you trust with you

The sorts of things that are more likely to happen if you misjudge your overall alcohol intake on a single occasion can include:

Accidents resulting in injury; causing death in some cases
Misjudging risky situations

Losing self-control (for example, engaging in unprotected sex)

Certain groups of people are more likely to be affected by alcohol and should be more careful of their drinking on any one occasion.

These can include those at risk of falls, on medication that may interact with alcohol or those with any pre-existing physical and mental health problems which could be exacerbated.

If you regularly drink on a weekly basis and wish to keep minimise both the short and long term risks to your health, this single occasion drinking advice is also relevant for you.

How much is 14 units of alcohol?
One unit is 10ml of pure alcohol. Because alcoholic drinks come in different strengths and sizes units are a good way of telling how strong your drink is. It’s not as simple as one drink, one unit.

The new alcohol unit guidelines are equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or six 175ml glasses of average strength wine.

So 14 units a week spread evenly over the week or cut down to a single drinking session seems to be the common prescription, now sex and the difference in enzyme activity between men and women, often means that men can tolerate more alcohol due to the average body size so men can air on the higher side of the range and women should aim for the lower end, truly from a fitness stand point.

For most who are not highly competitive athletes, light drinking (1-3 drinks once or twice a week) will not have significant effects on health, body composition or performance.

Its when we cross the borders between light and moderate drinking (3-10) drinks per week, or daily drinking small differences in body composition can start to show.

At this level of drinking health isn’t likely to be impacted depending upon the subject, so the small differences in body composition are a worth while trade off for many.

Its when we enter the heavy drinking area, 4 or more drinks per day! That we start to see health markers decrease and physiological changes to performance, body composition and fitness present themselves.

The dark side of Alcohol consumption for performance.

Blunting of muscle growth.

Alcohol reduces the rates of muscle growth, through a variety of pathways, relating to testosterone and estrogen production but not all of them means that the more you drink the less muscle you are likely to grow.

Muscle loss.

During a maintenance phase or growth phase you are not likely to lose muscle when drinking moderately, its when we embark on a loss phase hypo-caloric diet the chances increase, even if your calculating your beer calories into your allowance.

Hydration problems

Alcohol consumption causes dehydration which can impede recovery and performance when at higher levels, you can offset these effects by following the drink one, drink a glass protocol promoted by the chief medical officer as well as drinking extra fluids before and after your session,, see some wife’s tales hold there stock. but just know because alcohol is a diuretic you will be making a few more trips to the bathroom.

To summarize if your not opposed to making some of the trade offs presented with alcohol consumption or you are on a maintenance or gain phase diet, are not opposed to the trade-offs in performance or body composition,, you can decrease some of alcohols negative effects by following some of the hints in various combinations below

  • Do not consume more than 2-4 drinks at a time, more than a few times a week
  • Stick to drinks with less calories with minimal added sugars
  • Keep easy tempting food out of reach when drinking, we are more likely to grab the bag of pretzels when we have had a beer..
  • Drink less when recovery from training becomes top priority eg high volume demanding training phases.
  • Drink water or other calorie free drinks between, during and after to stay hydrated.
  • To not negatively effect sleep stop drinking a few hours before bed, sleep is the number one factor in recovery so having a restless night can put you even further back than the drinking can alone.

These tips can help alleviate some of the negative effects but sometimes during certain situations providing your absence from drinking is a better choice, time your drinking for phases throughout your diet where training and diet will have less impact on your health.


Subscribe for more content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s