How Alcohol Impacts Your Training?


Do we really understand or know the effects alcohol can have on our training goals?

I’ve put together a few details about alcohol explaining the main concerns and what alcohol actually contains to hopefully give you a better understanding before you next decide to hit the town.

Alcohol is a well-established part of society; it is something that has become as acceptable as eating and breathing. It’s a social facilitator with a feel good factor that is continually increasing on mass.

Study after study shows that alcohol can diminish performance, mental impairment, creates possible addiction, diabetes and liver disease to varying degrees. Not good!

This being said and generally well known, people still enjoy its sedating influence and without a doubt it does play a vital role in many of society’s traditions and practices. I’m simply looking to discuss and outline the impact this feel good toxin has on body composition and how it can affect our training goals.


Ever heard of empty calories?

I’m sure you all have but do you really understand why we use such a phrase? Unlike macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, alcohol supplies excess calories without nutrition – empty calories. To make matters worse, if consumed, it is the FIRST fuel (energy supply) to be used as energy when combined with carbohydrates, fats and proteins, postponing the fat-burning process and as a result this can actually lead to greater fat storage.

So basically whenever alcohol is consumed, your body will not burn fat! That being said it does not stop the weight loss process, it simply postpones it. Alcohol does not store as glycogen, and you will immediately go back into ketosis/lipolysis after the alcohol is used up.

Here are some facts and the main concerns associated with alcohol:

  1. Alcohol Supplies Almost Twice As Many Calories As Protein & Carbohydrates.

At seven calories per gram, alcohol supplies almost twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates, and as mentioned above, the calories in alcohol lack the nutrients beneficial for a healthy metabolism and will therefore hasten fat storage.

Alcoholic drinks tend to also contain calories from other sources, which add to the overall caloric intake. Cocktails, for example, contain fats. Wine and beer both have high carbohydrate content. Carbohydrates release insulin, which as we hopefully know can “hasten fat storage”.

Beer contains more carbohydrates and less alcohol than wine, so it is more fattening, due to the higher energy content.

  1.     Alcohol Loosens Inhibitions & Increases Appetite.

When we drink, and I’m a victim of this as well, people will usually not stop to consider the impact the alcohol is having on loosening their inhibitions. A key example of this is the relaxed thinking state it puts us in. How many of us when we drink also eat more of the wrong kinds of food without thinking of the consequences. I certainly do!

This is because alcohol tends to have an appetite stimulating effect as it provides little in the way of nutrition, leaving a craving for other foods at the time of consumption. Add this to the fact that fatty and salty foods tend to accompany most occasions featuring alcohol and the loosening of the yet usual disciplined mindset, and boom you have a recipe for excess fat gain.

  1.    Alcohol can Damage The Stomach.

Alcohol is a by-product of yeast digestion; it can have an irritating effect on the lining of the stomach and gradually weaken the kidneys and liver, leading to serious health problems and even death in certain instances. Any weakening of the stomach will lessen the rate and efficiency at which food is digested, which ultimately interferes with a healthy metabolism and the weight loss process.

  1.     Alcohol Lowers Testosterone.

Key point and fact! Testosterone, which is one of the most powerful fat loss tools, is reduced whenever alcohol is consumed, halting its full potential as a fat burner. It is also an anabolic hormone, which contributes to gains in lean muscle mass. Lowered testosterone means fewer muscle gains, and less muscle means a lowered metabolic rate. I hope we’re beginning to see the picture here, it’s not rocket science!

A lower metabolic rate will make the job of losing fat so much harder – period!


So based on all this what are the best alcohol choices?

Alcohol taste is an individual personal matter, and I find with clients that they will usually choose what they like when it comes to taste, rather than what I advise them based on the health content of the drink.

However, a few tips I try to implement on myself and pass onto my clients are:

  • Drink alcohol with a lower caloric value, and a higher alcohol percentage (like wine and vodka for example). Less will be consumed, meaning lower overall calorie consumption.
  • Avoid high-calorie liqueurs. These are extremely deceptive (they taste so good) and will add enormously to overall caloric content.
  • Keep healthy food on hand when drinking. As mentioned, drinking will relax the inhibitions and cause one to compromise their nutritional habits.
  • If drinking beer, try a lower calorie alternative.
  • Drink water between alcoholic drinks. This will increase feelings of fullness and may help to prevent over consumption of alcohol and help keep you hydrated as best as possible.

So I hope I have opened your eyes a little to the effects alcohol can have on us with regards to our training and overall fitness goals. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m only human and I love a drink or two every now and then, and in actual fact I am writing this article with a mild hangover. But if you’re serious about reaching your end target you really need to consider the effects drinking can have on you and how it will slow down the whole process.

Just incase you were wondering? My drink of choice is either vodka, soda and lots of fresh lime if I’m being good or Sailor Jerry’s and coke, again with lots of fresh lime if I feel that I deserve more of a taste treat.


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