I wish I could take it all back. The hours I spent washing and styling my hair every single day. The money I would regularly spend on new outfits in an attempt to keep up with the latest trends. The piles I would make on the floor after rejecting every said outfit while getting ready for a simple happy hour. The number of workouts I would skip because I couldn’t manage to hit the gym and do all of the above in one evening.
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it happened … I wish I could because I’m sure it would have made for a breathtaking Instagram. But one day, the clouds parted, and the sun shined down on the latest trend: dry shampoo, topknots, and athleisure wear.
As a result, my friends became more comfortable attending boozy brunches straight from a good sweat session. Although getting the chance to catch up with a friend without feeling the need to spend time dolling up has been a relief, it got me thinking. Is this new trend a blessing or a curse? Can alcohol be a part of an effective post-workout routine?
I reached out to Kristin Hoddy, PhD, Rd, in Chicago, who explained something that just might change everything.
“In theory boozing after exercise may decrease the muscle growing effect of exercise, promote more stress to the body, and increase your risk for dehydration, while also denying your body key nutrients for recovery,” she said.
“Additionally, alcohol can displace nutrient availability to the body either because you’re consuming alcohol instead of food or because alcohol prevents the absorption of nutrients (namely B vitamins) in the gut.” Hoddy continued. “Even if you plan ahead and make sure to eat a wholesome meal with plenty of protein to rebuild muscles, washing it all down with alcohol will hinder muscle growth.”
Hoddy shared with me a work out of Australia that focused on rugby players, who she describes as, “Athletes who pride themselves on their alcohol tolerance as much as their squat.” The study tracked the after effect of alcohol intake following an evening rugby match.
“Despite maintaining maximal muscle contraction, their jump performance took a hit, as did their cognition,” Hoddy explained.
Tavierney Rogan, also an RD in Chicago, described the science behind such results.
“Drinking creates inflammation and stresses the body,” Rogan explained. “The body recognizes it as a toxin and will therefore work very hard to metabolize and get rid of it. If your body is working to detoxify from the alcohol, it cannot concentrate on repairing or building lean muscle tissue after a workout, which is the point of working out!”
Rogan warns those who frequent post-workout happy hours and brunches and also have important fitness goals.
“If their goal is to make changes their body composition – fat loss, lean mass gain – and become fitter, they will probably notice that they are not progressing much,” Rogan said. “They also might notice that they are feeling sorer and that they have lower energy levels because of the consistent lack of recovery time.”
Rogan pointed out a few other facts on alcohol and performance:
- 3 to 4 drinks can affect the body and brain for 2 to 3 days
- Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks in 2 hours) decreases testosterone
- It also favors conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which increases fluid retention and fat deposition
- Drinking regularly reduces blood flow to working and resting muscle
- Drinking regularly also decreases Human Growth Hormone by 70 percent, which leads to impaired muscle repair after exercise
However, as with most things health and fitness, moderation is key! Hoddy describes drinking in moderation as one serving daily for women, and two to three servings daily for men. More than three alcohol servings for men daily, and more than fourteen weekly, is considered to be too much. For women, more than three drinks daily and seven weekly is above the limit.
“If you’re relaxing or celebrating with a cup full of cheer every once in a while after a workout, don’t sweat it!” (Phew!) Hoddy advised, “Opt for a light beer or malt beverage and try to eat food high in protein and drink plenty of water first.”