Even though the effects on the mind and body are known, athletes often reach for a drink after a hard workout — and they’re not the only ones. People who exercise to achieve or maintain physical fitness often do the same thing. Before reaching for a cold beer to relax and unwind, stop and consider the facts.
Drinking alcohol negates the positive results of a hard workout. Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to process adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the primary energy resource for muscles. It impairs restorative sleep, decreasing the body’s level of human growth hormone (HGH). HGH helps the body build bigger, stronger muscles.
Alcoholic beverages are usually high in calories and sugar; both contribute to weight gain. In 80-proof alcohols, there are about 100 calories in a 1.5 ounce drink — an average size shot. One beer every night adds up to more than 1,000 calories per week, resulting in an additional 15 pounds of belly fat per year.
These “empty” calories have no nutritional value. In fact, alcohol slows down the body’s ability to burn calories while exercising, which can result in packing on the pounds. Alcohol diminishes the physical abilities needed to perform desired athletic feats. It impacts coordination, cognitive precision, reaction times, balance, and hand-eye coordination. It may also slow respiratory function, affect body temperature regulation, and increase the risk of dehydration. The result is a significant decrease in rapid response, both physically and mentally, which is critical in athletic activities.
Drinking alcohol prior to any competition could negatively affect the result. Drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in one night can decrease cognitive function for up to three days.
It’s a personal choice to drink and if so, how much. You may want to consider whether it’s worth forfeiting the work you put into achieving your goals.
For additional information, contact your local Substance Abuse Counseling Center.
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