Is anyone else drinking a lot more these days? It feels like an effective way to separate the day from the evening doesn’t it?
Although I must admit, I seem to be separating my day from my evening earlier and earlier….
With this in mind, I thought we should take a look at how alcohol affects how you perform and recover – and how it affects your weight loss.
Of course, it’s not rocket science to know that drinking too much and too often is not going to do your health any good. There are also some reports that a little alcohol is associated with some positive effects – but the recommendation remains that if you don’t currently drink, don’t start. Don’t drink because you think it has health benefits, because it probably doesn’t.
With this in mind, and given that you likely are having a few glasses here and there, let’s take a look at how alcohol affects your exercise performance and recovery, your sleep quality and weight loss.
First up, what counts as a reasonable intake? Up to 9 units a week for women and 13 units a week for men – but no more than 4 units per ‘sitting’.
If the dose of alcohol is reasonable then the effect on performance is minimal. Aerobic exercise is more affected by alcohol than strength based exercise, but this is dose dependent.
Alcohol is known to reduce our ability to build muscle mass, but this is dose dependent. It is also thought that up to 0.5kg alcohol per kilo body weight is unlikely to have an impact on most aspects of recovery.
Wine has on average 3g alcohol per ounce, spirits have on average 9g alcohol per ounce, and beer has 1g alcohol per ounce. Remember that this is only about the effect of alcohol on recovery and does not relate to the calorie intake!
Even the 0.5g per KG body weight dose of alcohol is associated with a reduced quantity of REM (dream) sleep – although overall duration of sleep is not affected, and it can be assumed that the effect of this is minimal since a low dose of alcohol does not seem to affect performance.
Where the dose of alcohol is much higher, sleep duration is massively reduced, with one study showing a reduction to 3 hours of sleep per night in a group of people who usually slept for 7-8 hours a night.
In any event, the further your alcohol intake can be from bedtime, the less it is going to impact your sleep – the recommendation is to stop drinking at least 3-4 hours before bed.
Alcohol blunts fat burning, but it doesn’t directly cause weight gain for any special reason apart from increasing your caloric intake. Your body has no way to store calories from alcohol, so it will use these calories first because there is a way to store calories from fat, carbohydrate and protein. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but, you must consider your overall caloric intake if you are aiming to lose weight.