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Alcohol and Working Out

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The Link Between Alcohol and Fitness

Too much alcohol can hurt your overall well-being. When you drink in excess, it takes a toll on your mental and physical health. This applies to fitness as well.

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Effects of Drinking Before & After Working Out 

You should never drink alcohol before you work out because it impairs your judgment and motor skills. For these reasons, drinking alcohol before working out can be dangerous.

This is especially true if you're weight-lifting, or running outside where there may be traffic.

Drinking after your workout can also ruin some of your progress and negatively impacts your overall health. Alcohol interferes with rehydration, protein synthesis, and overall recovery, which you need after a workout.6

All of this can affect your immune and cognitive functioning, mood, appetite (which can lead you to make unhealthy choices), and more.

How Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Your Workout?

Again, drinking alcohol can make your workout more dangerous. It increases your risk for injury and can affect your workout in other ways as well.

Does alcohol interfere with muscle repair and growth?

Yes, alcohol does interfere with muscle repair and growth.

When you drink alcohol, it may take your muscles longer to repair and grow. This is because alcohol contributes to protein breakdown, which you need to build strength.

Plus, alcohol intake is linked to weight gain.7 It's high in calories (empty calories with no nutritional value). So, if you drink regularly, you'll put on weight, but it won't be muscle.

Some research does show drinking before working out is marginally less bad than doing so afterwards.5

How does alcohol affect soreness?

Alcohol dehydrates you, making your muscles feel stiff. This means drinking alcohol may make you feel your workout more, even if you only had one or a few drinks.

How does alcohol affect performance and energy levels?

Alcohol negatively impacts your workout because it increases fatigue.

If you consume alcoholic beverages the night before a workout, your performance may be off.

Specifically, alcohol increases epinephrine levels, which is a stress hormone.2 It boosts your heart rate, meaning it can keep you awake and disrupt sleep. So, if you drink alcohol and work out the next day, you will feel extra tired.

If you have a hangover from consuming too much alcohol, that can also lead to poor performance.

How Does Alcohol Cause Dehydration? 

It does this in two ways:

  • It makes you sweat
  • It's a diuretic (meaning it makes you urinate excessively)

Both of these things can negatively impact your workout, especially if it's a rigorous session.

If you have alcohol in your system, or if you are hungover going into a workout, it's important to drink extra fluids to keep yourself hydrated.

Research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests that rehydration after exercise is especially important when you have fluid loss from alcohol.3

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How Long Should You Wait to Drink Alcohol After Working Out?

How long you should wait to drink alcohol after working out depends on your fitness goals and drinking behavior.

Having a glass of wine in the evening after a workout won't drastically impact your attempt at a healthy lifestyle. But it can slow your progress, especially if you are trying to lose weight. 

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Can You Drink in Moderation While Maintaining Fitness Goals?

Yes, you can drink in moderation while maintaining your fitness goals.

But every single body is different, and it's important to listen to yours. If you find that you don't exercise well when you drink alcohol, drink less. If you find it's responsible for many of the calories you consume, consider cutting back or stopping completely.

At the end of the day, alcohol could hurt your exercise routine and slow your growth. Recovery time from just one night of drinking might throw you off track.

Plus, it may take your body longer to recover from your workouts and any possible injuries if you drink in excess.

Symptoms of Alcoholism & Treatment Options

Symptoms of alcoholism include the following:2

  • Are unable to control your alcohol intake
  • Crave alcohol and think about drinking often
  • Need more and more alcohol to achieve the same effect
  • Drink alcohol to cope with stress
  • Are unable to quit drinking
  • Find yourself lying about your alcohol consumption
  • Make excuses about your alcohol consumption
  • Alcohol use affects your home, work, and/or school responsibilities
  • Alcohol use takes a toll on relationships, including friends and intimate partnerships
  • Spend too much money on alcohol, which can lead to financial issues

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol misuse or alcohol use disorder (AUD), know that help is available.

Speak with an addiction specialist about inpatient or outpatient rehab, or therapy.

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Updated on March 29, 2022
8 sources cited
  1. Alcohol and Fatigue.” Harvard Health, 9 Aug. 2019.
  2. Alcohol Use Disorder.Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 July 2018.
  3. B;, Irwin C;Leveritt M;Shum D;Desbrow. “The Effects of Dehydration, Moderate Alcohol Consumption, and Rehydration on Cognitive Functions.Alcohol (Fayetteville, N.Y.), U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth?ISSA.
  5. F;, Clarkson PM;Reichsman. “The Effect of Ethanol on Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage.Journal of Studies on Alcohol, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  6. Minnor, McCall. “Is It OK to Drink After Working Out?Aaptiv, Aaptiv, 11 Sept. 2019.
  7. Physical Fitness vs. Alcohol: What Are You Willing To Lose?Marine Corps Community.
  8. Z;, El-Sayed MS;Ali N;El-Sayed Ali. “Interaction between Alcohol and Exercise: Physiological and Haematological Implications.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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