Alcohol consumption is often seen as the antithesis of a healthy lifestyle.
Because alcohol, for the most part, goes against everything we are taught about being healthy: it has no nutritional value, is full of empty calories and it can do serious harm if you drink too much.
However, many fitness enthusiasts engage in moderate drinking in their free time. It is possible to enjoy a few drinks and still stick with your fitness routine, but a few drinks can differ from person to person.
In this guide, we’ve outlined seven tips and strategies to help you enjoy a few drinks while still keeping your health and fitness goals in mind.
Understand the Detrimental Effects of Alcohol
It’s hard to limit your alcohol consumption if you’re oblivious to the effects it has on your body. Let’s go through some of them:
Dehydration – This is when the fluid balance in your body is out of whack, resulting in a dry mouth and fatigue. Dehydration can severely compromise your gym workouts, so it’s important to stay hydrated when drinking.
It can lead to a binge-eat session – Yes, it’s not only the calories from alcohol that can affect your body, but also the resulting hunger pangs it may bring. After a drinking session, it’s normal to want to eat to ‘soak up’ the alcohol by eating one chicken nugget too many.
It can impair your performance – Alcohol reduces carbohydrate and blood sugar levels, while reducing your ability to convert food into energy. This can weaken your muscles, affect coordination, slow reaction time and reduce endurance, potentially leading to injury or worse.
Ofcourse, there are other harmful effects of drinking, but these are some of the main ones to consider before indulging in a few drinks.
Make the Slow Transition into Healthy Living
If you drink frequently and never workout, it’s entirely possible to do a 180 and become a fitness enthusiast. However, the more drastic the change, the harder it is to stick with it. You’ll become burnt out, revert to your old ways and say you gave it a shot.
The best way to incorporate regular workouts and healthy habits into your lifestyle is to do it gradually. Start by going for short walks or runs and then join a local fitness center or gym. Many gyms in Melbourne, for example, offer free trial sessions or discounts for first-time sign-ups, giving people no excuse to not get started.
If you do wish to completely cut alcohol out, replace them with healthier but still enjoyable non-alcoholic alternatives. Make mocktails, or opt for non-alcoholic beer. The goal is to make the process feel less like a chore and more like something you look forward to.
Choose Lower Calorie Drinks
Balance in training and alcohol doesn’t mean cutting out alcohol altogether. By its very definition, balance means that you can still enjoy a few drinks and stay on track with your health and fitness goals.
If you do choose to drink, go for lower calorie drinks. Wine and beer are more calorific than other alcoholic beverages, so opt for spirits mixed with diet soda or tonic and lime. You’ll quickly find your caloric intake from alcohol will be drastically reduced.
Intelligent planning will allow you to enjoy a few drinks and still stay on track with your health and fitness goals. For example, if you know you’ll be having a night out, and won’t train the next day, you can train more intensely the day before.
On the flip side, if you’re planning on having a night out and still want to workout the next day, you can simply opt for fewer drinks. Preparing and planning ahead will help you keep your balance between training and alcohol consumption.
Inform Your Social Circle
Peer pressure is one of the main reasons why people drink more than they should. You may only have a single drink, yet your friend may be ordering doubles and continuously top you up with alcohol.
When your friends are heavy drinkers, it’s important to inform them of your goals and intentions.
Explain that you’re still happy to socialize, but want to become healthier, fitter and more active. And be serious about your goals – if you give in on the first night, it will be that much harder to keep going in the weeks ahead.
Train Harder than Last Time
Ok, this is somewhat of an individual preference. But the truth is, most people at the gym simply lack intensity. Training is not a chore – it should be an opportunity to challenge yourself and achieve something worthwhile.
When you enter the gym, it’s fine to socialize, but remember why you’re there. You’re there to get stronger, fitter, more disciplined and ultimately reach your goals. If your expectations are high i.e six pack abs with 18 inch arms, then you’re going to have to work hard for it.
Remember to continually progress in the gym, which means adding reps/weight or running more/faster. This will ensure you make significant progress without having to over-restrict your lifestyle.
Consider the Timing of Your Drinks
While most people drink at night, some love a casual drink to destress in the afternoon. In fact, many employees pop out for a few beers during their lunch break.
In order to maintain balance between training and alcohol, you might want to consider the timing of your drinks. If you’re going to train in the evening, know that drinking in the afternoon makes it more likely you’ll skip the gym. It will also impair your performance, since alcohol can stay in your body for 6-72 hours.
If you do drink, aim to drink after your workouts and not before. That way, you can ensure that your body is in peak performance for the gym, and still enjoy a few drinks afterwards.
Alcohol and training don’t have to be mutually exclusive. You can still the buzz of a drinking session without plummeting off track with your health and fitness goals.
By understanding the effect of alcohol on training, setting high expectations in the gym, having a strong support structure and the rest of the tips mentioned above, you’ll be able to find a balance between drinking and training.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to personal responsibility and making smart decisions.
Cheers! (in moderation).