It really pains me to work with clients on making strength, body composition and/or health gains, when I know they hit the sauce most evenings. There's almost nothing we can do as personal trainers to counter the effects of alcohol because it has an exponential effect that goes WAY beyond calories.
Now don't get me wrong, I love a hipster cocktail (I live in Brooklyn), and an occasional glass of wine on a special occasion, but I respect the fact that booze doesn't pair well with my overall goals. And let's be honest, it's not becoming for your trainer to be sporting a beer belly.
So what's the big deal about kicking back and having a few drinks?
1. Alcohol is a toxin as far as your body is concerned. So when you drink it, all other functions including fat burning and immune system functioning are shut down or are severely compromised until alcohol is fully metabolized. Even ONE drink causes a sharp decline in metabolic and immune functioning (hello colds/flus/viruses/infection)!!
2. Alcohol not only reduces testosterone levels, which compromise your ability to build or retain muscle, but testosterone will get converted to ESTROGEN when usage is high. Yes, this includes MEN, and why male drinkers often develop breasts and an overall shape that is similar to women.
3. After alcohol is metabolized, blood sugar drops sharply causing excessive hunger and cravings. (This is when the pizza, fries, cheese steaks, and desserts come tumbling in). Additionally, we all know that WHILE we are drinking, our decision making skills around food, portions, and everything else become lax as well.
4. Alcohol disrupts your REM cycle (the restorative portion of sleep) which causes next day drowsiness and often poor decisions - like skipping the gym or choosing unhealthy foods. Alcohol also suppresses breathing and can cause sleep apnea.
5. Heavy drinking shrinks and disturbs brain tissue. The neurotransmitter balance gets off kilter in heavy drinkers and can cause depression, mood swings, anxiety, memory loss and seizures. This is why seeing a medical professional is key, especially if a person decides to quit drinking altogether.
6. Chronic use is linked to high blood pressure, leaky gut, osteoporosis, cancer, high risk of stroke, arrhythmia, pancreatitis, liver disease, malnutrition, and permanent brain damage.
Bottom line: although certain kinds of alcohol contain antioxidants and can help make platelets less "sticky", you can get the same benefits with a small cup of grape juice, without all the risk. And if you find that you can't cut back or live without alcohol, speak to your doctor, therapist, or other medical professional for support.