You diligently go to the gym and lead a generally healthy lifestyle, so you deserve a glass of wine at the end of the day, right? After all, endurance athletes seem to swear by beer as a post-race recovery drink. Here, we explore the effect alcohol has on your fitness progress.
PERFORMANCE AND STRENGTH
It’s an odd pairing, sure, but indulging in a 16-ounce IPA probably won’t negate all that hard work you just put in. If your goal is increasing performance and strength, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake after working out, even if you don’t eliminate it entirely. Alcohol can slow your protein synthesis, the process in your body that aids muscle growth, and can increase dehydration. If you’re indulging in heavy drinking after working out, like the men in this 2014 study, the ill effects on protein synthesis can be pronounced.
But studies have shown moderate drinking, usually defined as one drink for women and two drinks for men, showed almost no difference in recovery. It also may depend on how physically fit you are, how hydrated you are, how often you normally drink and whether you’re a man or a woman.
As for the myth about drinking beer post-race because it has carbohydrates, you can forgot that one. Beer doesn’t have enough carbs or electrolytes to make any measurable difference.
While alcohol might not totally ruin your athletic performance, it could be prohibiting your weight loss. If you’re imbibing in multiple drinks several times a week, you’re adding loads of empty calories to your diet that are also hard to track. Mostly, this type of drinking can encourage other bad habits like opting for those late-night nachos or skimping on much-needed sleep.
THE BEST SCENARIO
For maximum recovery, it might be better to wait to have your cocktail until you’re done properly rehydrating and refueling on protein. If you’re only indulging occasionally, it could be what you’re drinking that’s the problem. Typical cocktail ingredients like juice and soda are high in sugar, upping the calorie count of each beverage. Choose a light beer or a vodka and soda water with a squeeze of citrus, instead. And make sure to have a full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed.
If you’re going to indulge post-race or workout, this study recommends drinking equal to or less than 0.5g/kg bodyweight, a rate they determined is unlikely to impact most aspects of recovery. That means a 140-pound athlete (63.5kg) drinking 5% ABV beer should stick to less than two beers, assuming each beer contains 14 grams of alcohol.