We're heading full steam into the holiday season, and I'm definitely excited to enjoy this time with family & friends.
It really is the best time of year. But I'm also well aware of the anxiety it can cause while you're on a fitness journey.
And I'm actually not talking about the food this time ... I'm talking about the drinks.
I'm by no means a heavy a drinker (at least not anymore haha) ... but I've been known to knock back a few during the holidays.
I mean it's hard not to when it's so readily available ... and offered to you at almost every holiday event you attend.
I'm not going to sit here & tell you to avoid all the drinks, but I am going to cover how it can affect your fitness results ... and also teach you how to have a few drinks & minimize the damage.
Alcohol: The 4th Macronutrient
You may not know this, but alcohol is actually a macronutrient ... just like protein, carbs & fats.
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram (whereas protein & carbs have 4 calories per gram, and fats have 9 calories per gram).
This is a little tricky when you look at labels on today's drinks. Let's take a popular seltzer for example...
You'll see many of them labeled as low or no carb ... and that's awfully enticing when you're gearing up for a holiday party or night out with friends. Especially if you're in the middle of a fitness journey.
"I'll just have a couple seltzers ... they're low carb!"
Yes, that's true ... but that doesn't always mean they're low calorie. Because the alcohol within them still contains 7 calories per gram.
They usually are a decent option if you're trying to minimize the damage ... it's just an example to keep in mind when it comes to labels & marketing.
The fact that alcohol is a macronutrient does also make it easier to track & account for within your fitness plan ... more on that in a bit.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Health & Fitness?
Again ... I'm not telling you to never have a drink, but I'm going to discuss some of the possible damage drinking can do.
This isn't to scare you ... it's just the facts.
Here's some of the ways alcohol affects your fitness:
Performance - Drinking alcohol can impair & slow down reaction time, hand-eye coordination ... and even make it more difficult to contract your muscles. It can also dehydrate you very quickly. This is not ideal for playing sports, working out in the gym ... or doing anything related to physical fitness.
Recovery & Muscle Building - It's been shown that muscle building and recovery (known as protein synthesis) can be reduced up to nearly 40% if you're drinking within 24-48 hours of a workout. This also means you'll most likely have some excess muscle soreness ... and nobody likes that.
Weight Loss - The calories within alcohol provide no benefit at all, and they also add up quick if you're not careful. Overconsumption of calories (eating or drinking) will stop you from losing weight. It's also much easier to drink calories than it is to eat them ... which is a big reason why alcohol can very easily cause issues with weight loss. Drinking can also slow your metabolism down & make it much harder to burn fat.
Daily Energy Levels & Mood - I'm sure you've been there before, but no one feels great the day after drinking. It's tough to get up & moving, and you just don't feel like yourself. Sometimes it can take a few days or even longer to snap out of those feelings too. Oh & let's not forget that when you're feeling like this ... you're probably not reaching for healthy food, getting a workout in ... or doing much at all to improve your health & wellness.
And of course, alcohol use can create a lot of other issues ... but I'm sure you get the point.
How To Drink & Minimize The Damage
Let's be honest ... most of us are going to have a drink this holiday season. And I like I said, that's ok.
But here's a few steps you can take to minimize the damage:
1. Eat Before You Drink - Coating your stomach with food will actually slow the rate of absorption for alcoholic drinks. The slower your body absorbs the alcohol ... the better you'll feel the next day in most cases. And if you feel better the next day, you're much more likely to get back on track with your fitness plan.
2. Alternate Alcoholic Drinks With Water - For every alcoholic drink you have, make sure you have a water with or after that drink. This will keep you from dehydrating ... and help you feel better the next day as well.
3. Set A Drink Limit Before Your Event - I know, this one is sometimes easier said than done. But say you set a 2-3 drink limit for your party or holiday event, and you stick to it ... the chances of causing any real damage will then be very small. If you overdue it ... you're going to be dealing with some of the negative factors we mentioned earlier.
4. If You Track Your Food ... Track Your Alcohol Too - We talked about how alcohol has 7 calories per gram, so if you track food/macros ... you can factor alcohol in as either a carb or fat. I always suggest fat, because it's higher calorie ... and you'll be a little less likely to over-consume in that case. This also allows you to plan ahead a little easier & "make room" in your nutrition plan for a few drinks. Just as you would for food that might not be part of your diet plan.
5. Choose Lower Calorie Drink Options - Clear liquor, light beers & most seltzers are going to be your better options. They'll be a little lower calorie ... and usually lower in sugar too. All of which makes them a better option than darker liquors or sugary mixed drinks.
6. Supplement - Yep ... there's literally supplements that can help ensure you don't feel absolutely awful the day after drinking. Even just taking a double does of a quality multivitamin can help make sure your not losing important nutrients due to dehydration. There's even vitamin-based supplements specifically designed to take before & after drinking ... and believe me, they work.
When it's all said and done ... we want you to enjoy the holiday season. There's no harm in having a few drinks, but now you also have a plan for these situations ... and you'll be much more likely to avoid any long-term damage to your fitness results.
And if you have questions about these tips, or need a plan going into your holiday celebrations ... make sure you swing by your local Supplement Superstores location. We'll work with you & make sure you know exactly how to get through the holiday season ... while still seeing the best possible fitness results.
*This post was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a B.S. in Nutrition & Dietetics. He's also a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer & N.A.S.M. Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.