Published Wed, 2010-11-10 11:10; updated 35 weeks ago.
Whether you prefer jogging around the park, or working out down the gym, there’s plenty of body-positive benefits that regular exercise can bring.
As well as helping you lose weight, exercise also boosts your mood and actively reduces stress.
But however good your intentions are, sometimes it feels like you deserve a medal for getting yourself down the gym after a hard day. And all too often the temptation can be to make that reward a few drinks.
Clocking up the calories
Unfortunately, toasting your session with post-exercise drinks at home or down the pub can undo all your good work you’ve just put in. There’s around 250 calories in the average pint of lager, and 130 in a glass of white wine, so you could end up topping up the weight you thought you’d lost through your fitness regime in no time at all. For instance, if you’ve just run for half an hour it will only take two pints to put back on the calories you’ve just burned off through exercise.
The way alcohol is absorbed by the body can also reduce the amount of fat you’re able to burn by exercising. Because your body isn’t designed to store alcohol, it tries to expel it as quickly as possible. This gets in the way of other processes, including absorbing nutrients and burning fat. So as well as slowing down the burning of calories, alcohol gets in the way of the nutritional benefits of the healthy meals you eat . (1)
Physically active people have a 20-30% reduced risk of premature death and up to 50% reduced risk of stroke and cancer (2).
Running on empty
Many people, like 32-year-old Jill from Worthing, manage to squeeze in exercise between work commitments and a busy social life. She’s found first-hand how drinking alcohol can affect the quality of her workouts.
“Running with a hangover is hell,” admits Jill.
“Last Saturday I went to a wedding and ended up drinking too much champagne. The next morning I had to get up, put my trainers on and do a 10 mile run with my training buddy.”
“I thought I was doing fairly well until the end when I found out I was at least ten minutes slower than usual. I had the sweats most of the way and had to keep swigging water to try and get rid of the taste of stale booze!”
Personal trainer and fitness writer Laura Williams isn’t surprised that Jill found her run difficult.
“A hangover is always going to make your workout feel much tougher,” she says.
“It’s more likely that your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is going to be much higher than the rate at which you’re really working. Or to put it another way, exercising on a hangover means you think you’re working much harder than you really are.”
Fitness experts agree that to get the most from cardiovascular exercise such as running or swimming, you have to put in the physical effort. But while your hangover may make a less hectic workout feel welcome, it’s harder to build up the head of steam you need to stay in shape when you have a headache, and nausea is beginning to kick in. Laura also points out that the night before’s alcohol leaves your body dehydrated, even before your session starts.
If you feel like the balance between alcohol and exercise is veering too much towards the former, then it’s a good idea to consider cutting down. You can still enjoy a drink and maintain a healthy lifestyle, the key is sticking to Drinkaware’s recommended guidelines. These guidelines recommend that women should not regularly exceed 2-3 units daily (equivalent to a 175ml glass of 13% wine) and that men should not regularly exceed 3-4 units daily (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer).
Re-assessing your relationship with alcohol doesn’t just do wonders for the effectiveness of your work out, it can also boost your general health too. In fact, if you’re looking to reduce your stress levels, lose weight and look your best, then reducing your intake will help.
Best of all, cutting down delivers more than just short-term results. Drinking within the guidelines means you’re actively protecting your general health and reducing your risk of developing heart disease, having cancer and getting problems with your liver in the future as well.
(1) Charles S. Lieber. ALCOHOL: Its Metabolism and Interaction With Nutrients http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.nutr.20.1.395?journalCode=nutr
(2) Department of Health (2004). At least five times a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health.