When assessing your overall health, your exercise tendencies are not all you should consider. Your diet—both food and drinks—should be analyzed as well.
Not only does this include a cheeseburger, a soda or some sweets after dinner. It also includes that glass (or two) of wine, beer or any other alcoholic drink.
Alcohol does affect your fitness, and it's important to know what it does to your body. If you still choose to have a few drinks, you should understand the potential effects.
"The most outstanding thing to know, if you're in fact working out to lose weight, is that drinking alcohol is counterproductive to that," says Dr. Nick Campos, a chiropractic sports physician. "If you want to lose weight, one of the best things you can do is to stop drinking. Alcohol is an extra calorie; we can't process it or utilize it for energy, so it just packs on as weight."
Alcohol can affect you pre- and post-workout in different ways. This includes more than just potentially causing you to skip a workout, should you have those symptoms that come with an even slight-hangover.
Effects on Future Workouts
The biggest effect drinking has on future workouts involves hydration.
"Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it will cause you to lose excess water," says Amanda Turner, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. "Because of this, you don't absorb alcohol as well as a fluid. If you're more than 2 percent dehydrated when you start a workout, your performance isn't going to be as good as if you were fully hydrated."
Alcohol isn't the only thing that causes water loss, so this is even more important to remember during certain times of the year. The Institute of Medicine states: "Prolonged physical activity and heat exposure will increase water losses and therefore may raise daily fluid needs."
In the summer months especially, alcohol before a workout can contribute to additional water losses that are often unavoidable due to high temperatures.
Alcohol is a toxin, and once consumed, your body works to metabolize it so it can remove it from your system.
"Anytime we are ingesting a toxin, the liver has to neutralize it," Campos says. "It makes the liver work harder and has an effect on metabolism."