Many people indulge in alcohol in their social time, be it a glass of wine with dinner, drinks at a sporting event or even a few drinks whilst catching up with friends, but how many of us really understand what it does to the body or how it affects our training?

A weekend drink at the pub can rapidly undo the hard work you are putting into your training & healthy eating during the week. Some people perceive alcohol as a reward for eating well & exercising, but here we explain why this just isn't the case.

Previous research has suggested that red wine can have health benefits as it contains antioxidants (flavonoids), but in truth alcohol is on average 7kcal per gram - which is almost as much as consuming pure fat, and that’s before adding in any sugary mixers. Antioxidants can be found in a multitude of healthy foods, and also in green tea - so there are far less damaging food and drink options for detoxifying the body.

More recent research suggests that if alcohol were categorised in the same way as drugs in terms of its ill effect on health, it would be in the same category as Class A drugs, above ecstasy. The same research suggests that alcohol is in the top 5 most damaging of the 30 most popular recreational drugs. In fact there are between 10,000-15,000 alcohol related deaths in the UK each year, so what exactly does alcohol do that makes it so detrimental to our bodies?

Negative affects of alcohol on the body:

  • Unwanted sugars/empty calories
  • Dehydration – can cause permanent brain damage
  • Prevents good quality sleep - disrupts growth hormones which are vital to muscle growth & repair
  • Creates Inflammation
  • Induces energy highs and lows
  • Drinking affects your body's ability to absorb essential nutrients, it can also alter your hormonal balance
  • Depressant
  • Puts the liver and kidneys under strain
  • Can increase blood pressure
  • Affect the nerves that control your breathing and heartbeat, frequent heavy consumption of alcohol can stop both
  • Lowers blood sugar – over time this can cause seizures
  • Over a long period can cause infertility
  • Can contribute to heart disease, cancer, mental health problems, stroke & dementia
  • Slows down the burning of fat/calories for energy - the body tries to get rid of alcohol as quickly as possible instead of using up stored fats or foods for energy

Detrimental effects on sporting performance:

  • Can dehydrate joints leaving you more susceptible to injury. Hydration is also needed to maintain good blood flow in the body, which is how oxygen gets pumped into the muscles, therefore dehydration affects sporting performance
  • It can slow reaction time
  • Negative affects on cognitive function and hand eye co-ordination
  • Decreased blood sugar - less energy is produced from the liver meaning decreased concentration & speed
  • Drinking to excess can poison muscle fibres which affects how they adapt to exercise and the time taken to adapt to exercise - it can take up to 3 days longer for adaptation to occur

If you do decide to indulge in a few alcoholic drinks in your social time, you can help to reduce damage to the body by not drinking on an empty stomach - by not eating any food beforehand you are depriving your body of essential nutrients & are more likely to binge on junk at the end of the night. Also be sure to keep hydrated, drink water before you sleep to help the breakdown on alcohol and to help the body maintain its essential functions.