You know, I was never very good at writing short stories for school.  I could write and write, what could be seen as an attempt for a novel, but to compress something huge was so difficult. Writing a short post about issues that are deserving of their own special encyclopedia is extremely difficult! But I'm going to attempt to prioritize the most important things we need to know about alcohol and fitness.  (To discuss alcohol and health will need to be another post altogether.)

I think every client I've ever worked with has asked me my opinions on alcohol and training. I am always frank and honest.  Alcohol is empty calories, is dehydrating and can be debilitating when consumed in excess.  That being said, I've never had a client cut out alcohol altogether, unless their goals have been more extreme and short-term, such as before a wedding or a special event in which he/she wants to look their absolute best. For anyone trying to become as healthy as possible, while still enjoying life, you don't necessarily need to avoid alcohol altogether.  But there are some tricks you should know...

If you are a daily wine drinker (I have a few people in mind as I write this!):

Keep it at one glass. I mean it - my daily wine drinkers tend to go up to two or even three at times, but why would you take three doses of a depressant, per day? Chances are really good that you'll feel lousier in the grand scheme of your life.  One small glass per day should be enough to help you unwind, to relieve some stress, to put a little colour in your face and make you giggle a bit, if that is what you need.  And, a small glass of red wine can sometimes help you sleep.  If you have more than two glasses of alcohol, you are disrupting the body's ability to reach its REM level of sleep - which means muscles do not repair themselves as well, and you will feel and look far less rested.  Also, two glasses can tack on an extra 300 calories to your day, which can pack on more than two pounds of fat every month... Is it worth it?

If you are a weekend binge drinker (I have a couple OTHER people in mind for this one):

For each serving of alcohol you drink, you should be drinking two 8oz glasses of water.  If you know you are going to indulge one evening, start preparing in the morning.  These days you need to be EXTRA careful about limiting empty calories (no sugary drinks, no refined carbohydrates), and eat smaller, nutritionally dense foods that will somewhat protect your body from the damage you are about to do...  And THAT being said, try not to do too much damage! The problem with too much alcohol is you can start off listening to your body, and noticing how it's reacting, until you become too distracted with being drunk ("Woooooo look at everyone smiling and spilling!") to realize that you're desperately thirsty - for WATER, NOT wanting to put deep fried, artery-clogging crap into your body, and NOT wanting to be out of commission the next day.

We all need to let loose.  If you work hard all week, and are healthy 80% of the time, you have a bit of wiggle room to enjoy yourself.  But, it's easy for binge drinkers to lose control.  Alcohol is a depressant, and the hangover can bring an overwhelming sense of helplessness.  If this ever begins to feed itself, it can be a tremendously dangerous thing.

If you must drink once a week, and party, try to keep it at four drinks.  You don't really need to go over this amount, ever.  You will let loose, you will have fun, and you will still be able to pay the cab driver on the way home, without spilling your cards everywhere and hitting your head trying to pick them up, leading to a convulsion of laughter and potentially spitting all over people.

Opt for water-based drinks, like vodka and water.  The clearer the alcohol in colour, the better your head will feel the next morning.  The better your head feels the next morning, the more likely you are to hit the treadmill - which is really the most important thing you should be doing the day after: sweating out the toxins!  Avoid sugary drinks - the obvious ones being pop, the less obvious being tonic which is still full of sugar.

At the end of the day, check in with yourself.  Try to enjoy yourself without throwing your wellness off-track.  If you trust yourself to indulge here and there, and remain steady and healthy in your everyday life, go ahead.  If you find that drinking alcohol spurs a long road of unhealthy vices and negative self-worth, then it isn't for you.

And if you have any other specific questions, email me directly.  This can be about specific drinks, the anatomical physiological damage alcohol can do to your body, or workouts to be done the day after or the day of (don't bother strength training the day of - Jersey Shore fellas this goes for you - the "pumped" look, when followed by alcohol, only leads to muscles that don't recover and progress properly).

Pretty much, keep the "bottoms-up" attitude catered toward your body in fitness, more so than partying, and you should be okay.

*photo courtesy of: http://ihatealcohol.info/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/alcohol.jpg

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