Several scientific studies have linked heavy drinking to arterial stiffness and heart disease; some have suggested that a daily glass of white wine may raise melanoma risk by 13 percent; others have found that just the smell of alcohol can impact self-control; and lastly, previous findings have shown the potential benefits of occasional drinking, like longevity, were flawed in their design.
But the most significant buzz around booze came from a study published in October 2016 in the journal BMJ Open, which found women are catching up to men’s drinking habits at an unprecedented rate, drinking nearly as much as the guys do, and experiencing similar levels of alcohol-related problems.
While you should always consider the health consequences of alcohol, it doesn’t mean that you need to give up tasty libations; especially, if you’re otherwise healthy.
1. Refrain from binge drinking
Most fitness and alcohol experts agree that, with low to moderate consumption, drinking and fitness can co-exist. “Obviously, drinking every day is bad for business,” says Jakob Vingren, PhD, CSCS, associate professor at the University of North Texas who studies alcohol’s impact on exercise. “But having a drink or two on occasion, I don’t think is a problem.”
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines moderate drinking as up to seven standard drinks a week for women (spaced out over time). Having more than four drinks on a single occasion is considered binge drinking in women.
2. Stick to a booze budget
Stefanie Senior, a registered dietitian with private nutritional counseling practice Athletic Edge Sports Medicine in Toronto, Canada, suggests her active female clients shoot for no more than 3-5 drinks a week, and no more than two per day, especially if they want to perform well in the gym. “What I usually recommend is that you limit drinking and create an alcohol budget for the week,” she says. “And each day that you are drinking, stay conscious of how much you’re having.”
3. No Shots Before Squats
Having a glass of wine at night and then working out in the AM isn’t a big deal, but knocking down a couple of shots before spin class probably isn't the best idea. “Alcohol impacts your energy levels, your ability to perform and concentrate, and your reaction times,” warns Senior.
“If you know you’re going to go out drinking, especially drinking heavily, skip the workout,” says Vingren. However, if you wake up feeling refreshed and want to get a workout in, opt for a light to medium intensity workout.
4. Stay hydrated!
As a diuretic, alcohol can disrupt the water balance in your cells causing dehydration - this is the primary cause of hangovers. Hangovers lead to poor sleep and poor food choices.
Follow each drink with a glass of water. Not only will it slow down your boozing, but it will help replenish valuable fluids. “Dehydration decreases the ability to regulate our body temperature and disrupts the fluid and electrolyte balance,” says Senior, “which can be dangerous, especially if you’re going to be exercising in a hot environment.”
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