Alcohol and Exercise: Should They Ever Mix?

Woman Exercising and DrinkingWhether it’s been during a softball game with your pals, or immediately following a rigorous workout session, chances are you’ve probably downed your fair share of alcoholic drinks. After all, what’s the point of exercising if you can’t sit back, talk about the game, and enjoy an ice cold beverage? Especially if you just won a big game or destroyed a rival team. Or, if you suffered a crushing defeat, what better way to numb the pain?

While alcohol and exercise seem to go hand-in-hand (pun intended), should they ever mix? Just because you and your buddies have a tradition of guzzling a few dozen beers while you play football, does that mean it’s a good idea? Or does knocking back a few cocktails after you workout defeat the purpose of exercising altogether? It all depends.

What Will Happen If You Drink While You Play Sports?

Unless you’ve never had more than one drink in a day, or have never seen a person who’s had too many “pops,” then you know that alcohol has a way of destroying your ability to talk and move. As a result, it kind of goes without saying that drinking a ton of booze while you exercise is a really bad idea, if breaking bones or needing stitches isn’t your thing.

If you’re an extremely competitive person and don’t even let your Granny beat you in lawn badminton, then remember that even a couple of drinks will affect your hand-eye coordination. In other words, you can’t perform at your best if you’ve had a few alcoholic beverages.

Of course, being able to catch a beautiful “Hail Mary” football pass or remaining free of arm and leg casts are just two of the reasons you shouldn’t gulp booze while you exercise. If you’ve ever had a hangover, then you also know that your body seemingly can’t get enough water the day after you’ve partied. This is because processing alcohol is extremely hard on your body and liver, and, because booze is a diuretic. In other words, drinking leads to dehydration, and often a very bad case of it.

So, if you’re working out hard or playing ball with your pals on a hot day, then you’re probably sweating like crazy. This means your body needs more water, not less, so putting a lot of alcohol in your system isn’t going to do it any favors. If you don’t drink enough water, you could end up having the worst hangover on record, or worse.

You’re also more likely to incur a muscle cramp if you’re really dehydrated and exercising and, if you’ve ever had a serious cramp, you know it’s no walk in the park. Then there’s also the chance that you’ll get really dizzy or just pass out, and that’s not going to be good for anybody.

Should You Booze it Up After Exercising?

So, if you should take it easy on the sauce while you’re working out, do you have the green light to party afterwards? That depends on how much you enjoy dealing with soreness, pain, and fatigue.

If you go out and get hammered after a long game or lengthy workout session, your body will be forced to deal with all that alcohol and the lactic acid you built up while exercising. The more lactic acid in your body, the more soreness and pain you’ll feel each time you move. That’s not going to make your hangover any easier.

Alcohol also hinders your muscles from repairing properly after exercise, so if you’re trying to tone up or build some serious pipes, boozing after a workout isn’t going to help. If you pull a muscle during the big game or while you’re doing squats, then knocking back a case of beer afterwards won’t quicken the healing process. Yes, having a few cocktails might make the pain go away for the time being, but rest assured the injury will still be there tomorrow.

What Will Happen If I Party the Night Before?

If you don’t mind showing up for the game with no energy at all, or possibly vomiting shortly into the first quarter, then by all means, get blitzed the night before. If you want to be the game M.V.P., or make the most of your workout, then you should probably take it easy on the alcohol.

Alcohol can disrupt your sleep habits significantly―getting up in the middle of night to gulp water will do that―which is another reasons hangovers can be so brutal. The more fatigued you are, the less energy you’ll have to run, lift weights, hit a ball, or punch a person.

It’s also important to remember that your body needs proper rest to recover and heal injuries. So, if you head into a game on a quarter tank of gas, don’t be surprised if you’re even more sore than normal afterwards.

What Are My Options?

If you know you’re going to knock back a few drinks before, during, or after a big game or workout, then make sure you drink a ton of water. If you can, try to stick to drinks that are clear, like vodka, gin, or lager for example, as studies show your body can process them easier. Of course, it’s also a good idea to just have a couple of drinks, but we all know that having one or two cocktails often leads to ditching that plan.