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Nine uncomfortable facts about alcohol and exercising

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Most Free Athletes are aware that alcohol and a healthy lifestyle do not go well together, and therefore avoid alcohol for performance reasons. Nevertheless, opportunities to consume alcoholic drinks are abundant. As many people are simply unaware of the potential consequences of alcohol, especially over the long-term, we want to present a brief overview of the most important facts about alcohol and training.

Increased stress level

Alcohol causes an increase in the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, which causes irritation and worsens your mood. Meanwhile increased cortisol levels are offset by reduced testosterone levels, causing muscles to degrade and reduce your capacity to burn fat.

Lower levels of growth hormones

Alcohol inhibits the release of growth hormones, which are of primary importance for regeneration, fat burning and muscle growth. Without growth hormones, there can be no successful training and no progress!

Poor sleep quality

Alcohol consumption also has a negative effect on sleep quality, which is of overriding importance for regeneration. Without high quality sleep, you can’t perform optimally, can’t burn fat and won’t build muscle!

Hinderance to nutrient uptake

Alcohol delivers 7.1 kcal of energy per gram and could therefore be considered a macronutrient. The problem is that this energy must be recovered immediately as the body struggles to store and convert it. This means that calories from other sources are not metabolized during this period and are instead almost immediately stored as fat. The uptake of vital nutrients is also hindered when alcohol is present in the metabolism. The effect of a healthy diet is therefore destroyed by alcohol.

Alcohol makes you fat

When we talk about the calorific content of alcohol, we are referring to pure alcohol, which is of course not consumed directly. It is present in beer, wine, cocktails and similar drinks, which all contain large quantities of sugar. This sugar is stored directly as energy in fat cells, as the body is hard at work consuming the calories from the alcohol. Also bear in mind  that people often eat very heavily before, during and after consuming alcohol (not least because alcohol increases the appetite) so that this energy is also stored in the body’s fat reserves.


Alcohol has an extremely powerful dehydrating effect, which is already dangerous enough for many reasons. Moreover metabolic processes become even less efficient and run even more slowly, as the body lacks the fluid levels that are necessary for chemical reactions to take place.

Faulty transmission of nerve impulses

Training after consuming alcohol, even the day after, can be particularly bad for you! On the one hand, metabolism is scarcely able to cope with the stimulation of training; on the other hand, it is lacking in important minerals due to dehydration, which means that the fundamental muscular function of contraction is reduced. Even worse: it can cause cramps, injuries and serious muscle inflammation.

Weakening of the immune systems

Due to the reasons given above (and many more) alcohol weakens the immune system; after all, no one wants to be ill!

Even small quantities are harmful

Alcohol doesn’t only affect you while you’re training – everyone should be clear that it is absolutely counterproductive to drink immediately before or after training. Even small quantities can negate the effect of an otherwise successful training period. Alcohol has such a massive effect on the systems referred to above that the consequences can linger over a prolonged period.


Hormonal balance and metabolism undergo massive negative effects due to exposure to alcohol, processes that affect virtually the entire body. Sleep, regenerationw, fat burning and muscle growth all suffer similarly. Before you reach for that glass, consider how much you value your body and your hard work.. If you still think that you can’t do without alcohol, you should reduce your alcohol consumption as far as possible and choose lower calorie options, ensuring that levels of fluids and minerals remain halfway balanced by drinking as much water as possible.

There are constant rumors and new findings relating to the alleged health benefits of alcohol: for instance, wheat beer has been claimed to have isotonic properties, and red wine is often cited as being good for cardiac health. There are indeed studies that confirm that alcohol is good for the health in moderate quantities. Often however it is not entirely clear whether the benefits of alcohol are attributable to the alcohol itself or a high proportion of other ingredients such as flavonoids or other minerals. We, Freeletics, recommend to abstain from alcohol entirely in all its forms. You can find all these vital nutrients in other foods and drinks.