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Alcohol and Exercise: How it Affects Your Body

Alcohol and Exercise: How it Affects Your Body

Do you hit the party scene just as hard as you hit the gym? Here is what happens when you drink after a workout:

1. Slams the brakes on your recovery process
A good workout will leave your glycogen stores (the carbohydrates we save up in our muscles and liver) depleted. And if you were really feeling the burn, it’s likely that your muscle tissue is in need of repair as well. But going hard at the bars actually displaces the carbs, leaving your stores 50 percent lower than normal even eight hours later. To avoid this, try eating a recovery snack before tipping back. They key is a combination of protein and carbs (low-fat chocolate milk or peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers are great examples).

2. More Jiggle
Alcohol consumption shifts your bodies priorities in terms of metabolism. So instead of burning fat and carbs, it goes for alcohol instead. Not only that, but alcohol also breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat—particularly in the thighs and buttocks. Finally, alcohol also increases the release of a stress hormone called cortisol, which encourages fat storage in the midsection.

3. Less Sleep
Recovering muscles and high performance during exercise both require adequate rest. In a study of 93 men and women, researchers found that alcohol sapped sleep duration and increased wakefulness (particularly in the second half of the night), especially in women, whose sleep time was decreased by more than 30 minutes over the night. This in turn can reduce your muscle building abilities by as much as 70 percent.

4. Depleted Water and Nutrients
Because alcohol tends to irritate the stomach lining, it can reduce your ability to absorb the nutrients that are crucial to your recovery process. Not to mention that alcohol makes you pee—in fact, for every gram of ethanol that enters your system, you lose 10 milliliters of urine (that’s about 9.5 ounces for two beers). As little as 2 percent dehydration hurts endurance performance.
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Sarah Smith is a junior at the University of Michigan, Class of 2012, majoring in Communication Studies and Political Science. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Forum, Michigan's Greek Life Newspaper, and the secretary of Michigan's chapter of Ed2010. Sarah is also an active member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority, and she currently serves Michigan's Panhellenic Association as the Vice President of Public Relations.  A native of Sterling Heights, MI, she has been a Michigan fan since birth and loves spending Saturday mornings cheering on her Wolverines. Some of her favorite things include The Office, Audrey Hepburn, women's magazines, and microwave popcorn - preferably with lots of butter and salt!
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