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Thu, 05/08/2014

Alcohol and Exercise

Common sense would clearly deny that alcohol and sports can go together. However, it is not unusual to have alcoholic beverages to fight thirst when one reaches the final beer garden at one's destination after a cycling or hiking tour. In Germany we have a beverage that is half beer and half lemonade that is honors this and is called 'Radler' which literally means 'Biker'. But a Radler is not the recommended beverage if you are thirsty – that is and will always be water!

However, a cold beer is considered to be a reward after a hard day or a day spent with sweat-inducing outdoor activity. The Berlin running events are sponsored by beer companies. Alcohol free beer is even marketed as an isotonic drink, a drink which gives you back the minerals you sweat out during exercise. The beer sponsor of the BIG 25, the 25 km running event held in Berlin at May, the 4th (also known as Star-Wars-Day), does not manufacture alcohol free beer so that you only got normal beer – and people were queuing for it.

Having a beer after exercise is not the baddest idea. "A properly formulated beer beverage is likely to do you no more harm than you are likely to get from a sports drink," Ben Desbrow a sports nutritionist at Griffith University in Australia tells NPR. "In fact, it probably is likely to do you more good, because it's got a lot of these sort of natural compounds, like polyphenols, that are actually good for your health." And a German study found in 2012, that “Nonalcoholic beer reduces inflammation and incidence of respiratory tract illness” (N.B.: alcohol increases the risk of inflammation and high blood pressure). But what happens in your body when you actually drink alcohol and exercise as this guy, who run one mile in under five minutes while drinking beer?

Alcohol is a poison. Therefore, the body first tries to remove all of it from the body before it does anything else. For example, burn fat or build muscles. Therefore training effects such as weight loss and muscle building are thwarted. While the body is focused on removing the alcohol from the system, it also prevents the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, which is produced during exercise. Cortisol breaks down the existing muscles and returns the won energy to the emerging muscles. This is prevented if you take in proteins and carbohydrates after exercising. If you drink alcohol instead, the cortisol is not degraded but even further produced. As a result, muscles disappear. In addition, the body burns no fat. On the contrary, alcohol adds fat because alcohol contains carbohydrates and beer also contains so-called phytoestrogens, which also make you put on weight. Also, by the prime decomposition of the alcohol the release of glucagon is delayed. Glucagon releases the growth hormone somatropin, which converts fat into muscle.

If you like to drink a lot, that will be a real problem, because until the alcohol is cleansed out of your body it may even take two or three days. That is, in the worst case, that sport and fitness may indeed have a positive effect on ones endurance but not on ones looks. This also explains why a lot of joggers, tennis players or golfers sport a proud tummy. But if you want to lose weight and gain muscle you should be careful how and when to consume alcohol.