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Alcohol and sports?!


Especially on Christmas and New Year’s Eve it doesn’t usually end with a glass of sparkling wine. But is too much alcohol actually counterproductive for our training success?

LANS Medicum’s sports physician Dr. Florentine Markworth says: « It is not an immediate health risk, but the training effect will be missing. Even one drink after exercising, keeps the body busy with breaking down the alcohol: Regenerative processes that would take place after physical exercise are severely slowed down or fail « . Alcohol inhibits the release of growth hormones, which in addition to regeneration are particularly important for fat loss and muscle growth. Without growth hormones, there is no training success or progress. The stress hormone cortisol should also be mentioned here, as alcohol increases cortisol levels and inhibits the breakdown of fatty tissue. During training, stimuli are set to which the body adapts itself in order to increase performance in the long term. This adjustment is prevented by the consumption of alcohol. It always depends on the current training condition, for example, if you run regularly, the regeneration time is not as long as with less trained people and varies between 24 and 48 hours.

Alcohol promotes water secretion via the kidneys. This can lead to dehydration of the body and disrupt the mineral balance – poorly supplied muscles provide less performance. In addition, the metabolic processes become even more inefficient and slower because the body lacks water as the basis for chemical reactions. What about exercising after rough a night out? The body is still dehydrated from the night before. Excessive training leads to sweating, which in turn leads to an additional lack of water. Muscle performance and contraction are reduced, and the risk of cramps and muscle inflammation increased. The metabolism is also weakened until the alcohol is completely broken down. Therefore, glucose which is especially important for endurance training cannot be provided. In addition, fat burning is strongly inhibited.
The electrolytes and fluids lost through perspiration during training must be replaced. Isotonic drinks compensate for this loss of minerals, their composition of salts corresponds to that of body fluids. If you don’t want to miss out on the New Year’s Eve party and don’t want to endanger your training effect, alcohol-free beer is a good alternative. Like isotonic sports drinks, it contains electrolytes that were sweated out during exercise. The typical symptoms of hangover can be alleviated by the same amount of still water as alcohol. You will feel less dehydrated, fitter and more efficient the next day.

However, there is also a hangover symptom where we should completely refrain from doing exercise: Heart palpitations. Acute atrial fibrillation, which can be triggered by increased alcohol consumption, is known as Holiday Heart Syndrome. A combination of energy drinks and alcohol increases the risk of this. The heart beats faster and irregularly, but this is not life-threatening, » explains Dr. Markworth. If you feel weak and have difficulty breathing, it is advisable to consult a doctor. In any case, if the tachycardia lasts longer than 48 hours due to a risk of blood clots forming in the heart, which can lead to a stroke. Blood-thinning drugs, however, can easily prevent long-term damage from occurring.



But at what quantities of alcohol does our body take long term damage? This varies greatly from one individual to another, but the World Health Organization has defined a rule of thumb, » says Dr. Markworth. According to this guideline, the amount of 0.2l beer, 0.1l wine, 0.1l sparkling wine or 4cl of schnapps per day applies to women; the amount for men is about twice as much. The rule applies for five days a week. The body needs at least two non-alcoholic days to recover even from small amounts. And these days should be as far apart as possible. However, symptoms such as heartburn and gastritis can also be an indicator of too much alcohol consumption. Long term alcohol abuse increases for heart and liver diseases.

Now for the good news: If you do not drink alcohol on a too regular basis, you can compensate for the long-term consequences of increased consumption through exercise and, at the same time, reduce the risk of liver and heart disease. Sport stimulates the metabolism, alcohol has the opposite effect, » says Dr. Markworth. A study has shown that with at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, a positive balance can be achieved.

Increased alcohol consumption massively disrupts the hormone balance, metabolism and thus all processes in the body. Sleep, regeneration, fat loss and muscle growth are equally affected. So before you reach for the glass, be mindful of your body and the hard work you put into it. Try to keep consumption as low as possible, choose low-energy varieties of alcohol and drink at least an equal amount of water.


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