I had post-work appetizers and drinks with a girlfriend last night, and as we departed she said she was heading to the gym. Granted, we each had two light beers over maybe an hour and 20 minutes, but it surprised me that she'd go work out after a couple drinks. She said she doesn't do it all the time, but if she's not feeling too tipsy it actually helps her kind of zone out and get into her workout, and by the time she's finished any possible buzz is gone. Is this healthy to do?
There are days when we try to pack it all in: work, catching up with friends, working out. With the recent news that folks who drink regularly tend to exercise more, I suspect this dilemma is increasingly common. To see what I have to say on the matter, keep reading.
While alcohol can make you feel giddy after a few sips, it is a depressant. Alcohol affects your nervous system and acts as a mild anesthetic and tranquilizer. Essentially it slows you down, negatively impacting your reaction time, and impairs your balance as well as your hand-eye coordination. Alcohol also reduces your strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity. It will also interfere with your body's ability to metabolize fat and create muscle growth. Having alcohol in your system when exercising can also increase your recovery period, making you more sore post-workout. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it will increase your need to urinate, and combined with sweating while working out, can lead to dehydration.
Add this to the list of reasons not to knock back a few drinks before hitting the treadmill: the effects of alcohol peak about 40 to 90 minutes after drinking, and it will stay in your bloodstream until the liver can process it. Your friend might not have felt too buzzed when she left the bar, but she probably wasn't feeling the full effect of the alcohol.
Bottom line: I don't think it is a good idea to have a couple of drinks before hitting the gym. You are more likely to injure yourself due to lack of coordination, and alcohol interferes with your body's ability to reap the benefits of the workout.