You don’t have to be a complete buzzkill for the sake of fitness. Here’s how you can still have the best of both

By Pau Miranda | Photo by Will Stewart/Unsplash

Keeping track of your diet, staying committed to your exercise routine, and giving your sport your all becomes twice as much of a challenge with all the temptations and distractions hanging around, especially towards the end of the year. But you don’t have to give one up for the other—it’s still possible to have fun and stay in shape while you’re at it.

The Deal with Drinking

The main problem with alcohol is that it has no nutritional content. It’s filled with calories and it’s high in sugar, so it counters all your hard work at the gym or on the court. Because it’s not a nutrient, it can’t be stored as energy and since it technically can’t be used productively by the body, it needs to be expelled—fast.

As the body rushes to get rid of the alcohol in your system, other more important processes like absorbing nutrients, burning fat, and metabolizing carbohydrates for energy are affected. Add to that the most obvious effect of drinking: lower levels of coordination, concentration, and judgment.

Overall, drinking alcohol leads to less energy and a generally subpar performance once you get back to the gym (even if it’s a full day after Thirsty Thursday). And ironically, despite coming in the form of a drink, alcohol makes you dehydrated. Adding exercise (before or after drinking) to the mix will leave you doubly parched.

Moderation is Key

Despite all the seemingly negative effects of drinking alcohol, you don’t have to give it up forever. As with most things, if taken moderately and conscientiously, alcohol won’t pose any major problems, whether you’re watching your weight or training for an important match.

If you really can’t avoid having to go out for a drink the day before your scheduled workout session, experts recommend having just one drink, and pairing it with food. Likewise, drinking after a workout isn’t recommended unless you’ve rehydrated yourself enough after sweating it out.

Furthermore, a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week offsets some of the risks associated with alcohol.

It’s also important to always remember your limits. Drinking every day of the week is obviously a no-no if you’re on a diet or regularly working out and competing in sports. The government provides a good guide for moderate alcohol consumption, pegging it at two drinks a day for men, and one a day for women.

So don’t fret about attending the office party or the team’s celebratory dinner—just remember that you don’t have to get hammered to have fun, but at the same time, you don’t have to miss out on the good stuff to stay at the top of your game.