Booze and Barbells: Alcohol Facts for the Fitness Enthusiast

July 10, 2023 by
Credit: @crossfitaffiliates
Enjoying Morning Chalk Up? Access additional exclusive interviews, analyses, and stories with an Rx membership.

Trying to juggle fitness and fun in the summer can be tortuous, especially with barbecues and social gatherings happening (what feels like) every weekend. 

The allure of being outside and connecting with friends and family over drinks can add unnecessary stress and FOMO to your life if you’re trying to “be good” and stay on track with fitness. This article isn’t about whether or not you should drink, but to help you understand what alcohol does to the body. 

What qualifies as “one” drink? Due to varying concentrations, it’s important to understand quantities based on the type of alcohol you’re drinking. 

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor 

It’s all about the dosage. The science is clear that excessive alcohol intake is detrimental to your performance and health. In the short term, it negatively impacts rehydration and glycogen resynthesis, which are both essential for recovery and performance. 

  • The good news is moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t seem to have these same negative side effects. “Moderate” can be defined as about three drinks in a day for a 180-pound man. If you have plans to work out the day after drinking, it would be wise to keep things in a moderate zone. 

According to sleep expert Matt Walker, alcohol trashes sleep. The part of sleep that is most negatively affected by drinking is REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, where the body repairs tissues and cells. This stage of sleep is also where the body resets central nervous system energy and function, which is vital in recharging mental and physical readiness. If you’re coming off a big workout, it may not be wise to drink excessively later that day when your body needs quality sleep. 

They’re literally empty calories. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, but it can’t be converted into usable energy (has no vitamins or minerals). On the days you know you’ll be drinking, loading up on high protein meals paired with low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables can help balance the empty calories you’ll be taking in later that day.  

Tracking macros and drinking doesn’t have to be complicated. If you track macros, you’ll need to account for the calories you’re taking in from alcohol. Nutrition labels on alcohol can be misleading, so here’s a simple way to track your alcohol macros. 

  • If you want to count alcohol calories towards your daily carb budget, divide the total calories in a drink by four to get your grams of “carbs” for that drink. 
  • If you want to count the calories towards your daily fat budget, divide the calories in the drink by nine. This will give you the “fat” grams for that drink. 

The bottom line: Your actions should align with your goals. People often go all-or-none with their fitness, making it extremely difficult to sustain for the long-term. Unless you’re training for something specific, focus on developing a sustainable balance between training and enjoying yourself. Everyone is different, so it will require experimentation on your part to figure out what the minimum level of commitment is to be satisfied with your performance, aesthetics and quality of life.

Get the Newsletter

For a daily digest of all things CrossFit. Community, Competitions, Athletes, Tips, Recipes, Deals and more.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.