A habit can be described as something that you do regularly. It is generally associated with something that is either hard to give up or hard to acquire. Exercising, eating healthy, and taking care of yourself are some examples of good habits that can be really hard to obtain and maintain. We all have been there: “I’ll start exercising tomorrow, I’ll start a healthy diet tomorrow…” but for some reason, we keep putting it off. It is hard to turn an activity that represents effort into a habit. Even more so when you have other habits, ones that we could call bad, that interfere with your purpose.
I know a thing or two about bad habits. I was an alcoholic for more than a decade. Addiction can lead you to engage in so many bad habits you wouldn’t even imagine. From spending money recklessly to not worrying about my personal hygiene; from lying to my friends and family to not being able to keep a job. I finally decided to get clean when I was in my mid-twenties, and even though recovery was hard -especially the first stages, alcohol detox and withdrawal-, it was the best decision I ever made.
One of the most important things when trying to make something a habit is accepting that you have to give up certain things. Alcohol gets in the way of your goals and damages your health. So, if one of your aspirations is to get fit and improve your health, the smartest thing is to eliminate alcohol from your life. If you’re wondering why, here are 5 ways in which alcohol affects your fitness and health.
Have you ever wondered why you always end up at some fast food establishment when you get drunk? Alcohol causes excess hunger due to a hormone called leptin. In normal conditions, this hormone sends signals indicating that you have eaten enough and that you are full. However, alcohol suppresses it, therefore you start feeling hungry even when you aren’t. And the more you drink, the hungrier you’ll be.
Alcohol is full of what is often referred to as empty calories. These are calories that have no nutritional value whatsoever and are one of the top contributors to weight gain, especially in women. While it is true that calories are the ones that give you the energy to run that extra mile, these calories are actually counterproductive for your fitness goals. These calories are stored by your body in fat cells, which leads to weight gain. Also, alcohol is very difficult to process, which makes your body focus all its energy on this task. This slows down your metabolism, and a slow metabolism can lead to weight gain too.
When you work out, you lose fluids and electrolytes through sweat. Alcohol dehydrates your body as well. When you combine the two of them, you’re harming your body and fitness more than you think. Alcohol consumption delays muscle recovery after exercise and affects your performance. You should be well hydrated when you exercise in order to maintain the blood flow through the body. This is essential for carrying oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, which improves your performance.
When I abused alcohol, the only way I was able to fall asleep was by getting drunk. But I would wake up the next day feeling like I hadn’t rested at all. This is because alcohol messes with your REM sleep stage, which is the restorative stage. When the quality of your sleep suffers, you will feel tired throughout the day. This tiredness will inevitably reduce your athletic performance and you will not get the results you want from your workout.
Alcohol impairs a body process called protein synthesis. This process is vital for muscle development and maintenance. No matter how hard you pump, drinking alcohol will affect your muscle growth. In addition to this, binge drinking increases the level of cortisol in your body, which is a hormone that can destroy muscle.
Alcohol might be fun, but it is not worth sacrificing your health and fitness. It was only when I got sober that I was able to acquire healthy habits, like exercising and eating healthy. Today, almost ten years later, I’m in great physical shape and feel healthier than ever. Quitting alcohol is tough (trust me, I know it), but it is the smartest thing to do if you really want to achieve physical and mental wellness.
Do you know any other ways alcohol can affect your fitness and health? If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below.