To Drink Or Not To Drink

To Drink Or Not To Drink
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BULK POWDERS™ Guide to alcohol this Christmas

We’re not advocating drinking, in fact, many of us here at BULK POWDERS™ are teetotal – but over Christmas it can be hard to say no to a festive tipple or two (or three…or four…). We all know it’s not the smartest of ideas, but there won’t be many people who completely abstain from alcohol for the entire festive period.

So if you are going to drink, what’s the deal with alcohol? We covered how alcohol can affect your training in a previous blog post ‘Alcohol and Bodybuilding: Do they mix?’. And the bad news is it’s not going to help you in the long run. Drinking week in, week out is something you won’t catch anyone serious about building muscle taking part in. But for a one off (for a night or two out partying over Christmas) most people will indulge. So we’ve put together a survival guide, answering some of the most common questions, that might help you when deciding whether to indulge this Christmas.

Can I work out after drinking?

We’re not talking about staggering into the gym at 3am after having had a skinful… We mean the kind of scenario where you head out to the pub at lunchtime, sink a pint or two and then head straight to the gym after you finish your day at work. More common at Christmas than at any other time, is it safe for you to hit the gym after a sociable drink?

The smart answer is no. Although you might feel fine after a couple of drinks, alcohol affects your nervous system, even after a couple of mouthfuls, slowing you down and and impairing balance and hand-eye coordination. Plus even a drop of alcohol reduces your strength, endurance and aerobic capacity. This makes a gym visit after some bevvies more risky, and more effort with less to be gained.

Exercising with alcohol in your system (which includes the morning after) will certainly make you feel the burn the next day – it slows down the rate at which you recover and is a sure-fire way to get DOMS. Plus alcohol is also a diuretic, which means you are prone to becoming dehydrated more easily than usual. But after a long afternoon (post pub-lunch), surely the alcohol will have worn off? The effects of your drink are at their strongest 40 to 90 minutes after drinking – meaning that hopefully the worst is over by the time you reach the gym. But the alcohol will stay in your bloodstream until your liver can process it, and everyone metabolizes alcohol at a different rate. The leaner you are, the quicker your rate will be – so if you are bulking for the winter then watch out!

The NHS advises that, roughly, it takes about an hour for your body to break down just one unit of alcohol – dependent on your weight, age, sex, metabolism, how much you’ve eaten that day and what is was that you drank. So if you had two pints (or a large glass of wine) at 1pm, it’s estimated that by 7pm your bloodstream will be alcohol free. So should you feel the gym call you, make sure you drink plenty of water and exercise with care.

Which drink is the best for me to choose?

There is no ‘best drink’. Only some choices for you to make about which drinks will harm your macros less than others. And seeing as we’re all trying hard to either make some gains or lose some pounds, even at Christmas we like to make sure we don’t throw months of hard work down the drain. Drinking in moderation is certainly better than an all-out binge – but Christmas is not usually about moderation! If you can, try and stick to no more than three drinks. If you can’t, then be aware of your calorie intake – which is set to explode. Your body will prioritise metabolising the alcohol ahead of burning fat – so that late night kebab after several pints is never a good idea…

Calories in Beer

Beer can vary in calories: if you’re the designated driver then you’re only going to be knocking back roughly 40 calories per time with a non alcoholic beer, however a pint of something stronger can set you back more. Stella is 256 calories, Grolsch is 244, Heineken is 227, Becks Bier is 204, Fosters is 193, and Carling comes in as ‘the best’ with only 187 calories (all per pint).

Calories in Wine

Wine also varies: in a 175ml glass, there are 133 calories in an average Champagne, 119 in an average red wine, 124 in an average rose wine, 116 in an average dry white wine and 130 in an average medium white wine.

Calories in Spirits

Spirits are a much more calorie friendly bet, especially when paired with a diet mixer. A single Bacardi and coke or Jack Daniels and coke is 129 calories, but making a swap to diet coke takes it down to just 65 calories. An even more diet friendly option is Southern Comfort – with regular lemonade a single comes in at 73 calories but with diet lemonade a single will set you back just 48 calories.

If you’re a lover of cocktails or alcopops then your macros are going to need some serious manipulation to factor in the amount of sugar these drinks can contain! A bottled alcopop like Bacardi Breezer contains around 160 – 180 calories on average, but a WKD is one of the worst, setting you back around 230 calories.

I’ve worked hard, now I want play hard! Having a beer whilst showing off my post workout pump is okay, right?

Yes… but not if you crack open a beer as soon as you place the weights back in the rack. After a workout your glycogen store will be depleted and topping them up with alcohol isn’t the smartest idea. Giving your recovering muscles a drink will displace the carbs in your system that work to repair the muscles. This can affect you up to eight hours later, leaving your glycogen stores 50% lower than normal and setting you back a day of making progress.

If you must drink immediately after a workout, make sure your body is fully prepared for the recovery process by consuming some muscle repairing Complete Recovery™ and a high protein/high carb snack (try Active Foods™ Peanut Butter on wholemeal toast) first.

Are there any other supplements I can take to lessen the effect alcohol has on my recovery?

As mentioned above, protein is key to ensuring that protein synthesis (the process of building new stronger proteins for stronger muscle tissue – essential for building muscle) doesn’t decrease. In an experiment in America athletes were tested to see whether their protein synthesis reduced when drinking after a workout. They drunk a lot of booze in three hours, and their protein synthesis decreased by 37%. The same subjects repeated the experiment, this time supplementing with a whey protein recovery drink – this time their protein synthesis only decreased by 24%. Drinking every so often, or not drinking a lot doesn’t necessarily have to equal a loss in gains, but you must get straight on your post workout nutrition and supplements to lessen the effects.

Aside from Complete Recovery™, you can also help out your body with any whey protein product, such as Pure Whey Protein™ and a post workout supplement such as Complete All in One™ .

What about my hangover? Will a workout make it disappear?

Although there is no magical cure (unfortunately), there is some science behind ‘sweating out’ a hangover. Producing sweat helps to eliminate all the toxins from your body, and can help you feel back to normal a lot quicker. But you must take a few precautions before you hit the gym in a ‘delicate’ state.

It’s no secret that alcohol makes you pee, and at around 10oz of urine out for every two beers in (and no other fluids), the morning after the night before can see you seriously dehydrated. Being as little as 2% percent dehydrated can hurt your performance, so try Complete Hydration Drink™ to rehydrate.

Be as well rested as you can before working out. Drinking can decrease sleep duration and increase wakefulness, especially in women, who get on average 30 minutes less sleep when they have been drinking. A disrupted nights sleep can reduce the amount of human growth hormone you produce by anything up to 70%, which can make for a fruitless gym session.

Pre-work nutrition has never been so important – skip the fryup and instead choose a carb filled breakfast, such as Complete Protein Porridge™, an hour before you train to give you the energy to get through your session.

Gearing up for a high intensity workout might be a mistake, as doing so much movement without rest when your body can’t recover quickly might be a step too far. Instead stick to an easy stretch on the treadmill or lifting – going easy on the reps to avoid exhaustion and overexertion.

What about reducing my hangover? Any top tips?

  • Eat well – before, during and after a night out. Your hangover should be easier, and your delicate stomach will be able to cope better the morning after.
  • N Acetyl L Cysteine (known as NAC) taken around 30 minutes before your first drink can help a hangover. One of the biggest contributors to the dreaded hangover is acetaldehyde toxicity, which NAC is shown to reduce.
  • Eggs are naturally high in cysteine, which although works best as a preventative measure, is also worth giving a go the morning after if your night out was a spur of the moment thing. Try a liquid egg white omlette for breakfast.
  • If you’re going to have a particularly heavy night out, combine NAC with B Vitamin Complex Tablets as Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) increases the effectiveness. Also included in the B Vitamin tablets is Vitamin B12, which is well known for its hangover soothing properties.
  • Taking Green Tea before drinking is thought to be good for your liver, and in turn may help to reduce a severe hangover.
  • Alcohol depletes magnesium, an anti inflammatory mineral. As most hangovers are linked to inflammation, take Magnesium Bisglycinate to ease your morning after.
  • Hydrate with electrolytes to kick your body back into touch. Try BULK POWDERS™ Electrolyte Powder.
  • A particularly raging hangover can be caused by low potassium levels. Give yourself a top up by snacking on foods rich in potassium such as tuna, macadamia nuts, almonds, mushrooms, dried apricots, raisins, dried coconut, avocados, bananas and kiwi fruit.
  • Hangover headaches can be caused both by the swelling of blood vessels in your head and also by dehydration. Coffee can actually reduce the swelling of blood vessels, and also gives you the caffeine boost you need to combat fatigue and get yourself out of bed and into the gym. Complete Protein Coffee™ also contains Hydrolysed Whey Protein Isolate too.

We’d love to hear your ‘tried and tested’ hangover cures. Lets us know via Facebook or Twitter what method you’re swearing by this Christmas to get you up and about after a festive celebration (please note: ‘hair of the dog’ does not count as a hangover removal method….).

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