Alcohol: a good slave, an awful master!

At the time of writing it ’twas the season to be jolly and therefore saw a flurry Christmas parties and shenanigans. This means even those who refrain from the weekly binge drinking sessions found themselves propping up a bar or leaning into a friends ear to tell them how much they love them. I was one of those people.

Now, I love a drink but I am much more of a light social drinker having the odd beer with a friend or wine with my meal or a tipple some evenings to wind down. So these evenings of copious amounts of alcohol aren’t something I am used to and although I hold my own on the night I am finding it increasingly difficult to handle the day after. This happens to us all right?! And it is of no surprise, after all your body has taken in a large quantity of the drug and you liver is working damn hard to process it and your immune system goes into overdrive as it fends off the toxin. But a day or two (maybe three after those whiskies that you were persuaded into downing) and you are back to yourself again where normal life can resume. Or can it?!

The problem is it had been a good three days after a celebratory drink and my body felt good again. I had hydrated, had good sleep and was back to a good food routine (or so I thought) so I was ready to hit the gym…or so I thought. However, after an optimistic warm-up I hit my reps only to be bewildered by the quick fatigue and diminishing performance – “What is wrong with me”! I rested, hydrated and hit the reps again hoping it was just a blip but things got worse. I have been training pretty much my whole life and acknowledge that some days, for varying reasons, you can’t quite get the performance you want or expect. But these days aren’t even close to what I was experiencing – my performance felt it was only just hitting 30% of what I am used to. I know my binge session with the lads was a big one but surely it wouldn’t effect me this much, especially as (I thought) I had completed my hangover stint!

Walking away feeling confused I wanted to find out why this might be. I found out that there’s more to alcohol than just dehydration and ridding toxins, apparently alcohol:

  • Hello Estrogen, Goodbye Testosterone – alcohol slows down your ability to process estrogen and this slump means a build up of estrogen which in turn means a decrease in testosterone as estrogen lowers the levels. We need testosterone as it helps muscles grow and repair – maybe I shouldn’t have danced after that fifth pint!
  • Vitamins and Minerals just wash away – large amounts of alcohol will see levels of vitamins A, C, the B’s, calcium, zinc and phosphorus which we need for many reasons such as energy, muscle repair and immune system rapidly decrease.
  • Snooze Quality – while alcohol can knock you clean out it doesn’t give you good quality of sleep, and as your body deals with the effects of alcohol. Sleep is the bodies downtime and much recovery is made during this time. So I may have been getting my sleep patterns back but I hadn’t quite got there meaning when the body was put to the test it didn’t quite have the “umph” needed.
  • Hydrate isn’t just water – I had hydrated…so I thought. But my body needed more than just water. It needed electrolytes – salts and minerals that help keep you hydrated.

So one thing is for sure, the hangover had gone but the effects of alcohol hadn’t quite overcome. Two days later I went to the gym and felt more myself – I’d got an early night, continued hydration (with electrolytes this time) and managed to get back towards my normal self.

This experience wasn’t anything ground breaking, but it reminded me of how excessive drinking can effect our bodies and functioning even after a couple days recovery. The instant “I’m never drinking again” feeling soon passes so I still enjoy a drink at home or with friends but the reminder helps me keep it balanced and enjoy it without detrimental effect to the other antics in my life. It’ll also help keep at bay any real health issues I might’ve had with drink in later life. So i’m going drink responsibly, because I’m responsible for making things happen in my life.

Cheers folks!

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