What You Need To Know About Alcohol & Fitness: Doctors & Nutritionists Weigh In
The holiday season is here, and between holiday parties and general merriness, many of us are drinking a tad more than usual.
But when you have specific goals in mind—whether it's running a marathon or becoming more flexible—it's important to know what factors are helping and hindering those goals. Unfortunately, alcohol can be one of them.
While we certainly want you to enjoy yourself, knowledge is power—so here's what you need to know about alcohol and your fitness goals.
First, the good news: Fitness may ease the symptoms of your hangover.
Say you overdo it on the mulled wine this month. Fitness goals aside, some research shows that light exercise can help with hangovers. So try going for a jog, even if it's the last thing you're in the mood for. It could make a world of difference.
And when you drink, what types of alcohol are healthiest?
Dr. Alicia Armitstead suggests drinking alcohol-free beer or consuming sulfate-free wine (sulfates can cause liver damage) while functional medicine nutritionist Brooke Scheller recommends opting for clear alcohols.
"Ideally, you would choose some type of clear liquor like vodka or gin (my favorite choice) with club and some fresh lemon or lime. Be aware of mixed drinks as they may add simple syrup or other sweeteners that can add up," says Brooke. "I also love adding fresh herbs like rosemary, mint, or basil for flavor and anti-inflammatory benefit."
Now, the bad news: Alcohol causes inflammation in the body.
If you're working to reach a fitness goal, inflammation can slow you down a bit. And while certain alcohols are said to come with benefits—red wine has flavonoids, for example, which may help with heart health—it's important to take inflammation into account.
"Secondary to sugar, alcohol is also a major contributor to inflammation in the body," Brooke Scheller tells mbg. "In practice, I find that inflammation is one of the key reasons someone struggles to lose weight and reach their fitness goals...inflammation can also contribute to joint pain and muscle aches that may slow someone down at the gym."
Long story short: Be mindful of how much and what you're drinking, keep inflammation in mind, and don't forget to have a good time.
Leigh Weingus is a New York City based freelance journalist and former Senior Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen where she analyzed new research on human behavior, looked at the intersection of wellness and women's empowerment, and took deep dives into the latest sex and relationship trends. She received her bachelor’s in English and Communication from the University of California, Davis. She has written for HuffPost, Glamour, and NBC News, among others, and is a certified yoga instructor.