Alcohol’s Effect on Health & Exercise

Dry January is the annual movement through which millions of people give up alcohol for the month of January and our class participants and clients may be doing it as well.  So what are the benefits of giving up or cutting down on alcohol consumption and how does alcohol effect exercise and performance? Let’s explore this area so we can continue to educate and inform our clients to encourage positive long term behaviour change.

Some of the benefits of cutting out alcohol for 31 days are:

  • A way of reevaluating your relationship with alcohol
  • Saving money
  • Improving sleep
  • Losing weight
  • Sense of achievement
  • More energy

What effect does alcohol have on exercise and performance?


Alcohol is a diuretic and makes the kidneys produce more urine. Drinking too much alcohol leads to dehydration. Exercising the day after drinking alcohol can make this worse as we sweat in response to our body temperatures rising. Good hydration is essential for exercise so that blood volume is maintained to circulate oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

There is also the risk of overheating.

Energy production

Alcohol also interferes with the role of the liver during exercise as alcohol is a toxin and the body channels all energy into expelling it. This means other processes such as the production of glucose and the hormones that regulate it are interrupted. If the liver isn’t producing enough glucose, exercise intensity, concentration and motor skills will be affected.

The liver will also be slower to disperse lactic acid, which can lead to muscle fatigue, lack of strength and cramps.

The nervous system

The nervous system is affected by alcohol as it slows down the functioning of nerve cells and activity in the CNS.  Although this is obvious while alcohol is being consumed it takes a while to wear off and may still effect exercise sessions slowing reaction time and effecting co ordination and balance. The effects will build up over time if alcohol is drunk often.

What are the effects of alcohol consumption on health?

Weight gain

Alcohol is high in calories (7kcal per gram) and these are ‘empty’ calories, which means they are nutritionally poor. If people are exercising to try and reduce weight this can hamper progress. Research has shown that drinking stimulates appetite and this is thought to be due to its effect on the hunger hormones including Leptin and cortisol.

Altered heart rate

Drinking has been linked to atrial fibrillation a form of arrhythmia that can lead to other heart complications.


Even moderate drinking has been linked to increase risk of breast, colon and other cancers; this is thought to be because alcohol blocks the absorption of folate.

Other health effects

Heavy drinking can cause malnutrition, inflammation of the liver and eventually cirrhosis.

These are just some of the potential impacts that alcohol can have on exercise and health. Sharing this information with clients will help educate them towards a healthier lifestyle. Everyone knows that alcohol isn’t great for them but few could relay the reasons to you. Understanding these impacts could help them make changes that will last.

Good luck spreading the message 🙂








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