is Alcohol good for you (1)

Does Alcohol Consumption Affect My Fitness Journey?

Alcohol is just like anything else that you put into your body: it absolutely affects your fitness journey.  

The extent to which you need to be concerned about it, however, is going to vary depending on your goals and other lifestyle habits.

One of the main things I do in coaching my clients, is help them find the nutritional flexibility to imbibe occasionally, while still meeting their fitness goals.

To do this, it is important to understand the basics of how alcohol affects different aspects of your health and fitness.

Even if you are not calorie-counting, it is still helpful to understand how alcohol affects bodily processes!

The effect of alcohol on the body is a perfect example of the assertion that fitness isn’t all about calories in versus calories out!

I hope that after reading this blog, you will not only understand the various ways alcohol affects the body, but also feel capable of respectfully managing alcohol consumption.

 To help you do this, I will be answering the following questions:

  1. Does alcohol have nutrition?
  2. How does alcohol affect muscle building?
  3. How does alcohol affect fat loss?
  4. How does alcohol affect your belly area?
  5. What to do before drinking alcohol
  6. What to do while drinking alcohol
  7. What to do after drinking alcohol

I will also be linking additional helpful fitness information which I will summarize in the links at the bottom!

Now let’s get you up to speed about what you need to know about alcohol and your fitness journey…

Does alcohol have nutrition?

Toxins, preservatives, color

The first, and most important thing to remember when consuming alcohol is that the body perceives alcohol (ethanol) to be a poison.

So essentially, a shot of liquor with a high alcohol content, is a shot of poison.

So no, alcohol does not have nutrition.

In addition to that, there are often toxic ingredients added to alcoholic beverages such as colors, glitter, artificial sweeteners and more.

Before anything else, alcohol should be considered toxic to consume.

Fast acting carbs

Certain alcoholic beverages can technically be considered to be sources of fast-acting carbs such as beer, liquor mixed with juice, etc.

This is simply a factual observation, not encouragement to use alcohol as a fast-acting carb source.

There are much more helpful carbohydrate sources that should be consumed before alcohol is even considered.

Learn more about healthy carb sources in my blog: Are Carbs My Enemy?

What about red wine?

Red wine is often considered to be something of a “health food” by people trying to find a healthy outlet for their alcohol-drinking vice.

The reality is that red wine might be one of the least destructive types of alcohol you can consume…

But it’s not contributing anything to your health that couldn’t be better solved by omitting alcohol and increasing vegetable intake.

While some studies have shown that some people can benefit from a periodic glass of red wine, other studies have shown that this result can vary wildly from person to person based on lifestyle factors, genealogy and even environment.

If you enjoy a glass of red wine, that’s great!

But don’t kid yourself into thinking that your glass of wine is some sort of health supplement-it’s not and it still contains the toxin, ethanol.

How does alcohol affect muscle building?

Muscle protein synthesis

Muscle protein synthesis is the process of your body using necessary nutrients to build lean muscle mass-it’s literally the build process of muscle building.

Now as I mentioned before: the body perceives alcohol to be a toxin.

Because of this, when alcohol is present in the system, the body focuses all of it’s attention on getting rid of the alcohol as fast as possible (which is part of why you start sweating and urinating a lot).

That means that muscle protein synthesis gets put on hold until the alcohol is gone-you’re not building muscle while you’re drinking.

This leads to two things:

  1. Less gains (sad face)
  2. More muscle soreness (double sad face)

Non-Nutritive Food Consumption

Non-Nutritive Food Consumption is simply consuming food that does not offer necessary nutrients.

Alcoholic beverages qualify as non-nutritive consumption because you’re consuming something, but it has no nutritional value.

The more you fill up on non-nutritive foods, the less likely you are to have stomach space for foods that do offer the nutrients you need to support your muscle building.

So, not only is alcohol going to completely halt muscle protein synthesis, it’s also going to reduce your intake of the nutrients that are necessary to support muscle building.

How does alcohol affect fat loss?

Surplus of empty calories

This is like the idea with non-nutritive foods, except instead of focusing on nutrients missed, we’re focusing on the excess of unnecessary calories consumed.

Drinking alcohol tends to put you in caloric surplus because the alcohol lowers your inhibitions which cause 2 main consequences:

  1. You drink even more calorie-dense drinks, even when you’re past the point of being inebriated.
  2. You start eating (usually junk food) without paying attention to whether you’re even hungry or not.

Both of these things often lead to a caloric surplus of over 1000 calories, on top of the fact that it also loads your body up on toxins.

This is going to prevent fat loss.

Note: a lot of people eat carb-dense food while drinking alcohol with the assumption that the food will “soak up” the alcohol and prevent them from getting too drunk.

While eating may help slow the absorption of alcohol, adding a slice of bread to your stomach isn’t going to “soak up” or prevent anything.

Reduced program adherence

As mentioned just above, alcohol consumption will immediately lower your inhibitions which can cause some questionable decisions… 

But it also affects your discipline and adherence to your fitness program even after the night is over!

For example, if you drink enough you probably will need an entire day of recovery after your night out-that probably means no workout and minimal eating.

Another example is when you get drunk and eat all of your favorite junk foods: a lot of these foods are intentionally addictive so you might spend the next several weeks struggling with cravings after a single night out.

(Side note: If you are interested in foods that are toxic and cause cravings, you HAVE to check out my Clean Eating Blog to learn which ingredients fall into that toxic category.)

In my experience, regular alcohol consumption is more devastating to a client’s ability to stick to a weight loss goal versus a muscle gain goal.

My observation is that weight loss clients are often working to build behavioral skills that regular alcohol consumption is directly contradictory to.

How does alcohol affect your belly area?

Inflammation and gut health

Again, alcohol is a toxin which means it triggers the body’s inflammatory response and is going to cause total body inflammation.

This is why you may start feeling uncomfortably full while drinking and you may feel inflamed, bloated, achy, and have headaches the morning after.

Worst of all is the inflammation that happens in the intestinal tract-that’s primarily what a “beer belly” is…severely inflamed intestines.

This high amount of inflammation in the digestive system happens for two main reasons:

  1. The alcohol itself is inflammatory.
  2. The alcohol kills off your healthy gut bacteria that help you digest food properly, so regular alcohol consumption disrupts your ability to digest food which causes more inflammation.

If you already have disrupted gut health, such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, the inflammatory effect of alcohol can be amplified as it is permitted to more easily travel throughout the body.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is the fat that lines the organs of the body.

It is normal to have a small amount of visceral fat as it helps insulate the organs, but too much visceral fat will end up suffocating the organs and causing disease and dysfunction.

Alcohol consumption, specifically, has been proven to increase the build up of visceral fat around the organs and contribute to the occurrence of diseases such as fatty liver, diabetes and even cancer.

Not only that, but visceral fat is the one type of fat that is held exclusively in the belly area, meaning that if you increase or decrease visceral fat, it will directly affect the size of your belly. 

Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat is the fat that is stored directly under the skin-this is the fat that we pinch and poke at when feeling our bodies.

Because alcohol consumption will often cause you to be in a caloric surplus, you’re also going to be gaining some subcutaneous fat.

Unlike with visceral fat, subcutaneous fat is stored all over the body: the belly, arms, neck, legs…everywhere.

This means that you will probably gain a little bit of fat everywhere (and more in some places that are specific to your genetics), including on top of your already inflamed belly.

If belly fat is something of concern to you, make sure you learn how to work on losing belly fat without crash dieting!


Now despite knowing all of this, most of you are still going to indulge in an alcoholic beverage at some point and that’s okay-there’s really no need to strictly restrict yourself.

I mean, I live with this information in my brain constantly and I am still partial to a dark beer every now and again.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I encourage taking this information and using it to find balance in your lifestyle.

Respect the truth of what you are doing to your body when you drink alcohol, and have the kindness to accommodate your body a bit.

Here are some helpful tips on how to handle the before, during and after of a night out drinking alcohol…

Before going out to drink..


Alcohol (and a lot of the foods it tends to come with) can be quite dehydrating.

Make sure to hydrate well before a night out-you’ll feel better while you’re out, and after.

Most people require around 60-100 ounces of water a day so aim to get within that range before you go out-drink water while you get ready!


One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is trying to “save calories” for a night out.

Basically, they avoid eating all day so that they can use their daily calories on alcohol and whatever they eat while they’re drinking…

I mean, as you read that sentence does it even sound slightly mentally healthy?

Reconsider the fact that alcohol is toxic and then think about how much your body is going to enjoy going from essentially being starved all day, to suddenly ingesting large amounts of poison.

It’s just rude honestly.

Eat normally before going out for drinks with friends-maybe even eat a little more so that you’re not hungry when you first start your night.

Include plenty of nourishing foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources.

This will help you handle your alcohol better, reduce junk food cravings and improve your ability to recover the next day.


When considering the workout before a night out, we want to draw attention to the fact that alcohol stops muscle protein synthesis.

Being that you will have a reduced capacity to repair muscle mass, and that you will likely be consuming excess calories, it makes sense that the workout before an occasion of alcohol drinking should be more cardio-based instead of strength training.

This is not to say that you need to workout at all.

There is no need to try to “make up for calories” by doing a grueling workout-this is as mentally unhealthy as avoiding eating all day.

If you do want to do a workout, however, (maybe for your own enjoyment) you would probably want to avoid a workout that would leave you really muscularly sore.

While you’re turning up…

while you're turning up


Hydration is something that you want to be mindful of while you’re drinking alcohol, in addition to the before drinking water intake.

This is going to be especially important if you’re doing something like dancing that may cause you to sweat.

Obviously you’re not going to keep great track of water intake while you’re getting a little turnt up, and honestly I don’t think it’s mentally healthy to fixate on during a fun night out.

Instead, use markers as times that you can casually plan to drink water. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Drink a glass of water after finishing each alcoholic beverage
  • Drink a glass of water every time you have to use the restroom
  • Drink a glass of water after every 3 songs you dance to

Whatever works best for you without making you crazy is completely fine!

Avoid certain drinks or liquors

There is a small list of things I recommend avoiding when it comes to alcohol-this is usually because the product is notoriously toxic and disruptive to the body…

  • Liquors/ liqueurs with edible glitter or metal flake
  • Liquors/ liqueurs with artificial flavoring
  • Cheap (in quality) wine and liquors

These drinks often include additives or byproducts that contribute to the toxicity of the body and make your drinking experience (and the next day) more miserable than necessary.

If you’re going to drink alcohol, be a little fancy about it.

Snack as healthy as possible

If you’re munching while you’re out drinking, get yourself as much nutrition as possible.

This doesn’t mean to force yourself to be the only girl sitting there eating salad.

This means: don’t avoid the vegetables on the shared platter.

If the first appetizer was a fried dish, order something not fried for the next appetizer.

If you’re eating red meat in your entree, make sure you get a vegetable side.

It’s simple really: just do your best.

Stay active

Do something while you drink: dance, walk, play games…

Engage in some sort of activity to help your body process the alcohol-as your blood flows, your body will be able to detoxify quicker.

This will help you handle your alcohol better, have less of a hangover and minimize any caloric surplus that you may create.

After drinking alcohol

After drinking alcohol (1)


This should be no surprise: again we are hydrating!

I like to leave a water bottle next to my bed for the next morning, and I may end up drinking some throughout the night.

Another idea is to just chug (as long as you’re not nauseous) a glass of water before you fall asleep and then sleep it off.

However you end up doing it, you’re going to want to rehydrate after a night of drinking alcohol.

Eat to soothe the stomach

The next day, you’re going to want to eat foods that will help soothe the stomach.

This does not include high sugar or deep fat fried foods, which for some reason are popular hangover foods.

Deep fat fried foods are not “soaking up” any residual alcohol in your stomach.

Instead, opt for healthy fat sources such as avocado, olive oil and nuts.

Also make sure to eat some slow-digesting carbs to help replenish energy and minerals. Examples include quinoa, beans, oats and sweet potatoes.

Once your stomach feels cooperative, make sure to include some natural anti-inflammatory food sources (you can read more about the colors of food that are natural anti inflammatories in my Eating Rainbows Blog).

Get some movement

Post-alcohol is mostly a time to renourish…we’re not immediately looking to burn calories (unless you didn’t drink much and you feel okay).

Instead, the intention of the movement after a night of drinking is to gently encourage blood flow and so increase the delivery of nutrients.

Exercises that are going to help with this are:

  • Stretching routines
  • Mobility routines
  • Walking/ Jogging
  • Yoga
  • Sensual movement

Nothing wild-just like with the workout before, you don’t want to go into this thinking that you need to “make up for” calories you consumed last night.

Consume probiotics

Probiotics are those healthy gut bacteria that I mentioned earlier-the ones that help with digestion but get killed off by alcohol.

Once your stomach is ready for it, consume a serving of probiotic food or drink such as kombucha, greek yogurt, kimchi, etc.

(I know kimchi sounds gross for a hangover-check out other sources of probiotics on my blog about the Importance of Probiotics to Female Health!)

Personally, I keep a probiotic green powder in my fridge-it’s basically powdered fruits and vegetables with probiotics added to it.

Whenever I have a night out, I come home and mix a scoop of that powder into water, chug it and then go to sleep-it works wonders for me!

What’s the takeaway?

Alcohol is quite toxic to the body but most people are going to consume it anyway.

The goal should not be to completely avoid it, but to learn how to help the body handle the occasions when you do choose to drink alcohol.

Set up an appointment with myself or another coach, and we’ll help you learn how to handle your weekend shenanigans!

That way you can have your fun and your body can still have your care.

Here’s a little recap of some of the additional information I’ve offered:

  1. Learn more about healthy versus unhealthy carbs in my Are Carbs My Enemy? blog!
  2. Get more information on toxic foods in my Clean Eating Blog.
  3. Practice Losing Belly Fat Without Crash Dieting using some respectful nutrition tips.
  4. Easily implement anti-inflammatory foods using this Rainbow Eating Guide (it has a free downloadable gift inside!)
  5. Read more on Probiotic Foods and how to add more of them to your diet.

Remember: achieving health and fitness is all about educating yourself and finding balance in your lifestyle!

This article was written by Elexis Smolak CPT, CNC, WFS founder of Adapted Fitness and Integrative Health and Fitness Specialist for Women. Learn more or schedule a virtual coffee at