It doesn't take a genius to realize that alcohol doesn't mix well with exercise, but the actual impact of swigging a drink post-workout as opposed to a protein shake might be more devastating than you may think. It's important to take proper precaution when deciding to slug back a couple beers after exercise.
Alcohol Acts As A Toxin
The average gym-goer has his or her own guilty pleasures. For some, it's tough to kick a regular drinking habit, especially in social settings. The idea of cutting out drinking can be just as difficult as making a dedicated effort to eat a low-carb diet. We are all creatures of habit, which means we sometimes make decisions that might be cognitively recognized as "wrong," but we execute that choice regardless.
In regards to post-workout alcohol consumption, the general consensus is that alcohol acts as a toxin, forcing the body to use added energy. This process negatively impacts recovery and can result in added soreness the next morning. In addition, workout performance also becomes affected. You're less likely to workout at high-intensity levels on the day following a night of drinking.
For men, post-workout alcohol consumption can be especially damaging to muscle recovery, specifically because it decreases the body's naturally-occurring levels of testosterone, which is crucial for building muscle mass. As seen and heard on television beer ads, "please drink responsibly."
Consider the importance of water when working out. Staying hydrated is a crucial aspect of gaining optimal benefits from an intense cardiovascular or weightlifting session. The body needs water to help supply working muscles with the fuel they require to operate efficiently. Alcohol is a diuretic, which essentially means that it sucks water from your body, forcing you to become dehydrated. The resulting effect is fatigue and loss of muscle definition due to a lack of muscular-produced energy.
Added Belly Fat & Heart Disease
The infamous "beer belly" is a product of over-consumption of alcoholic beverages because of the so-called empty calories they contain. Most drinks won't fill you up, but that doesn't mean your body isn't enduring a calorie overload.
If you're genetically prone to quick weight gains, alcohol consumption should be limited to special occasions (e.g. not just because it's the weekend). For some, sporting a belly bulge isn't a deal-breaker when it comes to working out, but it's important to realize that excess fat deposits in the abdominal region can lead to severe health defects, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Men are at higher risk for these consequences than women because males naturally store fat in their bellies. Although a couple post-workout beers with your friends won't cause your gut to bulge overnight, a regular drinking habit can severely alter your body's composition, potentially causing health problems.