There’s a reason Olympic athletes don’t drink - funny that!
Most of us aren’t Olympic athletes and aren’t being paid money to perform to a certain standard of physical prowess. So why the heck shouldn’t we enjoy a few hard earned drinks at the weekend?!
However when I began to experience big benefits to abstaining, it began to seem less of a treat to unwind with weekend wine and more of a treat to enjoy the benefits of a no booze lifestyle.
There was an unmistakable improvement in aspects of my fitness too. So I suppose it depends on your cost/benefit analysis of alcohol, how important your fitness performance is to you and also what your relationship with alcohol is like to begin with.
I’d say even a break now and then if you are a regular drinker is well worth it!
The biggest benefit I have noticed is the quality of my sleep. Alcohol disrupts your REM sleep cycle. REM sleep is considered the most restorative phase of sleep so when it is disrupted you aren’t benefitting from the full recovery and repair effects of sleep.
The sleep recording on my watch objectively shows that I now experience more REM sleep at the weekends (when I would normally drink wine)
I’m actually quite surprised by the change in my sleep. I mostly sleep right through and if I do wake up my mind feels much more relaxed and so I can drift off again.
The benefit of sleep quality on fitness performance cannot be overstated and of course on general mental well-being too. In terms of fitness performance personally, I’ve found that I recover from hard weekend workouts more effectively and therefore I’m much fresher and raring to go on a Monday.
I only drank alcohol at weekends but even a small amount can dehydrate you. Alcohol is a diuretic so it causes water loss through urine.
I definitely feel less thirsty during my weekend workouts and immediately I saw my performance improve.
Dehydration also affects mood, skin and gut health.
I now find I can complete a tough workout AND still have energy for other areas of my life.
I don’t weigh myself and weight loss wasn’t a motive to stop drinking however I would say I’ve seen changes in my physique. Building muscle becomes harder in your 40s but it’s not impossible and well worth it for health and functional benefits. Alcohol hinders muscle protein synthesis and many people struggle to drink it in moderation. This is not surprising because alcohol is addictive. If you are reducing calories in your diet in order to allow for alcohol calories then it's pretty likely you aren’t eating enough protein for muscle repair and growth.
A lot of women at my stage of life experience hormonal imbalance due to the Peri Menopause and this can certainly affect your mood. Unfortunately alcohol is not a friend of mood stability especially if you drink frequently and more than the recommended units.
Alcohol gives you an initial ‘high’ or ‘buzz’ and relaxes you because it encourages the release of dopamine in your brain. This is a huge reward for your brain and therefore it wills you to drink because it knows it gets this big reward. However after this initial high the brain begins to block endorphins and it doesn’t last.
Alcohol ultimately can lead to anxiety and low mood even in moderate amounts.
After 8 weeks without alcohol I noticed significant improvement in my mood stability and actually felt pretty euphoric at times. There is a clarity that comes with zero alcohol consumption and life is certainly not boring or dull without it – a common myth.
There are many ways we can improve our health and well being but alcohol can be one of the last considerations because it’s such a part of life and culture. If you can switch your mindset and rather than feeling like you are missing out, embrace what you will gain, then I think even a break from booze now and then has a really positive impact on your fitness journey.