If one of your New Year’s resolutions relates to fitness—whether you want to lose some holiday padding or increase your overall fitness—pay attention to what’s in your glass. The mantra chanted at gyms and on fitness blogs—that alcohol is bad for fitness—is correct to a certain extent, but there are also benefits to alcohol consumption. It all depends on what, when, and how much you drink. Let’s break it down:
More research is needed, but it’s looking like red wine is your best bet for getting the most health benefits out of your after-work happy hour. Red wine contains an antioxidant compound called resveratrol that may have many health benefits. A few of the positive effects thus far reported by some studies include helping to prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, certain cancers, diabetes, gum disease and tooth decay. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine because the antioxidant comes from grape skins, and white wines are not fermented with their skins like red wines are. Certain grape varieties such as petit sirah and cabernet sauvignon have more resveratrol than others.
If you choose your timing carefully, you can avoid the worst effects of alcohol. Alcohol restricts your body’s ability to build muscle, so avoid drinking immediately before or after you work out. It’s also dehydrating, contributing to that lovely feeling after a night of excessive drinking. You’re definitely not hitting the gym with a dehydration headache, so avoid opening a second bottle if you have an early workout planned the next day. Lastly, alcohol disrupts your sleep pattern, which is key to remaining healthy and ready for your next workout, so stop drinking at least an hour before going to bed.
You can reap the benefits of alcohol consumption and avoid the negatives by drinking in moderation. The Centers for Disease Control defines moderate drinking as one drink (5 ounces) per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Any more than that, and the negative effects take over: additional calories (a glass of wine contains 120 calories on average), lowered inhibitions which lead to overeating and blowing off the gym, and it can even lower testosterone levels (definitely a bummer), leading to more fat deposits and water retention.