Liquid refreshments

Last week I talked about alcohol. Usually, when I post about alcohol I get a lot of negative feedback, not this time. In fact, last week when I was just about to hit the “publish” button after a long time researching, writing and rewriting I almost thought, why bother? I almost started again with another topic. This time I am glad I didn’t.

You wrote back with some of the most amazing responses.

Some of you told me you had decided to stop drinking, maybe not forever, but for now. Some of you told me that you had secretly stopped and hadn’t told anyone, yet. I heard from a lot of you and it was all positive. One person, who started as a client and has become a valued friend sent me this email.

“5 years ago you convinced me to stop drinking and I am forever grateful. I love exercise so much more now and you can’t put a price on feeling great every morning. Thank  you”

There is nothing better than feeling good.

This week is about replenishing and replacing fluids and what happens if you drink to celebrate your athletic accomplishments.

Let’s start with some facts about hydration:

  • Fluids are essential for performance and recovery.
  • Even 2% dehydration will have negative effects on your performance and ability.
  • As little as 5% dehydration results in 20-30% decrease in endurance.
  • For example, a 150 lb person who loses 3-4.5 pounds during a workout equals 2-3 % dehydration.
  • Stay hydrated all the time.

A simple test to check your hydration status is to check the colour of your urine – it should be clear and odourless. Water is the optimal fluid replacement for exercise lasting 60-90 minutes. Longer exercise sessions require fuel and hydration. A good choice is a fluid with a 4 -8% glucose solution such as GU, Gatorade, Skratch or juice. The best are not pre-mixed these contain oil, but powder that you mix yourself before using.

Always read the label.

Here are a  few hydration guidelines for training and competition:

It can be challenging to get enough fluids when you exercise. Even so, you need to be sure to drink enough to prevent the lack of hydration from interfering with your performance and your health. For all endurance sports, 2 hours before exercising or the event, 500 ml or 2 cups of cool fluid is recommended. This time frame provides the window needed for absorption and time for the liquid to reach the bladder for emptying before the event.

For exercising less than 60 minutes cool water on completion or drink when you are thirsty. The research shows that cool water is slightly better absorbed and that gulps are better absorbed than sips.

For exercising more than 60 minutes drink 4-6 ounces (0.1-0.2 litres) cool fluid every 15-20 minutes with a 4-8% carbohydrate solution and 0.5 – 0.7 grams of sodium/liter.

This is the typical percentage of carbohydrate and sodium found in commercial sports drinks. However, sports drinks should not be confused with energy drinks which are not advised for any type of exercise activities. To assist in gauging your fluid intake, put four evenly spaced marks on your water bottle to help you judge how much you are drinking.

What about alcohol and exercise?

Overall, alcohol is detrimental to sports performance because of how it affects the body during exercise. It does this in a few ways.

1. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes your kidney produce more urine, drinking too much of it can lead to dehydration. Exercising soon after drinking alcohol can make this dehydration worse because you sweat as your body temperature rises. Combined, sweating and the diuretic effect of exercise make dehydration much more likely. You need to be hydrated when you exercise to maintain the flow of blood through your body, which is essential for circulating oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.

2. Alcohol interferes with the way your body makes energy. When you’re metabolizing or breaking down alcohol the liver can’t produce as much glucose, which means you have low levels of blood sugar. Exercise requires high levels of sugar to give you energy. If your liver isn’t producing enough glucose, your performance will be adversely affected. Professor Greg Whyte, an expert in sports performance says,

“If your body is forced to run from your supplies of fat rather than blood sugar, you will be slower and have less energy and won’t be able to exercise as intensely,”

This can also result in decreased reaction time, coordination, and concentration. Alcohol affects heart rate, recovery, sleep, muscle development, and recovery.

3. Alcohol replaces valuable nutrients. 1 gram of alcohol has 7 calories. 7 calories that aren’t nutritious. Alcohol also impairs your ability to break down healthy nutrients by reducing the number of digestive enzymes your pancreas produces. Alcohol has a direct effect on your metabolism causing fat to be stored as opposed to being used as a fuel source.

4. Alcohol is not a performance enhancing drug. It reduces blood flow to the muscles and reduces production of testosterone while increasing the conversion of testosterone to estrogen causing increased fat storage. If you want to increase muscle mass, decrease body fat and improve performance, don’t drink alcohol. 

5. Alcohol affects your ability to recover from injuries.  It reduces your ability to produce Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by up to 70%. HGH is produced while we sleep and repairs muscle cell damage. Alcohol also impairs sleep quality. Alcohol delays blood coagulation of inflamed tissues increasing the length of time you need to recover from injuries.  

Water and sports drinks are the best choices for improved fitness.

Change your mind, change your health,


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