Alcohol and fitness

Alcohol and fitness. How do these words fit together in your mind? Are they compatible? Or does one exclude the other? It’s interesting how often people ask me if I drink – I would have thought that the amount I talk about gin would have answered that question years ago. 😉 I thought I’d make a post about it, since a huge number of my followers are of university/early work age but also interested in health and fitness. Since health can be a total minefield I thought I’d clear a few things up.

Alcohol has calories

Because alcohol is essentially a carbohydrate, it can contain a lot of calories – plenty more than you might expect for a drink. It also interrupts how our bodies deal with other foods, slowing down the absorption of nutrients and reducing the amount of fat our bodies burn for energy. A pint of beer contains around 200 calories, while a glass of wine (175ml) contains around 125 calories. However, if you take these into account when thinking about your daily diet, it is very possible to work around this fact! I enjoy drinking a couple of times a week and do not find that it affects my weight whether I have them or not. I just factor in the calories of alcohol (very roughly) and have fewer snacks that week. Simple!

Alcohol can lead to bad decision making

Drinking can lead to cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Most of us have felt that post-night-out craving for chips/burger/kebab, and this can have serious consequences on our healthy intentions. When I was at university I used to keep a bowl of porridge or sweet potato fries at home to eat after a big night out. After drinking and dancing for a long period of time, your body craves nutrition, so it is best to feed it something with a little more nutritional value than Bobby’s kebab shop can offer. Pre-plan before a night out to make sure you’re prepared. Another favourite late night snack is toast with olive oil or a large bowl of granola. Find what works for you and stick to it – your body and bank will thank you!

The aftermath

Obviously excessive alcohol can leave us a little worse for wear the morning (and let’s be honest, the entire day/2 days) afterwards. When we are hungover, it is mainly because our bodies are severely dehydrated which actually makes your brain shrink, pulling away from the sides of your brain case. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, making you wee more than you would usually in order to flush out more toxins from your body (yes, alcohol is a poison). Pretty much anyone who drinks has had a hangover, but there are ways to reduce your likelihood of getting one!

  1. Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume.
  2. Opt for lighter alcohols – the darker the alcohol (red wine, rum, bourbon), the more congeners they have, exacerbating headaches the next day.
  3. Take electrolyte salts and/or an aspirin (with lots of water) before you sleep. I drink minimum 500ml right before bed if I’ve been drinking.
  4. Avoid caffeine on your night our and in the morning. You may feel like you need it but your body won’t thank you. Caffeine is also a diuretic and will make you even more dehydrated! Just give yourself water and time to recover.
  5. Take ibuprofen and eat anti-inflammatory foods in the morning. Alcohol triggers inflammation in the body which can make hangovers feel worst, so getting swelling down is key.

When hungover we can be tempted to eat alllll the foods in my opinion it’s OK to have that greasy fry up you are craving if you’re hungover, especially if you’ve factored it in to your weekly diet. However, after a night out our bodies are craving health, so opting for something more nutritious might actually make you feel better (and has less of an impact on your fitness goals).

My favourite drinks:

I am a sucker for a gin and tonic! Slimline or full fat, depending on how many I’m having. Gin will always be my go to spirit, but some people cannot handle it at all. Find what works for you and don’t overindulge (or it might not work so well next time).

For a dinner party I like white wine. Red wine is said to have some health benefits but the sulphites don’t agree with me hugely, so it’s not my go to. However a glass here and here is absolutely fine for me. Of course I also love a good champagne, but the sugar and bubbles make me hyperactive and drunker faster, and also leave me with a worse hangover if I have to many.

If I’m planning on having more than a few drinks, I might opt for something fairly plain, like a vodka lime soda. Tastes delicious and fresh without having the added sugar and impurities of other drinks.

On special occasions (picnics in the park) I’ll drink Crabbies, an alcoholic ginger beer. It’s spectacularly bad for you but to be honest, life is for enjoying, and Crabbies makes me happy because it reminds me of summer.

Summary

I think it’s important to know how alcohol affects your body and your mind – both biologically and for you, personally. Everyone reacts differently, and some people decide that drinking is incompatible with their fitness goals. In my opinion, as with pretty much everything for me, I think it’s all about moderation. Live life, enjoy yourself and know your limits.

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Christmas confidence

Are you an introvert or extrovert? A mixture of both?

I used to class myself firmly in the introverted category, avoiding social situations where possible and finding myself feeling reluctant and awkward any time a situation required speaking real words to real people. Even now I find myself beating myself for saying X because no one laughed, or patting myself on the back when people seem genuinely interested in what I have to say.

I don’t think that talking to people with ease comes naturally to most people, and lots of us find it actively uncomfortable, but there are ways to make it less so, and maybe even enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay at home instead of go out and socialise (trust me), but as we head towards the Christmas season it might be helpful to try a few things in case you find yourself being dragged to a Christmas party where you know no one (events where I know no one still give me pretty bad anxiety).

Being an introvert is no bad thing, in fact it gives you qualities only someone who has spent a lot of time in their own company can have. But instead of finding yourself hiding in the loos (tick) or by the food counter shovelling food into your mouth so no one can talk to you (also tick), wouldn’t it be nice to get something from parties? Find a reason to enjoy them and relax? Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful over the years – I still get anxious and socially awkward internally, but for the most part these tips have helped me enjoy almost all the events I go to, find new friends and have great conversations I would never have had if I had avoided people from the start.

 

Body language
This may seem a bit ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, but some evidence suggests that acting confident with your body language can actually make you feel more in control. Looking into people’s eyes is another thing that makes you appear confident, but this actually takes a lot of practise to get right if you’re not used to it. However, it can really help you connect with people and help them feel more at ease around you. Related to this is smiling – I can’t stop smiling now, it’s just a habit (and usually I’m pretty happy anyway). Everyone loves a smiley person. Everyone should do it more 🙂

Don’t worry what people think about you
This goes for anything – you shouldn’t spend your life thinking that you should/shouldn’t do X, Y or Z because people will like you more/less for it. It’s impossible to please everyone, and in trying you are putting yourself second. The only way to be able to make others happy is to also be happy and confident in yourself. Putting others first and worrying what people think all the time is unhealthy and can never lead to true happiness. Self-confidence needs to come from within, otherwise by definition it’s not really self-confidence. Life is too short to worry about wearing or doing something: just do it.

Find people you recognise
Finding people you recognise at the beginning of an event can help make you feel comfortable, but equally they can introduce you to people you would not otherwise have met. Anyone they introduce you to already has something in common with you – you both know your mutual friend, which is a good starting point! I also often think of parties a little bit like networking opportunities – new people you meet could be friends or business partners in the future. It may seem a weird way of looking at it, but for me that gives a focus for the party. Meet people, enjoy good conversation and network at the same time.

Wear clothes you feel comfortable in
This is important both physically and mentally. I used to try to wear ‘in fashion’ whatever, but quite frankly I couldn’t care less what’s in fashion now. I love clothes and I think they’re great for self-expression, but trying to impress people with clothes, when secretly you’re dying because you can’t breathe or you feel worried your left boob is going to pop out of your new top any second, is not cool. Wear clothes you love (yay sports clothes!) and own it.

 

This may seem like a bit of a random post for my blog, and I wasn’t sure about doing it. However, a few years ago it was just the sort of thing I wish someone had helped me with, especially in the run up to Christmas, and if I can’t be honest on my blog, where can I be? If this helps just one or two people be more confident this year, then it’s done its job. Just remember, you are enough as you are, you don’t need to impress anyone (seriously), and you should do what makes you happy. You do you.

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What christmas should be about – enjoying a relax and spending time with friends and family