Now at this time I am wondering how many of our CrossFit rugby players, hockey players, fire breathers....well, actually quite a bit of you just clicked off the website:) I know, I know, anyone who enjoys a good beer from time to time just hates being told how bad it is in the fight to gain muscle and strength; heck, I'm one of them! I am cringing even as I write this! I think a good pale ale after a hard WOD is just heaven! But it is an enemy that we all have to be aware of. Perhaps I should have posted this way back before November; right before the holidays and vacations seem to come week after week until right after the New Year. But it's now 2010 and many of us (hopefully all of us) have started making CrossFit goals. To reach these goals we must look at all the ways that will lead us to victory. Obviously there are the methods within the gym. And we can never forget how excruciatingly important nutrition is, but something that I find among all the CrossFit boxes and people I talk with (once again, I'm including myself) is that I am always hearing this same little speech: "Well, I still have a few drinks here and there. I mean, come on! I still need to have fun in life, right?" True, we can indulge here and there, but something that I want everyone to reevaluate is just how much you may be "periodically indulging". We're always told that everything in moderation is okay, but when it comes to doing your best to become stronger and you feel you aren't, maybe even more alcohol moderation needs to take place?
So if you are serious about truly getting another 35 pounds onto your DL, or breaking that 550 mark on the CrossFit Total (basically becoming an even leaner, meaner, and spartan-ish CrossFitter) then I urge you to read the following and keep my "Alcohol Kills Progress" rambling in mind. Once again, I don't want to come off as a hypocrite. I love to have a few suds from time to time, but since starting CrossFit years ago, I have reduced the intake continuously. And I know that if I have a certain goal that I am having a hard time reaching, an event that I will be competing in, or just feel like I have hit a plateau, alcohol is one of the areas that I immediately eliminate. Here's why:
First, alcohol does limit your growth hormones and along with that the ability for you to build protein which is needed for building muscle and getting stronger. It's a general consensus that this ability to gain muscle is reduced by as much as 20%! Now that low number may not seem like very much now, but the next time you are fighting to get that 1 Rep Max DL off the ground or struggling as you are coming out of the bottom of a Back Squat, that extra 20% might have come in useful:)
Second, alcohol will start to lower your testosterone levels (while increasing estrogen levels). Testosterone is a major player in the muscle-building hormones that your body produces. After some research, I found that this level of testosterone can be lowered up to 25%!!! (If you are a frequent drinker, remember that number, 25%, next time you are struggling with a Shoulder Press)
Third, dehydration. Water is sooooo important for muscle growth but gets stripped from the body because the kidneys have to use lots of water to break down alcohol. Dehydration also will play a major role in your recovery. Depending on the amount that you drink, your training can suffer for days (which again means that more muscle building is reduced once again). Remember that your body is made up of about 70% water. That is obviously an indicator of how extremely important water is in every bodily function; it's only natural that if it's that important and we then take it away, bad things are about to happen (or you could say that GOOD things won't).
Fourth is your sleep. We all know how important sleep is for your body to build itself back up and recover properly. But lets face it, if you decide to go out late and fill your body with alcohol, your sleep suffers (one way is your Krebs cycle; the process your body goes through to turn nutrients into energy). And lets not forget that once again your training the next day(s) will suffer as you begin yawning in the middle of a second pull:)
And finally we have to look at the habits that you tend to have depending on how much you actually consume. Lets face it, if you get a little tipsy you tend to get a little hungry and really don't care as much what kind of food will satisfy that hunger:) Great! Now you're eating crap, late at night, and possibly the next morning! This, as anyone can see, is a recipe for disaster (I haven't even mentioned all the gluten in your average beer; in case you are a Paleo person).
So, like I mentioned before, many of us like to have a cold one from time to time, and I don't believe that this will kill your training. But if you tend to have "more than a few" every weekend and you really want to get serious when it comes to moving more weight, then I strongly urge you to either cut back or accept the fact that your efforts will not be as productive as they could be.