It is no wonder why finishing a marathon is a popular (and long-standing) item on people’s lifetime bucket lists: 26.2 miles of sweat and tears require months of training prior to the event, and even then, the amount of physical strain put on the body makes finishing the race alone an impressive feat. As several marathons are happening in late summer and fall, this is the prime training time for runners across the country.
Unfortunately, summer is also prime time for happy hours and boozy brunches, which begs the question: can we do both? That is, can we have our booze and train through it, too. We did some research on your behalf and – drumroll, please – it turns out this may not be a best-of-both-worlds situation, after all.
The first and biggest reason not to drink alcohol while training for a race is its dehydrating effects. It is probably redundant to stress how important it is to drink water during any prolonged, strenuous physical activity: during a marathon, hydration is vital in bringing energy to muscles, regulating body temperature, minimizing chances of injury and maximizing performance. However, as a diuretic, alcohol leads to increased passing of urine in the body, causing it to lose water faster than usual.
Another important part of training for a marathon is making sure to get plenty of sleep, since only well-rested muscles can perform at a high level. Alcohol, while making you fall asleep faster, does not make you sleep deeper. In fact, it will lead to poorer sleep quality that will make you tired and dizzy during the race, which can be majorly dangerous, let alone less conducive to good performance.
Another big reason that drinking and marathon training don’t exactly go hand in hand? Weight gain. There are seven calories in each gram of alcohol, compared to the four calories per gram of protein and carbohydrates. (And let’s be real: no one will stop at a few grams of a yummy cocktail.) These calories will quickly add up to extra weigh; weight you will need to be carrying during the race when all you can think about is how nice it would be to back float in a pool.
If you can’t tell by now, drinking is pretty much the arch nemesis of marathon or any kind of fitness training. All it can do is counteract the blood, sweat, and tears you poured to get in shape for the big moment. If you’re prepping for an upcoming competition or race, we suggest you take it easy and imbibe after the big win.