How alcohol can impact your performance and ways to approach drinking
The best dosage may be not at all. 
Written by
Dan Cable
Medically reviewed by
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Last updated
March 25, 2024
3
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Alcohol is the world’s most popular drug and has an interesting biphasic (2-part) effect that is perhaps intuitive from experience but remains poorly understood [1].

This may stimulate a discussion on the optimal recreational dose but this would ultimately depend on your preference for stimulation or sedation and, importantly, your willingness to endure its adverse effect on health and performance. 

The claim that moderate alcohol consumption can confer some positive health effects has been debunked so let’s not fool ourselves: alcohol is bad for our health so it should be dosed carefully [2]. If you’re all-in on health and performance goals, the best dosage may be not at all. 

Let's explore how alcohol can impact your body and things to think about when approaching drinking.

Compelling reasons not to drink alcohol

Alcohol, namely ethanol, is dense in calories at 7 kcal/g (almost as calorie-dense as fat), which is why even Pure Blonde, a low-carb beer with 1.8g of carbs per bottle, still has 92 calories per serving.

Unfortunately, most alcoholic drinks are not low-carb and come laden with sugar, causing a blood sugar spike and an insulin release.

To make matters worse, the liver prioritises alcohol metabolism over any other macronutrients that you may have also consumed, or likely over-consumed due to alcohol’s impairment of inhibition, and so the calories consumed are more likely to be stored as fat.

Even worse, alcohol’s downregulation of metabolic gene expression for cellular metabolism and glucose tolerance [3]. Many reasons why alcohol consumption is correlated with high body fat and visceral fat.

Excessive alcohol consumption, like chronically elevated blood sugar levels, is correlated to lower testosterone levels and is a known toxin to the cells that produce testosterone [4][5][6].

Finally, acetaldehyde — the primary metabolite of ethanol — is extremely toxic to the brain and cardiometabolic system and should be a significant concern when bingeing beyond our body’s capacity to metabolise it in our mitochondria via ALDH2 and NAD+ — one of many reasons to optimise NAD+.

What to do if you are drinking

If you are going to drink, here are some suggestions to get smarter about it.

Plan ahead

Form a game plan to be in better control of how much you drink at each event, if at all.

Earn it

If it’s a big event and worthy of indulgence then earn it by doing a HIIT workout beforehand as this will boost your metabolic rate to burn off the calories, stimulate testosterone (warning, this may not lead to better decisions while uninhibited), and increase NAD+ to support acetaldehyde metabolism along with a whole raft of benefits [7].

Stay hydrated

Walk in fully hydrated so that thirst doesn’t throw off your game plan and regularly drink water throughout the night to compensate for lower fluid retention.

Disciplined diet

Avoid pleasure eating sugar and fat as your body struggles to burn these calories while drinking. Focus on lean protein, leafy green vegetables and fibre, and make sure to hack your blood sugar if you do indulge.

Supplementation

There’s a lot of different supplements you could take but we suggest simplifying it to a pre-game multivitamin + NAC to support glutathione as a detox pathway and a pre-bed sleepy supplement to mitigate alcohol’s effect on reduced melatonin secretion [8].

Wind down early

Finish drinking a few hours (at least) before bed to minimise the amount of alcohol and acetaldehyde left when your metabolism slows while asleep; this requires discipline but it’s a huge hack.

Next-day recovery

Stay hydrated, double down on supplements by adding EAAs and continue earning it with light cardio and/or a sauna and ice bath session. An IV stack can be a big unlock if it was a bender.

Day 2-4 recovery

Get right back into resistance training and HIIT cardio to reset your metabolic and androgen health and be mindful of the carb cravings that come with an alcohol blowout

High-performers can be drawn into a bad habit of letting off steam using alcohol to gain immediate stress relief but the significant adverse downstream effects only reinforce the need for healthier, alternative tools, which is why ‘recovery’ is a key pillar in Compound’s health program [9].

If you’re serious about your health and performance goals, or simply trying to get back into shape, then cutting out alcohol, even if just temporarily, will be one of the biggest levers in your toolkit. 

Compound is a digital clinic for performance health, for men. Once the exclusive domain of billionaires and Hollywood stars, we're on a mission to make premium concierge care accessible to every man who wants more.

We are integrating diagnostics (bloodwork, scans, etc), treatment (medication, supplementation), performance programming, and support (coaching, accountability, care) — wrapped around a growth mindset.

This post contains general information about health and wellness practices. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new health regimen. This information is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

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