The hard-drinking anti-hero has long been a staple in American television and cinema. From Humphrey Bogart’s hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe in 1939, to James Bond, who drank countless vodka martinis over the course of 26 movies (though in the book, the character was a whiskey man), to Jimmy and Bunk from The Wire, who managed to be productive police detectives despite drinking entire bottles of alcohol nightly, it’s like a hallmark of the man’s man that he can drink truly astonishing amounts of alcohol and still be not only functional, but formidable. These characters tend to hang out in bars and casinos for business and pleasure, relax with a stiff drink at the end of a rough case, and offer booze to suspects to loosen their tongues. But could anyone really drink that much and still be physically fit enough to chase villains down alleys and over walls? It depends on a variety of factors, but the answer is, probably not.
One concern for people who drink heavily but want to remain in shape is that alcohol is completely devoid of nutrients. Alcoholics are frequently malnourished, because the alcohol can stunt appetite and interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. It also tends to make people crave carbohydrates, salts, and sugars. Studies have found that nutrition is more important than physical activity when it comes to staying in shape. Also, alcohol affects metabolism, and your body will store fat rather than use it as an energy source.
Alcohol damages muscle cells by reducing the blood flow to them. This will result in muscle deterioration and weakness. In men, it reduces testosterone levels in the blood and increases conversion of testosterone to estrogen, which can cause increased fat depositing and fluid retention. Alcohol’s effects on the brain meant that your reaction time, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination, and endurance will all be negatively impacted. Alcohol is also a diuretic, and drinking too much can result in dehydration, which will negatively impact physical abilities. Another important function affected by alcohol is sleep. Sleep deprivation can affect cognitive function, working memory, and reaction time.
Some people believe that working out enough can offset any negative effects of alcohol. In fact, drinking makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise. Your body will be too busy metabolizing the alcohol to repair itself from the micro-tears that occur in muscles when you’re weight training.
Of course, different people have different thresholds when it comes to both alcohol tolerance and how much alcohol will interfere with fitness. Still, it’s safe to say that someone with alcohol dependence or alcoholism isn’t going to be outsmarting his evil genius opponents, making miraculous gunshots, or winning footraces.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.