Uni is a fast time: you’re making new friends, bonding with course-mates, and experiencing a totally different lifestyle. For most uni students, there’s a lot of alcohol at every stage in this process.
We’re not here to parent anyone, but if you’re trying to get/stay in shape through uni, the usual fresher’s “liquid diet” is a disaster.
You’re an adult now, apparently, so we’re not going to tell you what to do – just how to minimise the damage. If you have to get on the lash, you should do it responsibly with an eye on your health and wellbeing.
Alcohol: Quick Primer on why it’s awful
You already know alcohol’s not good for you – that’s not why you do it. However, it’s always important to be mindful and know what you’re pouring into your face-hole.
The problems with alcohol are pretty simple: it’s high in calories, low in nutrients, and getting drunk smacks your immune/hormonal systems out of balance. Your organs take the brunt of it: your kidneys and livers are not cool with those sambuca shots (and you already know it).
What you might not know is that alcohol is 7 calories per gram, and even worse if you’re knocking back cocktails or other mixers that are high in sugar. This is a recipe for dietary disaster – it’s a huge amount of calories with no real nutrients, and you’re probably going to get take-away on the way home.
Over-eating comes with over-drinking!
You’re going to feel like warm death after a night out, too, so you can expect training to be a drag. Getting drunk and other heavy alcohol intake is associated with a drop in performance and key hormonal markers for several days afterwards, and you’re going to feel it. If you go out twice a week, you’ve already cut performance in every workout.
If you’re trying to get strong, muscular or lean, it’s an uphill struggle when you’re constantly battling that nagging headache from fresher’s week.
What Should you Be Avoiding?
If you’re looking to minimise the vomiting, headaches, and performance problems, there are better and worse choices.
Start by worrying about quantity: you can still go out but try and restrict your intake a little bit. Going out isn’t a reason to see how much you can survive – it’s meant to be fun. Limit yourself and try working down how much you drink.
Quality is also a good thing to think about. Low-sugar, lower-calorie drinks like spirits and non-calorie mixers are a better choice. Instead of that woo-woo (the queen of basic, sugary cocktails), get a vodka, lime and soda. The alcohol content doesn’t change much, but you’re not knocking back 2 tablespoons of sugar-syrup.
If you’re feeling like cutting calories and have the palate for it, you can go for neat spirits. A good whiskey doesn’t need a mixer, and if you can get into appreciating a good drink, you won’t need to worry so much about the calorie or sugar content. Just the alcohol content.
We’re not promoting binge drinking – you know its bad for you – but there’s a big difference between a neat whiskey (around 90 calories), a half-pint of Guinness (105 calories with a bunch of iron), and a short cocktail (197 calories for a single, small glass). With this in mind, the effect of a “few drinks” depends on what you’re drinking.
The Hangover: Dealing with the Consequences
So, you’ve woken up with a splitting headache and you feel like you’re made of Styrofoam. What’s next? What can you do to help yourself?
There are a lot of wives’ tales, but here are some scientifically-useful ways of dealing with a hangover. We’ve got 4 evidence-based keys to surviving a night out.
Vitamins and Minerals: you’ve sweated or pee’d out a whole bunch of essential nutrients, so get them replaced ASAP. A multivitamin effervescent is a great choice and is a good start to rehydrating.
Salts: …but not the kind you find in a slap-up breakfast. Potassium from bananas or spinach is a great way of replenishing the crucial pro-hydration salts you lost during your drinking escapades. A good sodium/potassium balance is key to health for you and your organs.
Eggs: Aside from the brain-boosting Choline content of eggs, they’re packed with cysteine. This is an amino acid that breaks down acetaldehyde – an alcohol metabolite associated with that awful, seasick feeling you’re probably familiar with by now.
Creatine: Yep, the same one you use for those sick muscle gains. It’s a pro-hydration supplement and actually boosts the return of carbohydrates into the muscles – slap it in a quick bottle of water with your fav workout carb and you’ll be on your way to feeling human again.
So, your best bet is probably eggs benedict with spinach and a large glass of multivitamin/creatine water. It won’t undo the questionable choices you’ve made but it will prepare you to deal with them and get back to peak fitness faster!
The Take-Home: Be Sensible
This is a guide on how to minimise the negative impact of a drinking habit that many students deal with at some point. The best way to avoid the dangers of excess drinking is to simply not do it – but if you’re going to put yourself in that situation and you want to stay in shape, simple information like this is key.
Making better choices is a step in the right direction and will be less aggressive on the liver. It’s a temporary remedy until you realise you get to the end of term, your student loan’s run out, and you commit to a life of sobriety by necessity.
In the meantime, play it smart, show your body some love, and you’ll be much better in the gym.