Why (Excessive) Drinking Can Eff-Up Your Training Progress

It’s the middle of the week and you’re on vacation heading to STL. Why? Because it’s cheap, you bought Groupons and you need to get the heck outta dodge!! You’re away from the stress at work, or the Bloominton-Normal traffic after 4 pm, or the noisy neighbors the poodle you want to punt across the street  for not letting you nap in the afternoon(*note: I love dogs. I have one. She’s a chocolate-Labrador and her name is Fanny Mae. Mae for short.*). You get there and you enjoy the city and all it’s awesomeness: massage, booze, food, walks around town, booze, the City Museum, booze outside of the restaurant….you get the idea.

Monday comes and you know you’ve got to hit it hard in the gym…

Yeah, right.

I’m pretty sure reading all this you’re probably guessing I know this all too well. Yeah, I sure do. And it happened this week.

alcohol and exercise family guy


What can I say, it was vacation-which rarely happens-and I enjoyed myself. Apparently a bit too much. Went to go and squat this past Monday, and boy was it rough. Even the warm-up sucked.  After my last set of 5 x 8, I pretty much passed out from the heat-but definitely from having too much fun. After a few days of not having a drink, downing water like it’s the last thing on earth, and eating-better-I feel totally different and stronger.

I realize I’m the trainer and this could probably ruin my credibility a bit, but I’m not ashamed to fully admit to living a little…OK a little more than just a little. Sheesh.

However, it is my personal experience that prompted me write this article. To many of us fitness-enthusiast out there, this is common sense. On the other-hand, some that are new to this workout-thing are missing the boat on some of the reasons why their gain’s aren’t….gaining.

While there are plenty of stories and studies out there to tell you why booze and exercise don’t mix, written in this article, a study explains,

“Alcohol can’t be stored as energy in the muscles (since it’s not a nutrient), so it’s stored as fat instead.” 

This makes total sense. I am known for telling my clients that the body works extra hard to get alcohol out of it’s system. So having that-on top of too much of it- and with all the other amazing thing’s the body is trying to do to make it better, it’s going to push back the timing of your results. However, I’m here to tell you that cutting ALL of it out, might not be necessary.

A new study found that “red wine can boost testosterone.” As written about  in this article,

” An enzyme called UGT2B17 attaches specific molecules to testosterone, enabling your body to get rid of it. But researchers at Kingston University in London found that quercetin—a compound in red wine—blocks UGT2B17 in lab studies. That means potentially elevated T levels in your bloodstream, and less in your urine.

What whaaaaaat!!!! Sweet! I’m gonna get jacked drinking wine! Hopefully I’ll look like Arnie.

"muscle-building-alcohol" that's what the caption said on Google. Not kidding.
“muscle-building-alcohol.” That’s what the caption said on Google. Not kidding.

However, the study isn’t conclusive. It goes on to say,

“This is a classic example of a study done in a test tube that potentially might have implications for humans, but there are many steps that need to be taken to see if these findings can be translated to humans,”- Michael Joyner, M.D., an exercise researcher at the Mayo Clinic

The study may carry some potential, it’s better to be safe and keep wine-in this case- to a minimum of 1-2 drinks a day for males. Typically 1 for the ladies (ideally).


Pretty much felt like this guy...
Sometimes, working hard doesn’t mean you get to party harder. If you’re serious about your goals, alcohol consumption should be limited and not necessarily canceled out. At the same time it’s imperative to know how your body feels during your training. Maybe it’s beer. Maybe it’s vodka-or wine that makes you feel like crap no matter how much of it. For me it’s beer and I try to stay away from it when I train seriously for a meet. In fact, I try to stay away from it all. But there is a means to an end.

Everyone has stress and has a way to go about reducing it. For some it’s going to the gym to get a good sweat or go out for a run-or maybe have a drink or two. Moral of the story is there is such a thing as having TOO MUCH of anything. Food, alcohol, exercise, even sex*just kidding*. We all need moderation-but even moderation needs moderation. Just be smart about what you do when you intend to have fun.

For me, I know next time that I need to limit myself because my goals are that important to me. It’s about sacrifice. I realize when I don’t drink I feel the best. I do, however, have a social life and sometimes having one or two can make the best of times. It’s all about what’s important to you? Is it worth not binge drinking for a weekend? Is it worth not drinking at all for X-amount of time? That’s entirely up to you. No matter what, you’re responsible for your actions.

Be smart. Have fun. Train hard. And especially don’t drink and drive.

2 Ways To Get Your Teenage Daughter in The Weight Room: A Trainers Experience

I was originally going to write this post solely based on the premise of two point’s that I’m going to speak about later in this article. Now, I don’t watch tennis very much only when highlights come on ESPN or something-but this is too disturbing to ignore.  This past weekend, a new women’s Wimbledon winner was crowned…but she was also crowned with a bunch of nasty names to go along with it. It was brought to my attention through an article. In case you’re too busy to click on the link, the article was written about the horrible Twitter responses around the world about the 28-year old winner, Marion Bartoli of France.

2013 Wimbledon Winner, Marion Bartoli
2013 Wimbledon Winner, Marion Bartoli

Now, anyone and everyone who has watched tennis are very aware of the “type” of women that have played the sport and won. Each are scrutinized in some form or fashion, but this one really (*pardon my french*) lit a fire under my ass. I have spent the last 6 years training and empowering women to become stronger, more confident and secure in their bodies. If the barrage of these negative comments from people about a woman’s looks in her pursuit of this amazing accomplishment aren’t enough, then what hope do little girls of today have of being great or reaching their goals?

Having said that: GIRLS NEED TO BE IN THE WEIGHT ROOM. It’s hard enough as a trainer to be able to train women without the concern of “being too manly…” or ” too bulky like those bodybuilder women.”  These are legitimate concerns though. For years I would dis-spell these concerns and push them off as “non sense”, but if a client believes it to be true, it’s a problem. This ideology starts early too. I can’t tell you how many times my female clients tell me ” I wish I had this stuff back when I was younger.” The neglect to educate and support women in the weight room isn’t as bad as it was, but it’s nowhere near where it should be. Fortunately, trainers have the help of women who know their stuff, like the “Girls Gone Strong” group and countless women around the world. However, I have seen there are more and more ways teenage girls are beginning to make their way into the weight room.


Besides the weight room, sports are a fantastic way to open a kids mind to just about anything. They become more creative, learn to work well with others, and have a fun and active lifestyle. I have a client who’s 4 year old daughter wants to play baseball like her older brothers after watching them play. She’s a super-athletic kid and it’s always a pleasure when she comes in wanting to push the sled or stand on it while her mom pushes it (*did I mention I like this kid?*). But she doesn’t want to play T-Ball, she wants to play “REAL BASEBALL!!” I love it. Now, at 4 years old they don’t NEED to be in the weight room. In fact, they need to be outside playing (all kids should be, really). As they get older, of course, strength is going to become a more important role in enhancing performance and basic maintenance on the body. This should be done as soon as they can to put on muscle mass (not like a bodybuilder) for athletic performance reasons as well as self-esteem. With the help of sports, they’ll want to become better and work harder. Strength training will be a major component in that pursuit. I have been fortunate to have worked with three girls to help them prepare in their sports (gymnastics and volleyball). The agility, speed, quickness and strength have been apparent after consistent and hard training. Nothing fancy, just doing ol’ fashion weight training in the off-season. We have seen this in all kids here at AF, but as more girls come in, they’re coming in playing a sport OR aspiring to play one.

                                                               Social Support

A great way to spend mother-daughter time (I know...they need to bring their butts down...it was mid-take I promise)
A great way to spend mother-daughter time (I know…they need to bring their butts down…it was mid-take I promise)

For men, women, or children, social support is essential in any aspect of life. No one really wants to do anything alone. Life is just way harder. With the awfulness that you hopefully are now aware of about Marion Bartoli, that’s not the kind of social support I’m talking about. For kids, parents being there at your biggest game of your life or getting you practice on time is essential. But parents being there for their training helps, too. Sure, you can’t be involved in their sports training (unless you’re volunteering) but being a teen, that may not always go well. My dad raced around the bases one day at the end of baseball practice against another dad; the man sprinted around first, and ate dirt rounding second. Scarred for life (that’s not the kind of social support they need either :P).

But a perfect example is of a pair of ladies, a mother and her teenage daughter Cathy and Kayla (in the photo above). Cathy (the mom) wants to get in shape and Kayla (the daughter) is trying out for her high school volleyball team. To me, there’s no reason why they can’t achieve their goals together. Plus, being in the same place, in the weight room, getting their “swole” on (slang for lifting weights with purpose….not bulking) is great for the both of them. It helps to be in a training environment like ours that has all kinds of people just getting after it in the gym. This kind of support isn’t necessary, but it certainly helps. As coaches, we support these kids, too, by holding them accountable for their schooling as well. If they’re not making the grades, if they’re not on the team; if they’re not on the team, they don’t need/deserve their parents forking over hundreds of dollars for their training.

Mind you, these aren’t THE best ways to getting your daughter to weight train, but they’re ways that I have experienced. At the end of the day, regardless of sports or any external factors for weight training; being healthier, having more confidence, and feeling awesome on a daily basis is always a great “excuse” for getting in the weight room. In response to the negative tweets about Marion Bartoli, she says:

“It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.”-Marion Bartoli,  Wimbledon Champion

That’s what it’s all about. Ignoring the naysayers, dreaming big, and hardwork. It all pays off in the end.

The best training program for you, is the one you’re not on


There are too many workout programs out there to count. Understandably, quite a few people are confused when the latest and hottest thing comes out with people flailing around, making loud breathing noises, flipping babies upside down (and catching them of course), chasing after chickens, or working out in the snow in your undapants. To the average gym member, this could be daunting.

When I was a youngling, I wanted to get bigger. Being 150ish pounds soak and wet my freshman year in high school, I knew I needed to put on size if I wanted to play football. “You gotta lift some heavy weights kid”, said one of my high school coaches. So, that’s what I did. I followed my schools “Weight Training” Program all four years. By my freshman year in college, I put on about 10#’s, but I wanted more. Was I bigger? Sure, but only by a little. And I still couldn’t bench 225, even for a half of a rep. So I ate and ate, trained 5 days a week, and by my Sophomore year I was around 180 lbs! I became friends with my buddy Dave, who was on the Illinois State football team at one point, and my buddy Mike (“The Hulk”) all lifted together in our dorm-gym at “South Side”. It was epic. These dudes were hyooge to me at the time. We didn’t follow any program in particular. We just lifted. And it worked.

Fast forward to my career as a Personal Trainer at a local gym, where I had 20+ clients, each and everyone of them were different. Some similar in goals and abilities. Programming for these folks at the time was hard because I was more familiar with what I had done for myself to get strong and lean.  A member one day came up to me and asked, “So my girlfriend is doing P90x. She’s done it for 2 months and I could tell a difference in her already. I’ve been doing Spin and some of the other classes for a while and haven’t seen much. Should I do that??” Given my experience with results and training some of my clients, I replied  “I don’t think so. They don’t use any real weights. If you want to get results, you need to lift heavier weights.” Since then, my view point has changed.

A couple years ago, I attended the Perform Better Seminar in Chicago. I was heading to a class, only to run into one of the best Strength Coaches in the world, Coach Dos Remedios (if you don’t know who that is, check him out here). I took the opportunity to ask him

“Coach, how do you feel about Zumba?”

As he always does, he dropped a knowledge bomb on me saying, “I love it…”
“What?!? Why??”

“Ya know…..because it gets my mother off of the couch.”

I thought about that conversation for a long time. From that point on, anytime and every time I saw a new workout program or DVD that came out, I kept thinking to myself “that may be what someone needs to get them to reach their goals.” Something new. Something different. That is the key to constant progression and success.

Whether it’s changing up your rep count, adding in new exercises, going to a different gym, getting a trainer, or even doing Zumba.

                                          “The best program is the one you’re not.” 

Now, don’t go jumping ship and on to the next one. It’s important to note, that if what you are doing is working, stick with it. The downside to all the programs that are out there, is people are suffering from “paralysis by analysis” and are quick to do the thing that their closest friend is doing that got them to lose 20 lbs in 2 months. Programs tend to have an end. Follow through and make sure to give it your all. Full programs aren’t meant to be used “half-assed”. To expect 100% of the results when the same amount of effort isn’t there is foolish.

If you’re not having fun with your “4 easy payments of $59.99” DVD you purchased-yet busting your butt and not even meeting your short term goals, it would be wise to consider switching gears. When that time comes, consult with a fitness pro or shop around for a trainer to build you a program that fit’s YOUR needs. It just may be the best thing you haven’t done…yet.

Why “Training” is better than a “Workout”

As an adult, some of us have been in gyms where we see the following: people hammering away on their cardio machines, in the classrooms swinging their hips to a catchy tune, seeing that guy doing that thing on the back extension machine that would undoubtedly show up on YouTube or “Awkward Gym Moments” on Facebook, or perhaps sitting in the lobby area watching to see if your favorite dancer gets voted off unfairly…BUT COULDN’T HELP HERSELF BECAUSE SHE’S A CONTEMPORARY DANCER AND NOT A BREAK DANCER!!!!!! SERIOUSLY!?!? I MEAN COME OOOOONN!! THIS SHOW IS RIGGED!!!!  THAT’S IT, I’M TURNING TO REAL HOUSEWIVES OF THAILAND!

Ahem, sorry.

Granted, as a trainer and having worked in such a place, shines a bit of light on the fact that there are people in a “healthy” environment being surrounded by those doing healthy things. However, I”m a professional in a results oriented business, where just “working out” just doesn’t cut it. I train people mostly because I like it….NAY….I looooove it! People train because they want to change their habits and work hard to reach their goals in the gym and life. So let’s take our friends in the gym “working out”, walking around looking to see what others are up to that may look like they’d get a “good sweat in.” You come back a year later….and they still look the same. You know you’ve seen that person if you’ve gone to the same gym for years. You wonder what the heck are they doing? It’s likely they’re shooting the breeze and getting that good sweat in. By no means is this meant to knock on those going to the gym for a workout or whatever they want to do. Trainers know 80% (or so) of progress in the gym is getting in there in the first place. The other 20% however, is what you do in the gym that makes the biggest difference.

So now let’s take our friends in the gym who are “training”. These are the folks just straight getting after it with intensity, passion and focus. Usually these are the people getting the “looks” in the gym as if you’re Quasimodo with a Barbell. Heck, you may be one of those people giving those looks. Don’t be afraid of them. Be inspired by them. These people who “train” have a goal in mind, set a plan, and put that plan into action. No, you don’t have to be a competitor to train for a competition. But rather think of it as training for life in general. The key difference between the two here is whether or not you have INTENSITY, PASSION AND FOCUS. This also applies to your nutrition as well and every other aspect of your life. Not to mention cutting your workout time in half and able to reap the benefits of your hard work. That’s what I love about working at The Athlete Factory. There’s no machines, we build ’em (yep, I just said that). We train athletes to become better at their sport, we train non-athletes to better themselves with intensity, passion and focus. You’re constantly surrounded by a group of people with different goals, different body types and different fitness levels. Which is the perfect kind of gym setting everyone should be in. If you’re not, go and find it. You won’t regret it.

Having said all of that, “workout” or “training” wise, being in the gym is way better than being on the couch, being lazy, or better yet, being in a box underground 24/7 (didn’t mean to get dark there, but it’s something to think about). If you want to take your workout experience up a notch, find a “training” partner or a trainer to help get you the results you deserve and have more fun in the gym.

Until then, enjoy your workout. Enjoy your training session. Enjoy life.