Fitness on the Rocks: Alcohol in the Gym

February 21, 2013

Tossing back a cocktail in the gym may seem as odd as chasing cardio with a slice of cake, but exercise studios around the country have started adding liquor and wine to their offerings.

Flirty Girl Fitness, a Chicago women’s fitness facility, made news when its Lincoln Park location received a liquor license this month, although owner Kerry Knee says her cross-town location has been serving cocktails for six years. Both Flirty Girl fitness spots now offer low-calorie cocktails at an open bar members can visit before or after a pole-dancing or chair-dancing fitness class.


New York City’s Uplift Studios and David Barton Gym don’t have liquor licenses, but periodically bring in licensed caterers to serve hard drinks after special classes or events.

Uplift Studios, a women’s fitness center, offers two Raise the Bar classes, “Boot-camp and Brunch” and “Workout and Wine,” 45-minute workouts followed by drinks and nutritious snacks. The gym’s Raise the Bar classes foster friendships between members, according to Uplift Studios Co-founder and CEO, Helena Wolin.

“The classes promote a camaraderie among women, which is a positive element,” Wolin says. “Fitness and an active social life are two elements that women really need in their lives.” (Related: Health Benefits of Alcohol)

David Barton Gym’s New York City and Miami locations partnered with low-calorie sake manufacturer TY KU to offer cocktails after a body weight training class this month, and the Miami location will serve no-sugar, no-carb sweet tea, pina coladas, and margaritas from Miami Cocktail Co. after May beach boot-camp workouts. A representative for David Barton Gym says occasional post-class cocktail events add to the fun vibe of the gym, but the gym still sets boundaries.

“We certainly do not want people working out and drinking. We would never allow that,” the representative says. “It’s a reward for after.”

Whether you’re sipping alcohol in the gym post-workout or later on at a bar or restaurant, here are some facts to consider:

You’re swallowing empty calories. Alcohol has little nutritional value, and even a few low-calorie drinks will quickly replace everything you burned while working out.

Your next-day workout may take a hit. Liquor messes with your sleep cycle, slows muscle recovery by hogging the glycogen stores your muscle tissue needs, and dehydrates your body, which is a hit to your endurance levels. 

You’re asking for flab. Alcohol metabolism stalls the breakdown of carbs and fat and breaks down muscle tissue’s amino acids to store as fat. Booze also boosts cortisol levels—the stress hormone known to steer fat storage to your middle.

What do you think: Would you chase a fitness class with a cocktail? Tell us in the comments!