“Apart from feeling terrible, what are the actual negative effects on our health and fitness? It’s a question that would be relevant to a lot of people that try to keep a healthy lifestyle but also like to enjoy a drink or two….. or three”
Alcohol has barely been a part of my life for a few years now. I drank for the first time in 2018 a couple of weeks ago. I’ve become such a lightweight that my tab was as small as my skinny calves and I couldn’t even make it to midnight. Having a kid definitely changes things. I can’t say that I miss it much at all. I started to feel healthier and more energetic once I put those heavy party days of my youth behind me. Not that I’m exactly old but after reaching the end of my 20s (I’m 31 now) I felt that it was the right time to say goodbye to hangovers.
Some might call me boring. Others would call me very boring. Apart from feeling terrible, what are the actual negative effects on our health and fitness? It’s a question that would be relevant to a lot of people that try to keep a healthy lifestyle but also like to enjoy a drink or two…. or three. There are 7 calories per gram of alcohol, 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate, 4 calories per gram of protein, and 9 calories per gram of fat. When you consume too many calories it can result it weight gain regardless of where these surplus calories come from.
The alcohol calories themselves do not directly convert to body fat. The alcohol gets absorbed by the bloodstream and then goes to the liver. Our body will start to use the alcohol as its primary energy source because we cannot store alcohol in the body. The problem is that alcohol slows down fat oxidation. Carbs and dietary fats are now directed to storage rather than being burned off. More often than not we tend to choose less healthy/higher calorie options when our inhibitions are lowered.
Not only are we eating too much because of the alcohol, our ability to burn off the extra calories is reduced while there is alcohol in our system. This is why eating high fat junk foods is such a bad idea when you drink alcohol. A chicken breast salad with no dressing anyone? There is no real physiological benefit of drinking more than a glass of wine in one sitting. It is the least satiating nutrient that you can grab your hands on. It even makes you feel hungrier in most cases. 200 calories that you get from a beer will not suppress your appetite more than 200 calories worth of a tuna steak.
If you use up too much of your daily calories on alcohol then it leaves little room for real nutritious food, unless you’re willing to exceed your normal calorie intake. Of course this will lead to weight gain based on the reasons discussed on the first point. On the plus side, a glass of red wine a day is said to improve heart health by reducing blood clots and lowering blood sugar.
“Moderation is key and when we want to truly maximise our fitness and health progress, it’s probably better to cut down our alcohol intake as much as possible.”
Excessive alcohol consumption over a long period of time can reduce testosterone in men by up to 45%. Reduced testosterone has a terrible effect of metabolism, ability to build muscle, libido, and overall energy levels. Effects on testosterone is less of an issue for women. The negative effects on your liver health should be a concern for both genders when it comes to binge drinking. If you want to keep improving your health and fitness then excessive drinking should be avoided.
When we train it’s important for our recovery that we are able to rebuild and build muscle effectively. This takes place within the process of protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is strongly reduced when you consume a lot of alcohol. Although adequate protein consumption can help offset some of the negative effects from alcohol, protein synthesis will still be affected. Cutting down on alcohol from my life made it much easier to take my training to the next level. The hangover from drinking will always make training the next day an arduous task.
I’d recommend planning a rest day after a night out drinking. It’s hard to get a quality night’s rest because our rapid eye movement sleep (REM) sleep gets shortchanged with alcohol in our system. REM is the period of sleep where people dream and rejuvenates us mentally. Some people use a late night drink as a sleeping aid. While this can potentially help you fall asleep, the quality of your sleep will be disturbed. This is the reason why we wake up feeling groggy after drinking the day before. Feelings of tiredness will certainly lead to lacklustre workouts.
In addition to this, bad sleep decreases the appetite controlling leptin hormone in our body. This causes people to feel hungrier and more likely to overeat. This is not the recipe for improved fitness. Marijuana will also reduce our REM sleep interestingly enough. The purpose of this article is not to try put people off from drinking. Far from it. It’s just important to know how it can affect our health and fitness goals. Moderation is key and when we want to truly maximise our fitness and health progress, it’s probably better to cut down our alcohol intake as much as possible. A couple of glasses of wine on the occasional date night with my wife still has its appeal, even to me!