Barbecues, happy hours, weddings, birthdays, the upcoming holidays — occasions for drinking never seem to end. We all like to go out with our friends and have a few drinks. We also heard that when we are trying to obtain different health goals that alcohol can hinder those goals. While alcohol in moderation seems to be OK, there’s a point when it could be getting in the way of results — and that point is likely more subtle than you think.
But what about moderate drinking? How much is too much?
Not all drinks and beverages are bad for you. Yes many are filled with sugar or corn syrup, and yes these will not help you reach your health goals. There are also some drinks that won’t hurt your waistline or health and fitness goals quite as much, especially if consumed in real moderation. They can actually have some benefits. Again, it is recommended that you do this with moderation.
Even if you’re sticking to the usual definition of moderation there still may be some negative consequences when it comes to your fitness goals.
Here are a few potential impacts to keep in mind:
How Alcohol Can Ruin Your Health and Fitness Goals comes mostly when you over indulge, meaning more than 1-3 drinks per week, and consume mixed drinks. Mixed drinks are among the worst alcohol beverages you can drink because of the juices, sodas, and other sugary substances that make a mixed drink just that, a mixed drink. Then if consuming more than 1-3 drinks per week this can pack on a lot of calories and calories that your body has a more difficult time processing. When your body struggles with processing calories, they become sugars and can be stored as fat.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes the kidneys to produce more urine. If you’re not replacing those fluids with water, it can lead to dehydration, especially if you exercise within a few hours of having a drink.
That dehydration can lower your athletic performance in several ways, according to Greg Whyte, PhD, an expert in exercise physiology. Hydration allows you to maintain the flow of blood through the body, which circulates nutrients and oxygen to your muscles. It also controls your body temperature.
“You’re more likely to overheat if you’ve been drinking alcohol,” notes Whyte. He adds that even if you’re exercising the day after drinking, you may still be battling dehydration if you haven’t made a concerted effort to get more hydration and electrolytes back into your system.
2. SLOWER CALORIE BURN
Alcohol is notorious for increasing calorie consumption — as any owner of a late-night pizza place, food truck or taco bar can attest — and drinks themselves can be high in calories.
But alcohol can also lower the amount of calories you burn through exercise, Whyte says. This is because your body is designed to shuttle alcohol out of your system as soon as it can, and that can impede other processes, such as burning fat, he notes.
Some of that alcohol gets stored, as well, and since it’s not a nutrient, the body turns it into fat instead. They don’t call it a “beer belly” for nothing.
3. DEPLETED OXYGEN
As the liver deals with alcohol, it tends to cause a shortage of oxygen. While that’s a temporary process, one study notes that it does interfere with the production of adenosine triphosphate synthesis (ATP), which is considered an energy source for muscles. Inadequate ATP also impairs a cell’s ability to perform crucial functions, like repairing damage.
With effects like these, does it mean you have to choose between drinking and fitness? In many cases, probably not, according to trainer Zack Barangan, CPT, NCSF. Chronic ingestion of alcohol leads to plenty of problems, such as digestive issues, liver difficulties and impaired protein synthesis, he notes. But moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve your immune response and heart health.
“All in all, alcohol is harmful when overdone,” Barangan notes. “But if done within moderation and with clear judgment, it can be beneficial. And, of course, a ton of fun.”
That means if you still want to have a post-run beer with your squad or a glass of wine with meals occasionally, that probably won’t erase all your exercise and strength gains. But it may be helpful to keep in mind the possibility that the more you drink, the more you risk wiping out some of the positive benefits of your fitness mix.
Here is the news that I know most of you want to hear…
If you have reached your goals, wine could be something you add back into your life in moderation. Though it would still be recommended that if you are training for something specific, that you keep it to the bare minimum.
Red wine contains a chemical called Ellagic acid. This acid can actually slow the growth of fat cells and stop formation of new ones. It can also help burn more fatty acids in the liver cells. Now this doesn’t mean go drink a bunch of wine. We don’t want you to take this article to say that. When people do that, that is when we have a problem. Keep it in context, because creating too acidic of an environment in the body creates fat and water storage.
Even with this new research, you still need to keep it to 1-3 drinks per week and at the appropriate portion. Remember a glass of wine is really 4 ounces.
The other benefits of wine are it contains active antioxidants like quercetin which may kill cancer cells, it also may help lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Tannins in red wine that give it the red color, contain procyanidins, which have been known for protecting against heart disease. Resveratrol also found in wine can help to remove chemicals responsible for causing blood clots, help prevent cancer, aid in general heart health, lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol, and in the prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Clearly there are many benefits to drinking red wine. The thing to remember is the “How alcohol can ruin my health and fitness goals.” That list is the one to remember. If you keep that list in mind, choose wine over other alcohol, and maintain a higher level of moderation, you can have some alcohol without ruining your health and fitness goals.
Of course the biggest recommendation is to abstain and focus on your health and fitness goals through proper nutrition, high-quality dense nutritional supplements, portion control (not over indulging), and proper exercise and fitness.