Ye Olde Booze Debate Continues…
- Alcoholism = bad.
- A glass of wine a night = OK, maybe even helpful?
That’s usually the general thinking about alcohol: Getting hammered every the night of the week is bad, bad for your liver, for cognitive function, for your heart, for performance at the gym, etc. Not to mention the headache the next morning. At the same time, many studies have shown that one glass of wine a night can actually be beneficial to your health: Even this Mayo Clinic study says a glass of wine a day can have heart health benefits.
For years, many of us have adopted the moderation approach when it comes to alcohol. Assuming that as long as we don’t become full-blown alcoholics, drinking with friends brings us happiness, and IT REALLY DOES. That has to count for something right?And in a perfect world, if the studies are correct, our little hearts might even become stronger from the antioxidants in wine. But maybe we’ve been living in a fantasy land, where we hoped this was the case and blindly believed it because we like alcohol.
Well, your bubble is about to burst baby: A new study says no amount of alcohol is safe for your health. The study, published in The Lancet in August, looked at alcohol consumption in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016 and discovered that alcohol is the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 (accounting for one in 10 deaths). Alcohol was also found to be associated with 2.8 million deaths a year, according to the study. Conclusion: The only safe amount of booze is zero drops. Whether you believe this study, or other studies that say some alcohol is good for your health, take a moment to look at what happens in your body when you drink booze—in the context of how it might affect your performance at the gym—and then you can decide for yourself what amount of alcohol you think is helping your life.
Alcohol and Training:
Alcohol is sometimes called the 4th macronutrient, after protein, carbs and fats. So if you’re tracking macros, and not tracking your alcohol consumption, you need to start ASAP. Also worth noting, many drinks (light beers for example) will list the amount of carbohydrates, but not factor in the carbs from alcohol. Take the label below for instance: 6 grams of carbs listed, and one gram protein, both are 4 calories per gram. But the total calories listed are 103. How’d we go from 28 to 103 calories? I feel like Sherlock F@#king Holmes right now… drum roll……. alcohol, the 4th macronutrient!
Basically, alcohol kills your oxygen-carrying red blood cells (hemoglobin), which means that you become less efficient at carrying oxygen to your cells. And the more you drink, the worse it gets, to the point that you can wind up with anaemia. Not only can you NOT donate blood if you’re anaemic, but it can lead to a host of other health concerns, such as shortness of breath, fatigue, lightheadedness—all because you’re not effectively taking up oxygen. Can’t imagine this condition would help you during a conditioning workout, or even a heavy set of back squats.
You have probably heard alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it can lead to dehydration because your kidneys start producing more urine. Being properly hydrated helps maintain proper oxygen circulation in your body, which is critical for performance. And if you workout after drinking, it can dehydrate you even more as you sweat and pee more, leaving your body depleted of H2O.
Alcohol interferes with the way your body makes energy. When you metabolize alcohol (meaning when you break it down in your body), it stops your liver from producing as much glucose as it should, so you end up with low blood sugar levels.
As a longer term affect, drinking can affect your ability to gain muscle mass. Essentially, it disrupts your sleep patterns and growth hormones, which are important for muscle growth. It can also reduce testosterone levels, another important hormone that helps you build muscle. Heavy drinking can even poison muscle fibers, so much so that they stop adapting to training the way they should.
Heavy drinking can lead to unusual heart rhythms. And working out only increases the danger of having an irregular heartbeat.
Finally thought: If you have a glass of wine twice a week and feel great at the gym, by all means, keep on it. But if your performance doesn’t seem to be improving as much as you expect it should, and you find yourself drinking every other night, it might be worth considering taking a month off drinking, seeing what happens to your performance, and how you feel!