An A to Z tutorial as it pertains to nutrition has been on my mind for about 3 months, compiling data and facts to relay to YOU; the reading audience. Over the next 3 months, I'll be introducing a topic of a health topic that starts with a specific letter in our alphabet. The choice for my 1st topic in this 26 part series was very simple. I get asked frequently about Alcohol: If I have a drink or 2 a night, what will that do to my body?? I have quite a few folks that say: My diet is fantastic, I do have an issue with beer on the weekend though. Why am I still having problems losing weight??
Sure, there are statistics that support the occasional drink is beneficial for your health and wellness. Light to moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, it helps reduce your risk of cardiac arrest and clot-caused stroke by 25 to 40 percent. In the grand scheme, sure a drink every now and then won't harm you at all. You should ask yourself however, "What are my long term intentions?" "Am I training for a bodybuilding competition?" "How bad do I REALLY want a six pack?" Also, did you know that alcohol is considered a macronutrient???
Ethanol is formed by the fermentation of plants that are dense sources of carbohydrate (e.g., barley, wheat, corn, fruit). Ethanol is not an essential nutrient and is rich in energy, providing 7 calories per gram. Carbs and protein provide 4 calories per gram and fat provides 9 calories.
Alcohol is readily absorbed in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and the rate at which it’s absorbed is likely affected the most by the presence or absence of food in the stomach. After ethanol is absorbed through the GI tract, it heads to the liver, which metabolizes more than 90% of it. The ethanol that isn’t metabolized can enter the bloodstream unaltered. The liver prefers ethanol as a fuel so much that it will displace other substrates when available; in other words, it’ll use alcohol first. What else can alcohol alter??
Chronic alcohol ingestion impairs pancreatic enzyme secretion, which can result in nutrients not being digested, particularly protein and fat calories . Along with pancreatic digestive function, Insulin resistance is a common side effect of alcoholism(your body doesn't process carbs the way they should), which results in a lack of glycogen formation(your carb fuel source) and energy store depletion. Excessive lactic acid production is also prominent.(Your body doesn't recover from workouts optimally AND you have a tendency to be inflamed more oft than not.)
Alcohol can impair amino acid intake and alter protein synthesis in the liver. It also diminishes many vitamins in your body (I will explain what functions B Vitamins serve in my next blog), hence your body doesn't digest the nutrients it needs to be healthy.
Over time, excessive drinking can lead to heart and other chronic diseases.
As your drinking levels continue to increase, testosterone levels drop from 6.8% with 4 drinks to 23% with 8 drinks. This drop, combined with a slowdown in protein synthesis, can cause havoc when trying to recover from a workout. Finally, with heavy drinking, the breakdown of alcohol can occur for up to 48 hours after your last drink. This means less glucose is reaching your brain and working muscles, making you both more tired and quicker to fatigue if you do exercise.
In short, an abundance of alcohol at one sitting shuts your ability to breakdown the food you eat any where from 12-48 hours, hence EVERYTHING you eat is stored as fat.
It also increases your GABA, the neurotransmitter which acts as your body's biggest sleep aid. GABA is increased during your drinking episodes, which causes it later to have less when you are asleep, the common result=you wake up often and your body's circadian rhythm is disrupted.
Is there anything positive about drinking alcohol?? Not much, but it does provide relaxation for some and is also used as a social stalwart. "Liquid courage" does indeed exist!! Alcohol raises your cerebral cortex and lowers your less critical thought processors in your brain. Hence, it leaves you more emotional than normal. Why else would you tell your crush that you have feelings for them? (hello liquid courage!!)
I just provided you some comprehensive data on alcohol and why it could potentially negate your health and fitness goals. Don't get me wrong, I will have an occasional beverage or 2. I enjoy the taste to be honest, but in the grand scheme of things: I also am aware what happens if I get derailed once I overstep my alcohol boundaries. Just keep this as a checklist if you are looking to dive head first into serious fitness goals and conquests!
My name is Jesse Velasquez from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I empower and inspire other's with vision and education to reach their optimal fitness potential. Follow me on Twitter @JCVWellness, Snapchat @JCV24 or Instagram @ JCVWellness.