Will alcohol effect your weight loss or performance?
Cheers to the freakin’ weekend! It’s Friday and if you’re like most people living that weekday work-life, then it’s normal to want to kick back and relax with a drink or two. But if you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering already, if alcohol will effect your progress. Well, YOU SHOULD BE.
Just kidding! Alcohol is not evil, just like donuts aren’t evil either. There’s a time and place for them sure (not every day!), and there’s a way to include them so you don’t have to feel like a social recluse every time your buddies go out to the bar. So let’s talk about alcohol and get to understand it a little better so we can create some good habits and let go of any guilt or fear you might have about it.
Flexible eating allows you to enjoy a realistic balance in your life. Going out to social engagements doesn’t have to be excruciating and clouded in restriction as you can enjoy a few drinks if you plan ahead and make it fit your macros. Calculating your alcohol macros isn’t hard, but just because you can make a few wines fit, that doesn’t mean your body is going to thank you for it.
Quick review: What is alcohol?
Let’s start with what alcohol isn’t. Alcohol is not a macronutrient. Some might argue that alcohol in fact has health benefits, as drinks like red wine, for example, contain “resveratrol”, an antioxidant that helps the body fight off cell-damaging free radicals. But the bottom line is that alcohol has zero nutritional value and mostly provides us with “empty calories”. So, similar to macronutrients it provides the body with energy (7 cals/g), but unlike macronutrients, it does not provides us with any nutrition.
The effect of alcohol on the liver
Most of us are aware of the unpleasant effect of alcohol on the body – if you’ve never had a hangover then you should probably contact a lab and have your genetic code patented or something! There’s a reason we get hangovers after enjoying a few drinks. Alcohol is a poison! Because alcohol is primarily broken down by the liver, this is where it leaches its poison and creates a toxic overload. When you drink, the liver has to work harder than normal to process alcohol. This disrupts rehydration, glycogen recovery, repair of tissue damage and many other important hormonal functions in the process. Because your liver is so busy dealing with alcohol, it delays dealing with other nutrients, so that’s why drinking causes your blood sugar to go down, and for hunger to set in, even though you’re consuming calories. Ever had the munchies after a few drinks? Well that’s why it happens!
The effect of alcohol on behaviors & the body
We know that alcohol can give us a feeling of increased confidence but it’s also known to lower our reaction time, balance & coordination. So how else does alcohol effect the body and even more significantly, our behaviors?
1. Loss of inhibition
While it’s certainly wonderful to feel free and easy, ask yourself how many carefree successful people do you know? Whether you like to admit it or not, the lack of inhibition caused by alcohol, has a detrimental effect on our willpower and ability to resist temptation. One drink easily becomes two or three and before we know it we’re half way through the “best pizza ever” and inviting the uber driver inside to continue the scintillatingconversation…oops!
2. Increased hunger
Because the liver is busy processing alcohol, sugar levels fall making the body think that it needs fuel so it’s sends out a signal to tell you you’re hungry even if you’re not. Drinking is often associated with binge eating and poor decision making about food choices.
3. Adrenal Fatigue
Alcohol depresses the function of our adrenal glands and cortisol production is lowered. This can lead to adrenal fatigue, increased inflammation in the body, poor immunity and sleep disruption.
4. Sleep disruption
Sleep plays a major role in performance and weight loss. When alcohol makes you sleepy it is disrupting you natural cycle of sleep (REM). This also effects hormonal production and functioning. Although alcohol is used by many to enter a sleep state, it doesn’t actually allow you to achieve real sleep. It acts as a sedative which is completely different. When you don’t get enough sleep or when you don’t enter all 4 stages of sleep you are deprived of sleep quality and will likely wake up not feeling refreshed. Fatigue can lead to skipped gym sessions or decreased performance in the gym.
5. Lack of nutrient dense foods
Because you’re substituting some of your carbs or fat for alcohol you are depriving your body of actual nutrition and a good quality fuel source. This isn’t good for your body’s recovery or for your body’s consistency with your macros.
Recommendations if you plan on drinking
1. Plan ahead
Commit to a certain number of drinks and stick to the plan!
2. Drink water
Try to have a full glass of water between each drink – having to pee all night will slow you down! It can also help you stay hydrated.
3. Supplement Potassium
When you are drinking your body is retaining sodium and kicking out potassium, which is why dehydration is one of the effects of drinking too much. Getting in potassium before, during and after drinking can be beneficial. If your are planning on drinking more than one drink try having a little unsweetened coconut water.
Get up & sweat it out with some cardio or some high rep functional movements the next morning. Commit with a friend to go for a bike ride or run or book yourself into a class to help get yourself out of bed & set an alarm!
5. Support your liver
If you drink regularly you may need some liver support supplements to help detoxify the liver like vitamin B3, milk thistle, ginger, artichoke and goji berries. Most liver support supplements use cysteine (a amino acid) that helps the liver break down acetaldehyde. Natural forms can be found in oats, broccoli, poultry, garlic and onions.
Even athletes like to get their party on every once in a while so know that a drink here and there is not going to ruin everything you have worked for so far. Enjoy that martini just make sure you don’t go overboard and be sure you track it. Cheers!