Who doesn’t like a good cocktail every once in a while? Particularly on those special occasions like birthdays, holidays, Friday night, or heck… how about just the fact that’s it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? I’m no teetotaler, one of my favorite places in the world is the 19th hole after a round of golf. However, in my quest to find balance and health I’ve had to take a serious look at the role alcohol plays in the equation.
I love the expression “don’t drink your calories”, and I apply it liberally to ALL beverages, not just the boozy ones. Juice, soda, and sports drinks aren’t a part of my routine. What’s the point of burning 300 calories on a 3 mile run if I’m just going to put them right back into my system with a Gatorade? I’ve always felt there were better ways to stay hydrated and nourished for my workouts.
One of my personal goals is maintaining a healthy weight and an athletic physique. Boozing it up doesn’t help my cause. Here are a few reasons why I try to include it sparingly.
- IT MAKES ME FEEL BAD
Oh, sure! While I’m swirling that red grapy goodness around in my glass and the aromas are wafting up, it’s amazing. It gives me waves of ecstasy as it rolls across my tongue after a bite of perfectly cooked steak, but how about the morning after? If I’ve stayed within my limits it’s generally okay but if I’ve overindulged, even a little bit, I never wind up feeling anything but sub-par in the morning. This can mean all the difference in the world when summoning up the willpower to get out of bed for that morning run. This should be the ONLY reason I need but since I seem to get amnesia every Friday night, I’ll continue.
- EMPTY CALORIES
Alcohol supplies almost twice as many calories per gram as protein and carbohydrates. You may also consider what you are combining with it if you are having a mixed drink. Is it just vodka soda with a lemon, or is it a sugar laden apple martini you are indulging in? I’m not a calorie counter, and in fact I probably eat a LOT more calories throughout the day than recommended by traditional sources, but my calories are almost always nutritionally dense. Booze has no nutritional value. It’s also worth mentioning here that alcohol increases the appetite, and if you’re out for a night on the town you’re less likely to make healthy choices to satiate your hunger.
- IT BECOMES THE FIRST ENERGY SOURCE
The effect alcohol has on fat metabolism has been the subject of many studies. The long and the short of it is that through a series of complicated processes in the body, alcohol is converted into acetate. Acetate is then broken down and used for energy and, since this process is the most simple, it becomes the preferred source of energy before fat or even sugar. This means fat burning comes to a screeching halt, and sugar is converted into stored energy, which really just means fat.
- ALCOHOL LOWERS TESTOSTERONE
Testosterone has a powerful fat loss effect and contributes to gains in lean muscle mass, but levels are reduced whenever alcohol is consumed. Less muscle mass means a lower metabolic rate.
- CAUSES DAMAGE TO MORE THAN ONE SYSTEM IN THE BODY
Around 98% of alcohol consumed is processed through the liver. Given that the liver’s job is to filter out toxins, this should tell you how the body perceives alcohol. Over time it gradually weakens the kidneys, liver, and the lining of the stomach, all of which hurts how your body digests food and absorbs nutrients. It is a diuretic, so it causes dehydration. Ultimately all this does is interfere with a healthy metabolism and weight loss.
- IT EFFECTS THE BRAIN
Alcohol alters your brain chemistry. Memory lapse, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other mental health disorders have been linked with the over-consumption of alcohol. This is a much more complicated and tricky subject than how alcohol effects weight loss, so I’ll just say from my personal experience I am a happier person when I drink sparingly or not at all.
All of this being said, I believe in moderation rather than total austerity. I enjoy a few glasses of wine on the weekends with a great meal, and as long as I don’t carry it into the weekday routine I’m okay with it. After all, isn’t that what getting healthy should be about? So we can enjoy life more fully?