In North America, the Holiday Season is officially here. The malls are packed with shoppers, the decorations are up, and the conversations revolve around gift-giving and how much we ate at last night’s party.
It’s also prime time for family gatherings, Christmas parties, house parties, brunches, dinners, and so much celebrating. At most of these parties, alcohol is a highlight of the event. We bring wine to share or for the host; serve spiked eggnog; and have an extra drink because it’s that time of year!
If you’ve worked hard to tone your body and lose that extra fat on your frame, consider that alcohol is one of the culprits for weight gain, lack of motivation for fitness, and much more.
Yes, a glass of red wine is okay, and some sources say that drinking a moderate amount of wine has its benefits. BUT, alcohol is a toxin and chronic use or overuse can have detrimental effects on your health and fitness, besides adding empty (non-nutritious) calories to your daily intake.
How does alcohol affect your overall health?
We’ve all heard about the increased incidence of heart disease, cancer, liver and pancreas damage, and severe deterioration of the Central Nervous System with chronic consumption of alcohol. Medicinenet.com has a great article describing the benefits and risks of alcohol that we recommend your read. Other sources are listed in our reference section below.
How does alcohol affect your fitness and performance?
As for the effects of alcohol on fitness, there are obvious ones to which many of us can relate to, like loss of balance and hand-eye coordination. Ever tried to swing at golf ball after a few drinks? Alcohol also reduces aerobic capacity and endurance so you’ll be tired faster and maybe not even have energy to undertake certain activities. If you’ve ever played on a recreational baseball team (or other sports team) that likes to enjoy beverages during the game, you probably have experienced these effects!
Some of the less obvious problems with alcohol consumption include:
- reduced strength and muscle growth – alcohol can damage muscle cells and the interaction of the nerves and muscles. Chronic alcohol consumption can even kill cells reducing the contraction of muscles (which is what creates movement). Alcohol also affects your heart and circulatory system creating problems with endurance and muscle contractions.
- reduced ability to recover – you may experience more muscle soreness after training and therefore need more time to recuperate. Injuries also may take longer to heal as alcohol affects your immune system.
How does alcohol affect your nutrition?
Nutrition directly influences your fitness and performance, so we think it’s important to look at how alcohol affects nutrition.
As the common phrase says, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Alcohol is a poison that when introduced into your system may cause digestive, stomach and nutritional issues. It’s difficult to perform at your peak when troubled by these issues.
In particular, alcohol:
- interferes with absorption of nutrients – Alcohol is difficult to metabolize in our bodies so when it is being processed, it does not allow important vitamins and minerals from good food to be absorbed in our bodies. B vitamins, A and C, and many minerals like magnesium, zinc, and calcium are particularly affected. In chronic cases, people may become malnourished
- interferes with glucose sources – You may recall that in a past post we talked about the importance of glucose for energy. “Studies have shown that alcohol interferes with all three sources of glucose and the hormones needed to maintain healthy blood glucose levels.” Alcohol is pretty much sugar!
- reduces ability to metabolize fat – As a consequence of the blood glucose problems, alcohol triggers the release of insulin, which increases the metabolism of glycogen, sparing fat and making it more difficult to lose fat. So, the 100 calorie light beer you just had isn’t truly just 100 calories when you think of the underlying effects.
When you look at alcohol logically, it’s just a poison that will slow you down and rob you of the opportunity to perform at your peak.
How will you celebrate this season?
Okay, we know you’ve just crushed your plans for the holidays with this post! We love wine so we understand your pain.
Making the best choices for your health sometimes can be tough. We hope that the information in this post and the references give you the power to make the best decision for yourself.
To stay on track with our fitness and nutrition, our goal for this season is to eat well while keeping the indulgences to a minimum.
“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
– Les Brown
- Hatfield, Frederick C., Fitness: The Complete Guide, Official Text for ISSA’s Certified Fitness Trainer Course, Edition 8.6.6, 2013, pages 466 and 538.