Alcohol And Your Fitness - The Facts
Just about anyone working on improving their health and wellbeing considers the question 'where does alcohol fit into my journey'? If one of your goals is to take a break from alcohol, this challenge is a great opportunity to go without for a month or two. If you want to reduce your alcohol intake but still include it in your diet, that’s fine too. No matter what your attitude toward or goals around alcohol are, we encourage you to take some time now to;
- Reflect on how much you drink and why
- Learn how alcohol affects the body and
- If alcohol is a part of your life, spend some time thinking about how you can include it in your diet a healthy and balanced way
Let’s start by looking at the positives:
- In moderation, alcohol can be part of a healthy and balanced diet. Moderation refers to no more than two drinks a day for men and one a day for women.
- Consumed in moderation alcohol may have positive psychological benefits including stress reduction, mood enhancement and sociability.
- While there is still a long way to go, research around the benefits of the Mediterranean diet and the longevity associated with it has red wine drinkers excited. Resveratrol is a molecule in red wine that has been linked to slowing down the effects of ageing.
And the negatives...
Most of us are aware of the long term health implications of alcohol consumption - The World Health Organisation says consuming on average more than 2 standard drinks a day contributes to more than 200 types of disease and injury.
What about the short term effects?
- Alcohol stimulates hunger - As soon as it enters your system, the body recognises alcohol as something that must be removed. This means your body’s regular metabolic processes cease operation in favour of removing the alcohol from your system. When the liver is busy breaking down alcohol it stops performing other important jobs like the release of glucose to maintain blood sugar levels. Low blood sugar levels can lead to hypoglycemia which can trigger feelings of intense hunger
- Alcohol can trigger junk food cravings! Alcohol is a diuretic (meaning it increases urination) so excessive consumption leads to dehydration. This is why many people crave salty foods when hungover - the salt in corn chips, cheeseburgers and fries replenishes the body’s electrolytes which helps the body store lost water
- Alcohol consumption results in increased energy intake - similar to soft drink, alcohol provides energy yet no nutritional value. It also doesn’t elicit the same feelings of satiety (feeling satisfied) as food, so we don’t respond to this energy intake by reducing the amount of food we eat
We recommend employing these strategies when you plan to drink:
- Be sure to eat a hearty and healthy meal either before or while drinking
- Drink a glass of water slowly in between each alcoholic drink
- When hungover and craving a salty and substantial breakfast, go for sourdough bread with eggs, feta and avocado over a big mac, large fries and chicken mcnuggets!
- Light exercise, even a 30 minute walk, swim or ride the next morning is a great way to boost your metabolism and will probably help with the headache as well!
What drinks are the best for my health?
At the end of the day, alcohol is alcohol, but if you’re a regular drinker we suggest choosing the drinks at the top of the list over those lower down.
- Clear spirits straight or with sparkling or soda water
- Red wine
- White wine
- Dark spirits straight or with sparkling or soda water
- Low carb beer
- Regular beer
- Pre-mixed drinks
In summary, due to the long term health implications, when it comes to alcohol consumption our number one recommendation is to abstain. If and when you decide not to drink, remind yourself of the positives - improved long term health, money saved and no hangover! In saying that, when you decide to consume alcohol, don't feel guilty. Drink in moderation and enjoy yourself.
Take a moment to assess how often you are consuming alcohol and if you would like to change that.
If the answer is yes, write down a few strategies you can employ to reduce alcohol intake.
Don't want to miss anything?
Get the latest recipes, workouts, success stories, tips and more right in your inbox.