Archive for the tag - alcohol

Why I’m A Gay Man Who Doesn’t Drink Alcohol.

bartender_161951Being gay and drinking alcohol go together like Mary Kate and Ashley. Or so most people think.

I’m a gay man and I’ve never had a drink. When I was a young boy, my father gave me a sip of his beer. But that’s it.

And when I share this information, other gay people are usually dumbfounded. And that’s because so much of gay culture – from brunch (which everyone knows is the gayest meal of the week) to pride and parties – centers around the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol has become a backbone of our community. In fact, the modern gay rights movement even started in a bar!

Of course, straight people drink, too. But gays out-drink our straight counterparts by some 16%.

And I get it. It’s easy to see how growing up in a homophobic or traumatic environment could increase the likelihood that someone might seek to reduce their stress through alcohol consumption or even alcohol abuse. The dots are easy to connect. But instead of being an opportunity for introspection and self growth, the conversation around alcohol consumption is often reserved for punchlines and jokes.

When I was around 14, my grandfather made me promise him that I wouldn’t drink. It had nothing to do with me being gay. Instead, it was because his father was alcoholic – and my grandfather didn’t want me to follow in his footsteps. Considering that genes are responsible for about half the risk of alcoholism, I understand my grandfather’s motivation. And for me, the decision not to drink was a simple as keeping a promise to someone that I love.

Many sober prides and festivities later, I’ve kept my promise. And though it was never my intent, I’ve stumbled into enjoying the benefits of sobriety. With the average American spending 1% of their income on alcohol, my wallet has benefited.  With alcohol hindering muscle growth and function, my body has benefited. And with excessive alcohol consumption leading to a whole slew of problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, colon cancer and many more, my health has benefited.

I know the benefits of sobriety because I live them. But from the outside looking in, I can see how the occasional drink during dinner might be nice. But I also can’t help but wonder if alcohol is really deserving of the throne we’ve placed it on? What has it really done for us as a community or as individuals? And are those benefits really worth the price we have paid (and continue to pay) for making it so central to our culture?

I don’t have those answers. But maybe you do. In the comments below, let me know.

 

 

Why Do Gay Teens Binge Drink?

3111kghWOHLI’m gay. And I don’t drink alcohol.

For a lot of people in the gay world, a proclamation as such is met with suspicion. The follow-up question is usually, “But not ever? Ever?”

Alcoholism seems to run in my family. My great-grandfather was a terrible alcoholic and very abusive toward my great-grandmother and grandfather. As the recipient of this abuse, my grandfather promised himself that he’d never drink. He kept this promise his entire life – even while serving as a bombardier during World War II.

When I was entering my teenage years, my grandfather encouraged me to make a similar promise. And so I did. Aside from a sip of alcohol from my dad’s beer when I was a 4 or 5, I’ve never tasted alcohol.

My story aside, it seems that alcohol plays a very central role in the gay and lesbian community. To be fair, alcohol plays a central role for many people – gay or straight – but, in the gay world, alcohol seems to be an especially celebrated focal point. Where there are gays, there is often alcohol consumption. In fact, according to a study by Laurie A. Drabble, PhD, 75% of gay people identify as current drinkers versus 59% of straights. On average, gay people drink 16% more than straight people.

Just last week, a new study was presented by the Pediatric Academic Society during their annual meeting in Vancouver, BC. It’s the first of its kind to explore the relationship between binge drinking and minority stress experiences – like gay-related victimization and homophobia – in gay teenagers. According to the study, chronic stress caused by difficult social situations can be attributed to higher rates of binge drinking in gay and lesbian teenagers versus their straight peers.

Gay or straight, alcohol abuse is a large and complicated problem. Beyond sabotaging your gym results, alcoholism can wreak havoc on many areas of your life. But studies like these may lead to tailored treatment and prevention approaches rooted in the unique experiences of higher risk populations – including the gay and lesbian community.

What do you think? Do you think alcohol abuse is a big problem in the gay and lesbian community?

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

With the holidays here and with plenty of parties to attend, many adults will find themselves with a drink or two in their hands. Or maybe three, or even more. Because the holidays tend to be rather alcohol-centric, it’s a good time to address the question, “How much alcohol is too much alcohol?”

The government has some very clear guidelines:

  • If you’re male, over 65 and healthy (or a healthy female of any age), no more than 7 drinks per week is recommended. On any given day, alcohol consumption should not exceed 3 drinks.
  • For healthy men up to age 65, a limit of 14 drinks per week is advised. Do not exceed 4 drinks per day.
  • At the discretion of a healthcare provider, lower limits or abstinence are recommended for other populations.

So what constitutes a drink? In the United States, it’s any beverage that contains 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. That translates to a 12 ounce beer or cooler, 8 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Keeping in mind that many beverages actually contain several drinks worth of alcohol, things can add up quickly.

Of course, most casual and light drinkers have little to fear. Light to moderate drinking has been associated with some health benefits – and has even been linked to longevity. Heavy drinking, on the other hand, is extremely dangerous. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is a factor in about 60% of fatal burn injuries, drownings, and homicides; 50% of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults; and 40% of fatal motor vehicle crashes, suicides, and fatal falls. Not to mention heavy drinking can lead to health problems like liver disease, heart disease, sleep disorders, depression, stroke, etc. The statistics are quite sobering.

This holiday season, it’s fine to get in the merry spirit of the festivities. But keep track of how much you drink by counting and measuring. Pace and space your drinks, and include plenty of food to help slow alcohol absorption. Explore alternatives (how about a glass of water?) and know your “no.” When you’ve reached your limit, be ready with a polite but firm “no thanks.”

Alcohol Before Exercise?

Hey Davey,

I like to have a few drinks before hitting the gym. It helps me relax after work, but is alcohol hindering my workout?

From,
Chris

The research is very clear: Yes. Alcohol and exercise don’t mix.

First, studies have found that drinking before working out hinders the circulation of glucose – which the body uses for energy. If you have less energy during your workout, you’re not going to be working at your full potential – and your results will suffer. It also results in a decrease in blood glucose levels after working out; glucose is important for muscle recovery.

Second, it’s dangerous. Even small amounts of alcohol can impair judgment and coordination. Add hundreds of pounds of weight plates into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.

Third, though drinking doesn’t accelerate the negative effects of cortisol – it does prolong these effects, according to the Journal of Applied Physiology. The stress hormone cortisol has a catabolic effect on your muscles and thus can negatively affect your strength and size gains.

Fourth, alcohol hinders protein synthesis. By slowing the production of muscle proteins needed to grow you muscles, you also slow the gains you’re making at the gym.
Dehydration.

Fifth, you’re more likely to become dehydrated. Alcohol is a strong diuretic (i.e., it makes you pee…), and dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can result. This can negatively impact your performances, and – in extreme cases – even result in death.

Sixth, there are a whole slew of other, less-immediate but still negative impacts from alcohol consumption.

  1. Decreases in testosterone. While there is still some debate on the effects of naturally-occurring testosterone levels on muscle growth, we do know what binge drinking can lower testosterone levels.
  2. Increases in body fat. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, and those drinks can really add up. These calories are considered empty calories – much like drinking a can of soda – because they don’t provide nutrients that the body can use.
  3. Health problems. Alcohol consumption can cause liver damage, heartburn, ulcer development and other health complications.  Longer term, chronic drinking may lead to impotency, liver failure, vitamin deficiencies, pancreatitis, and other conditions.

But it’s not all bad news. At least one study found that, despite all the complications resulting from alcohol, drinkers tend to live longer. Maybe it’s all those antioxidants in wine.

The bottom line: If you do want to consume alcohol, drink occasionally and always in moderation – but never before working out.

Does Alcohol Damage Muscles?

Dear Davey,

I was about to start working out when my friend mike was complaining to me about how we wanted to lose weight. So I invited him to join me. He declined by saying, “I’m drinking at the moment and you shouldn’t work out when you drink because it dose more damage to your muscles.”” Is this true? Dose drinking actually do muscle damage when working out?

From,
Sam

Hey Sam,

Alcohol, depending on how much you drink, can have a fairly dramatic impact on your body’s muscles.

For one, alcohol hinders the process of protein synthesis (i.e., the production of muscle proteins needed to grow your muscles). By preventing muscle growth, you’re not going to make gains at the gym.

Second, according to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, binge drinking can cause “acute mypopathy.” Myopathy is myopathy is a muscular disease in which the muscle fibers do not function for any one of many reasons, resulting in muscular weakness. In other words, binge drinking can greatly hinder your performance at the gym by preventing your muscles from working properly.

I suspect that your friend is referencing myopathy in his refusal to work out. However, it’s the alcohol – and not the physical activity – that is the problem. It’s an important distinction.

The University of California San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics Department put together a comprehensive bulletin about alcohol and its effects on performance. Some of these include increased fat storage, delayed reaction time, decreased testosterone and many more.

The bottom line: If you make the decision to drink, it’s important to to do so in moderation; alcohol abuse and misuse can certainly sabotage your gym results.

Hope that helps! And when alcohol abuse is starting to take its toll on the body of a friend or a loved one, perhaps it’s time to get a professional alcohol intervention specialist to help out.

Love,
Davey

4 Tips to Bust Your Beer Belly!

Hi Davey Wavey,

I was on your website because my dad has been trying to get fit and I thought your website would be great for him! The biggest issue he has is a beer belly. How can he get rid of it?

Thanks,
Samantha

Hey Samantha,

Thanks for the email and for spreading word about Davey Wavey Fitness!

First things first, the term “beer belly” is a bit of a misnomer. The real issue isn’t necessarily beer so much as it is calories. Weight gain occurs when you consume more calories than you burn – and in men, those extra calories are most often stored as belly fat. It’s the first place we men gain the weight, and often the last place we lose it.

Moreover, the so called beer belly is thought to increase the likelihood of diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. In other words, there’s plenty of good reasons for you dad to drop the gut.

Unfortunately, you can’t target weight loss in just one area. We can’t target just the belly; instead, we can incorporate general weight loss tips that will help your dad release his extra weight, wherever it may be.

    1. Eat smarter. Sure, beer has empty calories. But so do many of the other unhealthy foods we eat. Eating smarter means shifting from fried, processed and/or sugary foods to things like nuts, berries, lean meats, fruits and veggies. High fiber foods, in particular, will help your dad feel full. But fear not – it doesn’t mean that your dad needs to be put on a dramatic diet. Even making small dietary changes add up over time. My dad, for example, replaced his nightly snack of ice cream with a handful of peanuts. He lost 10 pounds in a few month’s time. Eating smarter will help reduce the number of calories your dad takes in.
    2. Exercise. Hitting the gym – or practicing with a workout video – will help your father increase the number of calories he burns. And again, it doesn’t mean he needs to hit the gym each and every day. I’d recommend starting out with 2 – 3 days for 30 – 45 minutes each, and possibly slowly moving up from there. I’d advise that he splits his time evenly between both cardio and strength training, as each have tremendous weight loss benefits.
    3. Get active! It’s important to keep moving. Maybe your dad can incorporate nightly walks or weekend hikes into his schedule. Or maybe there is a sports league he can join. My dad, for example, plays volleyball on Monday nights through our town’s recreation department.
    4. Visit a nutritionist. Or, a physician. Sometimes we need a little extra motivation to get us on the right track. Visiting a physician and getting a check-up can be a real wake-up call, especially if elevated blood pressure or other signs of heart disease are present. And consulting with a nutritionist can be a great way to build a meal plan that works for your dad, his habits and preferences. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment; it will yield huge returns in the quality (and possibility longevity) of your father’s life.

      Samantha, good luck with your father! You can certainly give him a little kick in the butt – but ultimately it is he who must take control of his life. You can’t run on the treadmill for him – but you can help steer him in the right direction. And it sounds like you’re doing just that. Kudos!

      Love,
      Davey

      Is Booze Giving Your Workout a Hangover?

      Okay, so we know that drinking may have a positive effect on longevity. But how is it impacting your workout and your results? Spoiler alert: It’s mostly not good.

      First things first, alcohol is packed with useless calories. Alcohol contains a sobering 7 calories per gram – compared to 4 calories per gram with protein and carbs, and 9 calories per gram with fat. But the problem isn’t just with the calories. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that less than 5% of alcohol calories are stored as fat. But the same researchers also discovered that for several hours during and after drinking, “whole-body lipid oxidation” (i.e., your body’s ability to burn fat) was reduced by 73%. That’s where the beer/alcohol gut comes from.

      In addition to oxidation, alcohol can negatively affect protein synthesis, ATP output, testosterone and quality of sleep. All of these things can be moderate obstacles in your quest to realize your fitness goal. Frequent drinking can be like taking two steps forward and then one step back.

      Many people enjoy the liberation caused by drinking. Indeed, it diminishes control and contributes to loss of judgment. But that same loss of judgment often finds its way into food choices. Research shows that drinking while eating causes people to consume more food calories than when they’re not drinking. According to one study:

      When a group of men were given a meal and allowed to eat as much as they wanted, they ate more when the meal was served with beer or wine rather than a soft drink.

      But it’s not all bad news. Certain grapes used in red wine production are rich in antioxidants. And some research suggests that healthy, active people who drink moderately are 30% less likely to develop heart disease than nondrinkers. There is also research to suggest that drinking moderately can lower blood pressure and lower the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.

      The bottom line: If you do drink, do it occasionally (i.e., not every night) and moderately (i.e., not until you pass out with your face on the toilet) to minimize the negative effects and maximize the positive ones.

      Are the health impacts of heavy or abusive alcohol consumption enough to keep your binge drinking to a minimum? Let us know in the comments below!

      Drinkers Live Longer [Study].

      Longevity never tasted so good.

      A new study from scientists at University of Texas Austin and Sanford University demonstrates that drinkers (both heavy and light) outlive their non-drinking counterparts. The study lasted some 20 years and studied 1,800 individuals.

      The results are pretty shocking – and a bit rattling for a non-drinker like me. Even after eliminating recovering alcoholics and after adjusting the data for health, socioeconomic differences, etc., non-drinkers still come in last.

      The real secrets to longevity can be found by studying those parts of the world where people live the longest (like Sardinia or Okinawa). Research shows that longevity is the result of four things: Good genes, a healthy, plant-based diet, exercise and low stress.

      So how does drinking fit it? We can speculate that drinking helps relieve stress – or that non-drinkers may have no other outlets. Or perhaps drinkers are more likely to form therapeutic social bonds than their non-drinking counterparts. We know that alcohol increases risk for various cancers and liver disease, but apparently those risks are outweighed by the social benefits of drinking.

      It’s worth noting that the study was targeted at people in their twilight years. Drinking – especially heavy drinking – may affect younger people differently (i.e., car crashes, suicides, etc.). So it’s important not to jump the gun and try to justify alcoholism and binge drinking. Nonetheless, the research is interesting – so go ahead and tip your pints to longevity. Cheers!