Archive for the tag - drinking

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.

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!