“Should I take a break from booze?”
I am sure many of you have asked yourself this question?
I haven’t ever felt like I needed to quit drinking. My consumption is pretty low by most accounts, mainly because I am not a massive fan of alcohol.
But on the odd occasion I like a night out with friends, and Friday night just seems to call for a cocktail. I can imagine many of you might be the same.
Something to celebrate? Pour a little champagne. Crappy day? A martini will take the edge off.
But these drinks can start to add up.
They’re easy to justify: I’m a healthy person. I work out a lot. I eat good food.
But is the alcohol slowing me down with my progress? Am I missing sharper thinking and perfect sleep and hyper-charged creativity and young skin and a six pack because of my six packs?
Is alcohol slowly, silently chipping away at my health?
Many people consequently resort to trying to cut out the booze, especially in the run up to a wedding/holiday or special occasion where being fat is not wanted. Now this might be a good way to kick off a bit of weight loss and really help when you have a short-term goal and can keep good focus for that time.
But what about in the long run?
Alcohol & My Body
Alcohol contains 7kcal per gram, and is just like any other macronutrient like carbs, fats and protein in that it must be digested and processed by the body. Interestingly though, alcohol has a really high thermic effect, meaning that you burn a lot of these calories through heat (hence the beer blanket that keeps you warm on a night out). As a result, you actually lose 20% of the alcohol calories immediately which is pretty cool I guess.
However, the BIG thing we need to look out for is alcohols effects on our inhibitions. Alcohol can cause you to make yourself look daft on the dancefloor, try to kiss some hot co-worker, or indeed kiss that weird co-worker who tries to kiss you, but it can also make you not think twice about eating a ton of food you’d not usually eat.
Ever come home and eat a whole box of cereal, or a greasy kebab, or a family sized pizza then regret it? Yeah – THAT is where alcohol associated fat gains come from.
But is it healthy in the long run?
Of course we’re not just about getting lean and toned (…are we?) so what about the long-term health effects of alcohol?
MODERATE alcohol consumption is correlated with improvements to lifespan, insulin sensitivity and even some forms of cancers. Remember that this DOES NOT mean causation, but it’s a decent indicator that the opposite effect is unlikely to happen – so if the correlation between a moderate alcohol intake and lifespan is a good one, it’s unlikely that a moderate intake of alcohol is actually killing you.
Of course, huge binges or even moderate to large amounts of daily drinking are not a good thing, but having 1-2 drinks every few days (a drink being a pub measure, I’ve seen people pouring spirits at home….) isn’t likely to cause you physical harm and might even do you some good over the longer term.
Always remember, too, that health is described as ‘A complete state of mental, social and physical wellbeing, not just the absence of disease or infirmity’ and that means that abstaining from alcohol completely to the detriment of your happiness and social life is in fact BAD for your overall health.
If you choose not to drink for your own reasons – if it brings out the worst in you, if you would rather not tempt yourself to overindulge or if you just straight up don’t want a damn beer – and you still enjoy mental and social wellbeing then all power to you, but if this isn’t you then don’t feel like your healthy lifestyle has to get in the way.
SO, MY RECOMMENDATIONS
If you are going to drink quite a bit, a big night out for example, eat lightly during the day.
Focus meals on protein and vegetables to make sure you get to your protein goal and get your micronutrient quota for the day whilst creating a ‘calorie sink’ that allows for the calorie load of your drinking. When drinking, focus on light beers, glasses of wine and spirits with calorie free mixers then DO NOT GET A PIZZA while you wait for a taxi. Cocktails, cider, liquers like Jaegarmeister or Disaronno, and those luminous bottles of weird stuff I see children drinking in parks aren’t going to make you instantly gain a stone, but that’s where the bulk of liquid night-out-calories lie, so beware.
If you are going to have a beer or glass of wine with an evening meal (or two), simply reduce or remove your added carb/fat load from lunch or breakfast by dropping cheese, oil or the rice and don’t worry about it.
Practice common sense. A 200 calorie pint or glass of wine is not going to ruin goals, a huge bender likely won’t either if you follow the above advice, but if you do this every week it will affect your recovery and performance because you’ll be hung over all the damn time, as well as your appetite.
Finally – enjoy your life, stress is harmful in and of itself!