I am passionate about healthy living, working out and being on top of my game day in – day out. It’s a positive feedback loop that fuels my life every day.
One confession though. I love cognac and champagne. I also enjoy an occasional gin & tonic, even a rum & coke zero sometimes. Yeah, I know, super busted by the internet health police.
Then again, alcohol is heavily engrained into the modern world and has been that for thousands of years. I’m pretty sure some of your fondest youthful memories are from a uni-party, stag-do, or hen night – instances such these may or may not have included alcoholic beverages. Sauce, it happens to the best of us.
Is stupidity of the masses enough of an excuse?
Could there be a way to enjoy a genuinely healthy lifestyle with the occasional drink as well? Just the one..? Pwetty pwease.
Repeat after me: “Yes I can!”
Let’s get some basics cleared out first.
Alcohol + My Body = Whut?
Alcohol (ethanol) is a neuroactive chemical that affects your perception. The reason it’s so often associated with social gatherings is the potent anxiety-reducing effect. #beergoggles
Alcohol has a unique metabolic pattern and is metabolized (nerd talk for processed) mainly in the liver as a poison. Also in the brain, i.e. why you get drunk. Due to this unique characteristic, it gets a priority against other macronutrients, like umm food, in the processing order by your body.
This is where some challenges start to occur: the oxidation of dietary fat into energy slows down substantially when drinking alcohol. This makes dietary fats more available for storage. Combine that with the usual spread that accompanies alcohol, namely pizza and such, and you’re on a highway towards a flabby belly.
The research data on short-term alcohol consumption’s impact on hormone production is mixed. Some results indicate decreasing testosterone levels in male and increasing testosterone levels in female, whilst others indicating no changes in hormone levels at all. As a general assumption, we shouldn’t be too worried about the impact on hormone levels, so long as you stick to moderate drinking. Longer term alcohol abuse will lead to… bad stuff. Shocker!
Alcohol has been shown to reduce your main driver of recovery – muscle protein synthesis - by as much as 23%. R.I.P. gainz. Eating protein rich foods after your workout can decrease the negative impact somewhat. Drinking will have an impact on your training the next day too, as alcohol will dehydrate your body reducing your overall performance. Yeah, let’s not replace the protein shakes with Guinness pints quite yet.
It’s a no-brainer that too much alcohol can cause a myriad of issues ranging from a mild hangover to alcohol poisoning, and yes, even death. “Drink responsibly” is no joke guys. But to be clear, from a long-term health perspective, having a few drinks here and there will NOT destroy your body.
Is there a golden middle here?
TOP TIPS for your night out:
- Know your limits: only have a few drinks (2-3) instead of 10 – you will thank me the next day and will not lose any of those hard-earned gainzz!
- Eat high-volume, low fat foods like salads and veggies during the day to keep calorie and especially fat levels low whilst feeling satisfied before you start to drink
- Drink a lot of water before, during, and after your night out to minimize dehydration
- Plan for a rest day after your night out – rehydrate and recover
- Choose low-calorie drinks: light beers, booze & soda water or other zero-calorie mixers such as coke zero
- Keep count of your drinks, and have the first one as late as possible
The key to success is moderation. A few drinks a week will not harm your healthy lifestyle and will not negatively impact your physical development. For me personally, the consumption of alcohol has reduced significantly over the past few years automatically as I’ve started walking the healthy lifestyle talk and my quality of life has certainly improved. I can and do still enjoy my cognac or a few glasses of champagne with good company, without having to worry about losing any of the hard-earned results of my workouts or diet.
So, it’s perfectly fine for you to have a few drinks every now and then - just be mindful and enjoy with care. You can lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle without guilt, regrets, or negative impact on your physical well-being.
Train hard and live with passion!
For further reading I recommend you check out the following sources:
- Alcohol-induced decrease in muscle protein synthesis associated with increased binding of mTOR and raptor: Comparable effects in young and mature rats
- De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption.
- Effect of acute postexercise ethanol intoxication on the neuroendocrine response to resistance exercise.
- Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, and estradiol levels in middle-aged men and postmenopausal women: a diet-controlled intervention study.
- The pulsatile secretion of gonadotropins and growth hormone, and the biological activity of luteinizing hormone in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol.
- Postresistance exercise ethanol ingestion and acute testosterone bioavailability.
- The effect of post-match alcohol ingestion on recovery from competitive rugby league matches.
- A low dose of alcohol does not impact skeletal muscle performance after exercise-induced muscle damage.
All pictures by Laura / Missionready. Please ask for permission if you'd like to use them.