We’ve all heard about the antioxidants in red wine or possible health benefits of alcohol, but is it truly adding to your healthy lifestyle?
Balancing a healthy lifestyle with a positive social life can be a challenge.
Making sacrifices to achieve goals is a given, but how much or little should you really drink while still following the fit path?
Read on to find out what drinking is doing to your body, and how to choose the right time for a celebratory spirit.
How About Those Antioxidants?
First let’s cover the possible health benefits of drinking.
Long-term studies have shown that those who drink in moderation have lower rates of diabetes, cardiac arrest, and heart disease.
However, what these studies often fail to emphasize is the fact that alcohol is not the cause of these health benefits, but rather the two factors are correlated.
Alcohol can be a contributor to better health when combined with other factors, but it is not absolute cause.
Alcohol consumption has never been pinpointed as the sole factor of better heart health, because other variables such as genetics, lifestyle, and personality can all affect these health patterns.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that a nightly wine tasting party will keep your heart healthy, there is much more to consider here!
Moderation VS. Heavy Drinking: A Fine Line
So studies have shown that alcohol can only be beneficial when consumed in moderation, but what the heck is moderation anyway?
The jump from moderate drinking to heavy drinking may be shorter than you think.
For women, moderate drinking means up to seven drinks per week, but no more than three in one day. Men can have up to 14 drinks per week, but no more than four in one day.
Most people who consume alcohol end up falling into the “heavy drinker” category without even realizing it.
Once the shift from moderate to heavy drinking takes place, the health risks of drinking increase significantly, and the possibility that alcohol is beneficial to our health diminishes.
The Harm of Alcohol
Now that we have covered the few possible health benefits of alcohol, let’s talk about the risks.
Drinking heavily (remember how we defined moderate versus heavy drinking) can put you at risk for high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, depression, cancer, and more.
Beyond these general health risks, alcohol can have an impact on fitness specific goals as well.
Consuming alcohol can affect your metabolism and hormones, two factors that regulate how you perform in the gym, and how your body responds. Loss of bone density, muscle damage, changes to fat metabolism, and osteoporosis are all possible effects of alcohol use.
Put simply, alcohol is a poison that must be processed by the body before it can be safely excreted.
Because of this, your body burns alcohol first for energy, while other more important nutrients such as carbohydrates and fats become stored in excess.
Alcohol is “empty calories.” It provides zero nutrients for the body, but contributes 7 calories per gram to your daily caloric intake.
Liquid calories often go untracked or disregarded, but they add up quickly! Before you reach for another glass, ask yourself if you would rather eat your calories or drink them.
If you are currently drinking a few times per week (falling into the moderate range) and still unsure if you should change your habits, do a self-check.
- Why and when are you drinking?
- What are your drinking habits (keep track over the course of a week)?
- Are you drinking mindlessly?
- Are you drinking to “fit in?”
How does alcohol truly make you feel and perform?
- Do you get easily hung-over?
- Do you have trouble sleeping after drinking?
- Do you have digestive issues or anxiety when you drink?
- How is your next workout after a night of drinking? Does your performance in the gym suffer as a result?
Which habit is impacting your life more positively both long and short term, drinking or fitness? These questions should help you answer that question.
Balancing Alcohol and Fitness
We aren’t here to recommend that you cut alcohol out of your life cold turkey if it brings you pleasure and positive social living.
However, we DO recommend that you find the balance between your fitness goals and the rest of your life.
Training for a marathon? Skip the mimosas at brunch.
Chasing a 6-pack of shredded abs? Put down the extra drinks on Friday night.
Choose what you say “yes” to and what you say “no” to wisely.
What are you willing to give up to achieve your goals?
Prioritizing your life and your goals may force you to take a step away from alcohol if the value it adds to your life does not outweigh the amount it holds you back.
Alcohol is frequently involved in social gatherings or celebratory events. Aside from possibly lowering the risk for heart disease, drinking alcohol brings people together for social connection.
Although this may not be a true health benefit, if it is adding to quality of life, leisure, or relaxation, it is a piece to factor in.
What contribution does alcohol make to your life?
If you are going to drink, do so mindfully and with a purpose.
As cliché as it may be, the old saying is true, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” Achieving goals requires sacrifice to some extent.
Make sure to take a step back and closely examine the goals you have in mind both long and short term.
Are you willing to give up a night out to achieve these goals?
Drinking alcohol may not be “healthy,” but it is not the most detrimental habit to your goals either, in moderation.
If the amount you are drinking is keeping you from your goals, re-evaluate one or the other. Between alcohol and fitness, prioritize what is most important to you, and what is adding the most value to your life.