On April 19th, we came across this article on the Independent, based on a study by former World Health Organization scientist, Dr Kari Poikolainen. In this piece, the Doctor claims, “A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you” and “abstaining is worse for you than drinking”.  Being in the fitness industry & dealing with many clients that question the affects of alcohol on their progress & performance, we felt it necessary to give our response & elaborate on the opinion of Julia Manning, from think-tank 2020Health, in the final line of the article.

Why is alcohol not recommended when I am trying to get in shape?

Laura:

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Alcohol affects the drinker as a whole, including the brain, nervous system, liver, heart, and emotional well-being. It is also full of sugar & empty calories, and causes dehydration after consumption. If you are on a weight loss &/or exercise plan, or are just trying to maintain your health, why would you want to knowingly introduce toxins & extra, useless calories into your diet, negatively affect your nervous system & hormone production, OR dehydrate yourself?!

Magdalena:

It has been said that it takes 1 hour to recover from 1 cl of alcohol, which gives 18 hours for 3 drinks. If you are trying to get in shape, why jeopardize good quality training for some booze? You have absolutely nothing to do in the gym or on the running track the day after – I am just assuming that nobody would even get the idea of training after drinking the same day – and if you have a serious plan going on, why skip training days? (Personally, I have a big triathlon project going on in August and I haven’t had any alcohol since December last year – it’s simply not worth it.)

What does alcohol do inside my body?

Laura:

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The total effects of alcohol, & the speed at which you feel them, differ greatly depending on body type/size, gender, hydration levels, & other substances in the body (such as food or medication). Regardless of those factors, your body sees alcohol as a poison (or at least something it wants to get rid of immediately) & kicks into high-gear to remove it, since it affects nearly every system in your body. Your heart rate & blood pressure increase, as your body rushes to pump more blood & enzymes to your stomach & liver to process the alcohol. Depending on this amount consumed, you may experience increased body temperature, sweating, nausea, vomiting, or a combination of all 4. It will also affect your brain signals & suppress your immune system. The negative effects of alcohol, in my opinion, GREATLY outweigh any positive factors one might try to convince me of!

Magdalena:

Alcohol is highly addictive, and if you drink often, you are in the risk zone for: cardiomyopathy, stroke, high blood pressure and of course liver deceases and inflammations. Last but not least, alcoholism. Needless to say, promoting up to 13 units a day leads to alcoholism.

How does it affect training? 

Laura:

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Aside from all the negative effects I mentioned above, hormone disruption is one major effect alcohol has on the results you’ll see from workouts. We all have & need growth hormone for building muscle, stimulating other cell growth, and developing and maintaining bone density. Most of your grown hormone is secreted during the early sleeping hours of the night, and since alcohol tends to disrupt natural sleep rhythms, it will decrease the amount of growth hormone released.

Low growth hormone production equals less muscle development!  Another area of your fitness that alcohol affects is recovery. Like I mentioned above, your body sees alcohol as a toxin, so energy is going to have to be expended to remove it from your system and to recover from any negative effects it had on your tissues.

This takes time, fluids, & energy reserves. So, after drinking, you will be dehydrated, won’t have as much energy in store to recover from your workouts, & will have slower reaction time. If your goal is to tone up & see muscle definition, keep in mind- alcohol and muscles don’t really get along, so consume with care!!

woman opting to drink pure water instead of alcohol

Magdalena:

Hydration is key to performance, so when dehydrated, you won’t be performing as well as you want to. The quality of your training will go down, not only the day after drinking, but for a few more days, since it takes a long time to re-hydrate. Protein synthesis is negatively affected by alcohol, meaning that alcohol hurts protein absorption. If not enough protein is used to build up muscles, you won’t get the growth you want, regardless of what you eat.

What effect does it have on weight loss?

Laura:

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Alcohol directly affects your ability to burn fat. Think about this: every gram of alcohol you drink is about 7 (empty)calories, after processing, about 5 of those calories hang around in your body waiting to be stored or metabolized for energy. Your body WANTS to metabolize those alcohol-calories for energy over ANYTHING else, because they are toxic to your system.

If you have three, 20-ounce beers while hanging out at the bar with your friends, you just consumed roughly 300 calories of toxins & sugar (not to mention the less-than-healthy food choices that seem to be made when we’re drinking- THAT is a whole other story!).

Let’s not forget that your body is working furiously to get rid of those alcohol toxins & their by-products, so fat burning is nearly ground to a halt while those processes take place. Also, most of the food that you intake during & up to 2 hours after drinking will NOT be metabolized correctly because your system is focused on returning to “normal” by ridding itself of the alcohol.

Even a moderate amount of alcohol can increase your total calorie intake for the day, decrease your motivation for exercise, dehydrate your entire system, and negatively affect your sleep.

Magdalena:

Dr Kari Poikolainen claims that one bottle of wine a day can have health benefits. But one bottle of wine is 575 kcal. That means, that if you chose to follow those ”recommendations” and still lose weight, you have to either: a) take off the 575 kcal of food from your nutrition regimen (not recommended!!) or b)…. train more! To burn 575 kcal, you need to: run 30 minutes at 8 mph or have a 45-minute heavy lifting session at the gym – just to get rid of something that not your brain, nor your body really needs. And please keep in mind, that to lose weight, you need good kcal and not the empty ones.

Why all the conflicting information on alcohol consumption?

Laura:

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There will always be varying viewpoints on every single health & fitness topics. Alcohol will always be a “grey area”, because it seems to have become a “normal” way to have fun, be social, &/or to relax and de-stress from a long day. It is always your choice  what you put in your body, but keep in mind, companies that market alcohol from vodka, to beer, to wine know the right buttons to push to get your brain wired to desire a cold refreshing alcoholic beverage after a tough day.

Regardless of the information & research you see, the facts still remain that alcohol, however consumed, has very negative effects on your total body & overall wellness. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, increases your appetite, slows your metabolic processes, dehydrates your system & affects normal body function across the board. If drinking is good for you… NOT drinking is even better!

Magdalena:

It is important to, when reading ”scientific” research reports, look who the source is. It might be so that a beverage company itself stands behind the report. When it comes to consumer products, and most of them alcohol, cigarets and sugar, sometimes you can experience lack of objectivity.

Big companies have financial resources to set up ”reliable” research labs and produce ”scientific results” that are being promoted by heavy marketing. Generally, quotes like “The weight of the evidence shows moderate drinking is better than abstaining”  is something to take carefully.

This article was written by:

LauraMagdalena

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