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Alcohol and Fitness


Author: Mike Shmakov


We all know that alcohol is not good for you. Personally, I have not had a drink in over 7 years, but realistically most people will not be abstinent that long. There will be social events, birthdays, and weddings so let’s assess how bad is alcohol really, for both your health and for your body composition. Binge Drinking vs. Standard Drinking

  • Binge drinking is classified as a single episode of drinking where more than four or five standard drinks are consumed, by females and males, respectively, over a short time period.

  • Binge drinking is much more harmful to your health

Alcohol in a Healthy Diet

  • Ethanol itself has no additional nutritive value and is, therefore, considered an empty source of energy.

  • Many alcoholic beverages contain considerably more energy due to the carbohydrate content of the alcohol itself plus more if a mixer was used in the beverage.

Alcohol and Body Composition

  • According to the NCAA (2013), ethanol can influence body composition because it is stored as fat.

  • Poor dietary choices are made during, before, and after alcohol consumption which leads to excess caloric intake.

  • Physical activity levels tend to decrease as alcohol intake increases

  • Ethanol may reduce lean muscle mass and decrease protein synthesis through testosterone reduction (Gordon, Altman, Southren, Rubin, & Lieber, 1976; Kimball & Lang, 2018)

Contrasting Study Interestingly, individuals who consume ethanol in moderate amounts have been shown to have less fat mass than both abstainers and heavy drinkers (Foster & Marriott, 2006). Females, in particular, appear to benefit from moderate alcohol consumption (Beardsley, 2014; Thomson et al., 2012), while waist to hip ratio, and therefore abdominal adiposity, is closely associated with ethanol consumption in males (Beardsley, 2014; Liangpunsakul et al., 2010). Alcohol and Health Regular consumption of moderate to harmful levels of ethanol has been linked to an increased risk of over 200 health conditions. These include, but are not limited to, a number of cancers (including the most common forms of cancer: breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer), cardiovascular disease, neuropsychiatric conditions, gastrointestinal diseases, and diabetes mellitus (WHO, 2014). Females are particularly susceptible to ethanol-related diseases and illness; of particular concern is the increased risk of breast cancer with even moderate amounts of ethanol (Scoccianti, Lauby-Secretan, Bello, Chajes, & Romieu, 2014). KEY POINTS

  • Energy from alcohol should not displace energy from other food sources that also provide macro- and micronutrients. Energy from alcohol must be accounted for when calculating energy requirements.

  • Although ethanol may provide some protection against some diseases, in general, there are no health benefits from drinking alcohol.

  • Ethanol has no nutritive value and the acetate produced when metabolizing it can get in the way of the body oxidizing its own fat

Summary Alcohol is okay to consume in small or moderate amounts. However, in excess amounts it can be seriously detrimental toward your health and body composition. I have noticed from working with heavy drinkers that their progress is significantly slowed down until the alcohol consumption is reduced, which is why I place a heavy emphasis on reduction. Psychology Why do we cheat on our diet? Here is a list of reasons that you can use to identify why uncontrolled snacking begins. Once you understand why, you can work toward finding a solution. Liking - Because something taste good Habits - What people are accustomed to or familiar with eating Need and Hunger - Needing energy or feeling hungry Health - To have a balanced diet or to stay fit Convenience - Because something is quick and easy Pleasure - To indulge or reward oneself Traditional Eating - Something a person has grown up with or food related to special occasions Natural Concerns - Consuming foods that are organic or natural Sociability - Spending time with others or to make social gatherings comfortable Price - Because something is inexpensive or on sale Visual Appeal - Attractive packaging or recognize product from an advertisement Weight Control - Because something is low in calories or fat or a person is watching their weight Affect Regulation - Because someone is sad, frustrated, or lonely Social Norms - Because it would be impolite to not eat something Social Image - Because something is trendy or others like it

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