Exercise and alcohol are not the best of friends. Never were and never will be. Yet that doesn’t stop from trying. A recent study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine was published concerning the effects of alcoholism on regular exercise. The unorthodox study was conducted across several countries including Canada, London and Australia. The study was done on a sample size of 36,000 men and women over the age of 40 who were engaged both in exercise and alcohol consumption. The study simply found that undertaking 150 minutes of average physical exercise per week may help in reducing the risk of dying from alcohol-related cancers. The study essentially came to a conclusion that physical exercise may eliminate all the negative effects of alcohol consumption, but like all other studies, conclusions should be seen with some degree of skepticism.
People who indulge in regular physical activity, be it in the gym, on the playground, on the pitch, or in bed, are considered healthier than their counterparts who don’t. In a similar context, people who indulge in heavy alcohol consumption generally cannot be considered as the most health conscious individuals either. In essence, there are various factors, which affect an individual’s health like their diet, their amount of rest, their sleep patterns, their type of physical activity, their eating habits etc.
The study mentions that the likelihood of certain alcohol-related cancers may be diminished with regular and disciplined physical activity but it disregards the health hazards that come along with alcohol use.
Collectively, alcohol is detrimental to physical performance because of how it affects the human body during physical pursuits. There are essentially two ways, among others, in which it does that:
First of all, we need to keep in mind that alcohol is a diuretic, which means that drinking over a stipulated amount forces your kidneys to produce more urine. This phenomenon will lead to dehydration. During physical exercises, our bodies sweat and lose water. Alcohol consumption may even exaggerate this situation. That is why exercising right after consuming alcohol is a bad idea because as we sweat, our body temperature rises. This combination of sweating and the diuretic effect of alcohol may prove to be a lethal combination. Our bodies need to be appropriately hydrated during workouts to facilitate blood flow through the body. Without proper blood flow, optimum supply of oxygen and nutrients to muscles wouldn’t be possible.
Dehydration leads to reduced performance whereas hydration facilitates nutrient supply in the body, says Professor Greg Whyte, a seasoned expert on sports nutrition.
The second thing we need to remember while consuming alcohol the next time, is that it blocks the energy making processes in the body. Our metabolism is responsible for generating energy. During the consumption of alcohol, alcohol molecules are broken down. This, in turn, leads to a chain reaction and the liver isn’t able to produce as much glucose as is required by the body, meaning that the body has low levels of blood sugar. Any physical activity, exercising, in particular, requires high levels of blood sugar to provide the required bursts of energy. If the liver is not able to produce optimum levels of glucose, performance will be hampered and adversely affected. Blood glucose has other uses as well. It helps to maximise the coordination, concentration, reflexes, and dexterity.
Other factors include the calorie content in alcohol, which is astoundingly huge given the quantity consumed. Drinking can lead to the best empty-calorie fest of all time. Not all alcohol is created equally. Energy variation has a different calorie profile. Drinks like Beer and Whiskey are much higher in calories as compared to vodka or breezers. Acting as the cherry on the cake, soda and juices, which are pure sugar, act as empty calories and add up to 400 calories to a drink, which is eventually going to turn into fat and get stored around the abdomen and other fat storing areas in the body by insulin.
When we consume alcohol, our body does not burn it first because it does not turn into glucose. This results in a delay in the burning process of the macronutrients that are already in the system. This may sound not much a big deal but in reality, it is. This delay leads to storage of the macronutrients as fat and hampers the body’s metabolism. To the person who is looking forward to losing those extra pounds, this is a disaster.
In a recent study conducted on protein synthesis and glycogen re-synthesis, the impact of drinking alcohol on the human body has been observed. The uniqueness of this study lies in that fact that it was conducted after a gruelling workout session. The people in the study did a fully-fledged workout and then straight away drank six screwdrivers, which is essentially vodka mixed with orange juice. The observations were taken note of made it clear that protein synthesis is gravely hampered by alcohol. It6 was found that protein synthesis was decreased by 37 percent.
The study was taken a step further when in the second phase of the research, the athletes were provided with a whey protein shake right after the workout and prior to chugging down the screwdrivers. It was found that the amino acids present in the whey protein decreased the effects of the alcohol that was consumed a few minutes later as protein synthesis went down by 24 percent this time.
Alcohol, as many say, increases estrogen levels in the body. That isn’t the case in reality. Tests have been done to show that although alcohol does not increase the estrogen and progesterone levels in the body, it does lower the overall testosterone levels. Testosterone, as many would know, is important for bodily functions and is imperative for survival and growth. Consumption of alcohol hinders endocrine system and suppresses natural testosterone production. This can lead to major issues like weakness, lower sex drive, lack of agility, strength and longevity.
Alcohol sure is a social trend these days. It is considered unsocial not drinking with friends and colleagues. However, at the same time it an acknowledged evil. People are aware of the hindrances that come along with it and yet they fail to act against it. On the other hand, it is unwise not enjoying life as well. If one really needs to have a drink, they shall have it. Consuming alcohol once, a week isn’t that detrimental and in fact has proven to be a tad beneficial if taken in moderation such as an increase in HDL and improved bone health. However, from a fitness point of view, alcohol is more of a bane than a boon. In addition to the major issues discussed above, alcohol is also known to slow down the number of calories burnt and thus hamper the fat burning process; it disrupts sleep patterns, hinders the production of growth hormone, and is the major cause of mouth cancer, colon and rectum cancer, liver cancer and esophagus cancer. The decision finally boils down to the discretion of the individual concerned, whether one wants to be a social bird or be okay being an anti-social realist.
Hi, I am the author of this article. I am a fitness enthusiast and bodybuilder. I have been a three-time state champion and coach people to help them reach their goals. Fitness is not rocket science. With a little effort in exercising and nutrition, your body can do wonders. All you need is legit guidance.
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