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March 15, 2022

A Discussion About Alcohol

Writing a blog post about moderating alcohol after our gym’s 13th Anniversary party and vacation feels a little hypocritical. 😬 Many of us overindulge from time to time. But, here, I am going to point out some of the pitfalls of grabbing for a cocktail(s) a little too often.

Most people I talk to have goals that center around health, sleep, body composition, and performance. Unfortunately, all too many of these people consume alcohol so often that their behaviors aren’t in alignment with their goals. This post isn’t meant to be a total buzzkill, it is written to arm you with information so that you can make sure your behaviors support your goals.

Here are some things to think about regarding too-frequent consumption of alcohol.

(Empty) Calories
If you are someone who drinks around three glasses of wine, four days per week, you’re adding 1,440 calories to your diet each week and 5,760 calories for the month. That’s more than a pound of fat - it can come on slowly leaving you wondering how you’ve gained that extra weight. Even if you’re adjusting your food to accommodate those extra calories, you are missing out on nutrition.

Muscle protein synthesis
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption reduces muscle protein synthesis, which reduces the possibility of gaining muscle. It has also been revealed that alcohol negatively modifies hormone levels and decreases the body's metabolism.

Alcohol is a sedative, so it will put you to sleep quickly, but it actually disrupts the normal sleep cycle and reduces REM. Regular loss of sleep can affect our health, brain function, and mood. In normal sleep, human growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland and reaches a peak during non-REM sleep. If you drink, growth hormone secretions decrease. Read more here.

Aging and/or Skin Issues
A night of too many drinks leaves our skin dehydrated, inflamed, and with puffy, dark circles around our eyes. It also leads to collagen loss.

And Now, Some Strategies for Reducing Alcohol
If you’re someone who tends to drink nightly, set rules for yourself. This could be as simple as no drinking the night before a workout, no drinking at home, or no drinking alone.

After a long day of work, that first sip of alcohol can actually release dopamine, making you feel better. Identify other activities that bring you joy.

Establish some awareness. Ask yourself to determine the reason you are imbibing so often/so much. Is it stress relief? Is it boredom? Sadness? Then, figure out some productive ways to deal with these emotions.

Take 5. If you’re having alcohol cravings, take a walk, meditate, etc. It’s also helpful to visualize how you will feel the next day if you don’t give in.

Seek help. There’s no shame in reaching out if you feel that you don’t have the tools or support to change your relationship with alcohol. There are even apps that can help.

Overall, it's beneficial to know the downsides (calories, lack of sleep, etc.) so you can weigh the risk/reward to determine if drinking on a particular day/night/occasion is worth it. Sometimes it will be.

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