ALCOHOL: Does it really sabotage your fitness goals?

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By Dr. Marc W. Morris

In the world of fitness, having a flexible and social lifestyle hinges on your ability to practice moderation. Willpower is a finite resource.  When you are too restrictive with something, the rebound is usually worse. In moderation, the consumption of alcohol may provide benefits:

  • The body has no storage for alcohol – we store fatty acids as adipose, glucose as glycogen, and amino acids in the amino acid pool and proteins in various tissues. Nevertheless, your body disposes of alcohol.
  • Acetate, the metabolic by product of alcohol, is toxic.  Getting rid of alcohol (oxidation) takes precedence over everything else.
  • Your body is smart: like the other macronutrients it will adjust oxidation due to intake – after drinking, fat oxidation stops, carb/protein oxidation is suppressed (see Table 1)
  • Only a small portion of acetate is converted to fatty acids

This means, in isolation, that alcohol does not make you fat. If you are gaining weight while drinking, it is the cumulative sum of your intake. Don’t blame it on the alcohol.

Nutrient Size of storage

(relative to daily intake)

Oxidation increase

due to intake

Fat Very high Low
Carbohydrate Roughly equal High
Protein Moderate Moderate
Alcohol None Perfect

Table 1. Nutrient intake and oxidation

HEALTH BENEFITS

Population-based data shows that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. This moderate consumption, usually defined as 1-3 drinks per day, influences health mainly through lowering the risk of heart disease and cardio-protective effects. Furthermore, moderate alcohol consumption improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood lipids. Anyone concerned with body composition may be wary of consuming alcohol for the impact on hormonal status, recovery and protein synthesis. However, research conducted in this area has shown the impact of moderate alcohol consumption to be insignificant.
Therefore, if you plan for it, you can enjoy some drinks judiciously while working toward your ideal body composition.

Marc Morris PhD, CSCS is a Strength and Health coach and Perfect Sports sponsored athlete living in Saskatoon, SK. Marc can be reached by email at: marc@polyhealth.ca

What has YOUR experience been? Let us know the level of your fitness and what effect alcohol has had (if any) as you strive toward your goals. E-mail us at: tim@ifmmedia.com

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